BONNIE BOAT TRIPS & ISLAND WALKS
Few things can beat waking up by the shores of a lake, especially one as picturesque as LOCH LOMOND, although today’s main activity might just be one of them. From Cashel drive 3 miles back along the B837 to BALMAHA, the departure-point for boat trips out to the pretty wooded island of INCHCAILLOCH. You can catch a ferry from Balmaha Boatyard [£5 return, under-16s £2.50 | sailings on demand], though it's much more fun for families to hire one of the yard’s traditional clinker boats [£30 for 3hr, £40 for the whole day] and row the short distance yourselves. Pull your boat onto the lakeshore near the pier at the northern end of the island and then follow the trail that heads inland. Turning left off the main path takes you on to the Summit Trail (45min), which climbs up to the highest point on the island for views across the loch to Ben Lomond; you may also catch a glimpse of a capercaillie up here, the world’s largest grouse. Turning right a little further along the main trail leads to the easier Low Path (30min), which runs through the woods and past an old burial ground that is the final resting place of Gregor MacGregor, uncle of the famous outlaw Rob Roy. Both paths lead down to Port Bawn, at the western end of Inchcailloch, which is the perfect spot for a picnic and a paddle. Returning to Balmaha, follow the main central path and you’ll be back at your boat in about 20 minutes, ready for the row back across Loch Lomond to the mainland.
After all that exercise, the kids can settle in for the drive to GLEN NEVIS, just under 100 miles to the north (around 2 hours 30 minutes). From Balmaha, head back to Drymen to pick up the A811 to Balloch, at the head of Loch Lomond, and then the A82, which follows the lake’s western shore for its entirety, a 24-mile drive on which it’s easy to see why this is Britain’s largest inland stretch if water. You’re into the Highlands proper now, the scenery getting ever more dramatic, first as the A82 skirts Rannoch Moor, then as it cuts through Glen Coe – the mountainous landscape framing the road here is particularly stunning, but don’t worry, you’ll be overnighting at Glen Coe on your return journey. At Fort William, 18 miles beyond Glen Coe, follow the C1162 (Bedford Road) for 2.5 miles into Glen Nevis itself. There are a few decent spots for freedom camping along here, or you can re-charge your batteries (literally) at the Glen Nevis Caravan and Campsite; the site is half a mile down the road from the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre and – over a bridge across the River Nevis from there – the Ben Nevis Inn, for tasty pub grub at the foot of Scotland’s most famous mountain.
TOP TIP Although Scotland’s enlightened Access Rights do not extend to motor vehicles, FREEDOM CAMPING or “wild parking” (parking overnight in a place that’s not an organised campsite) is tolerated in many parts of the Highlands, meaning you can park up for the night in some of the most stunning environments imaginable, which, in turn, makes a trip round the Scottish Highlands even more of a back-to-nature experience for kids. There are a few things to bear in mind, though, chief of which is to consider your surroundings and to park responsibly. Note that you need a permit to freedom camp at Loch Lomond at certain times of the year.
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