Doune Castle, Loch Lomond, and far too much of Drymen

After a week of solo travel, I head to Stirling to pick up a rental car and a travel buddy from the train station. Alex and I have a road trip planned that will take us up through the Scottish highlands. The first section, after some misguided navigation skills on both our parts, places us on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

I pick up our rental car in Stirling with a few hours to spare before Alex arrives, so I entertain myself for the morning with a visit to Doune Castle. Some of you may recognize this one from a certain movie where it is populated by some extremely rude french knights. I do my best to reenact various scenes, but alas, there are no coconuts to be found.

Doune Castle

“Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!”

Monty Python is my main motivation for coming here, but it turns out that besides being a movie star, the castle is also quite important historically because it is one of the only medieval castles that has retained its original layout. Learn something new every day.

I pick up Alex later that afternoon in Stirling and demonstrate my amazing navigation skills by managing to find my way OUT of Stirling again (it’s harder than it sounds). We’re on our way northwards to find a place to stay for the night. According to one of our brochures there’s a bunkhouse near a town called Drymen, so we decide to head for that.

We find Drymen easily enough and it seems like a nice little town, but we can’t see the hostel anywhere so we drive back through the town again and try going down a side road which leads…nowhere. Hmmm. Another drive through town, and a different side road and we manage to get on our way to the hostel. It’s a lovely drive up the lake side, but after half hour when we finally make it there, we decide it’s a bit of a rip off and that we’ll try somewhere else. Back to Drymen!

There’s another hostel further up on the other side of the lake in Crianlarich, so we decide to give that a try. When we’re about another half hour out of Drymen however, we still haven’t seen the turn off and it becomes clear that the road we’re on is taking us back to Glasgow. We turn around, scrutinizing every road sign to try and see where we’re supposed to turn to go up the other side of the lake only to find ourselves back in Drymen once again. Oh dear. Finally we try driving down an unmarked side road just out of Drymen that seems to be going in the right direction and see a sign for Crianlarich further down. The sign from the main road must have fallen down. Thank goodness. I hope I never see Drymen again!

The rest of the drive is a lovely cruise up the lake with no more mishaps and the hostel at Crianlarich is much nicer than the first place we tried, so all’s well that ends well. Time for a glass of wine and an early night.

Loch Lomond

Wonderful views over Loch Lomond

The next day we wake up bright and early to hike a section of the West Highland Way. This is a 154 km trek between Milngavie (near Glasgow) and Fort William. It’s one of the more famous walks around Scotland. We’re not quite up for 7 nights in the wild so we cheat by slinging on our day packs and joining the track near the head of Loch Lomond for a day hike and a picnic by the loch. I really feel like this is terribly unfair. People walk for days with lots of gear to get these spectacular views and we jump out of the car and get to them in half an hour. Don’t you just hate tourists?

Loch Lomond

The bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

There are a lot of little tourist towns up the other side of the loch, but the track is surprisingly quiet. We stop at a lovely peaceful bay along the loch for lunch. Loch Lomond really is quite lovely, I can see why people write so many songs and poems about it.

After lunch we make our way back to the car and get on the road for Glen Orchy (yes Kiwis, Scotland has one too), where Alex’s friend Gill is nice enough to put us up for the night. The house she’s staying in is a lovely spot nestled in a remote part of the highlands. The only other company is a few visits from red deer and some very insistent chickens.

Listening to: Momma Sed – Puscifer

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