Exciting news, everyone – our lockdown is ending TOMORROW!
It’s been a rough, rough, rough winter, having not been allowed to even leave Edinburgh since the beginning of November, almost a full six months ago. Full lockdown hit straight after Christmas, where we have been twiddling our thumbs and going increasingly insane ever since.
And then, last week, we had a surprise reopening! As of last Friday, we were suddenly allowed to go anywhere within Scotland as long as we don’t stay anywhere overnight. All pubs, restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels and self-catering accommodation are still shut. Only essential and semi-essential (whatever that means) shops are open; the semi-essential including things like homeware stores, garden centres and hairdressers which all opened on the 5th.
But as of tomorrow, we can go to pubs, stay overnight anywhere in the UK, and travel freely! One of the only things we can’t do for another few weeks is socialise indoors (so you can’t, for example, stay with family until mid-May). I honestly cannot tell you how excited I am!
We have a LOT planned for the next few weeks. And I mean, a lot. As in, between work and adventures, we now don’t have a single free day until the end of June. After six months of absolutely zero social interactions or long drives or doing much of anything at all, I am willing to bet we will be exhausted within a couple of weeks. However if the past couple of weekends are anything to go by, it will be WORTH IT.
Last weekend we made a beeline for Tim Hortons which has been minutes out of our grasp for months, before heading up to the Cairngorms national park in a last-minute change of plans to avoid the rain (typically it had been glorious on Saturday but we already had plans with friends from before the surprise announcement) and took a couple of really lovely walks to some lochs.
This weekend… we did much of the same in Scotland’s other national park, except the weather was much, much nicer. We had planned to hike to the viewpoint over Loch Earn in Perthshire last weekend, so that’s where we headed first – and then decided to explore the rest of the Trossachs, making for an absolutely phenomenal day! I said it’s the best day we’ve had in 2021, but in all fairness, it really doesn’t have much competition.
Here’s what we got up to in the glorious sunshine!
Our first stop (after an obligatory stop at Tim Hortons, of course) was St Fillans, a charming village just inside the Trossachs national park and set on one of the prettiest lochs in Scotland.
Unfortunately the weather forecast had lied (which as you can imagine NEVER happens in Scotland…) and despite arriving an hour after it was supposed to be full sunshine, by the time we got to the top it was still cloudy – but at least the clouds had lifted, so the views were still spectacular!
By the time we got back to the bottom, the sun was out in full force – naturally! We had even soaked in the view for a while with a couple of snacks, watching for gaps in the clouds which never came, and we had resigned ourselves to grey skies.
This was a really, really easy walk though – it only took probably twenty minutes to get up to the viewpoint, so we will definitely be doing it again in better weather some time.
Even if we didn’t get the sunny views from above, Loch Earn is so scenic.
FYI – you don’t want to know how long I spent quietly taking photos so as not to scare off that bird… which turned out NOT TO BE REAL.
However, with the sun now in full force, we decided to make the absolute most of it. After all:
And so we were off, deeper into the Trossachs national park!
Now, I have to admit something – Loch Lomond is truly wonderful, and there are edges of the Trossachs I’ve seen (usually on our way to Glencoe) that I really enjoy. The rest of it? I HAD NO IDEA.
Balquhidder & Rob Roy’s Grave
Before we found any lochs, we made a stop at Rob Roy’s grave in Balquhidder kirkyard.
We actually visited here very briefly on our last drive through the Trossachs last September, but it was raining hard and we didn’t even find Rob Roy’s grave (it is, in fact, in a very obvious position, given away even more by the railings around it).
This is one of the most gorgeous settings for a church, up there with Ballachulish church by Glencoe.
Rob Roy MacGregor was a Scottish outlaw who went on to become a folk hero. There are references to him everywhere in the Trossachs – a long-distance walk called the Rob Roy Way takes you from Drymen to Pitlochry, and lots of shorter walks and based on the legends of his life.
There’s actually speculation that he’s not buried here at all, but his grave is here nonetheless, along with his family and lots of tributes from visitors.
It’s such a gorgeous and peaceful location that we decided to sit on the grass with our lunch before moving on.
Loch Voil is a beautiful stretch of water that runs for miles through the glen.
It’s also a bit of a nightmare road as it’s single track with lots of blind corners – which would be fine for us (I’m from Orkney, after all), except you see the thing with single track roads is there are these fantastic things called passing places, which in the event of a car coming towards you, you can pop in and allow the other car to pass. Genius invention, it really is.
Yeah, except yesterday, half of them were filled with parked cars.
We had some really hairy moments, including driving into a bush and scratching the car because we literally had no choice, as well as coming mere centimetres from reversing into the loch. See a layby marked “passing space”? DON’T PARK IN IT. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
Seriously though, Loch Voil is really lovely but it would benefit from some actual parking facilities rather than an odd layby which may or may not be a vital passing place.
So unfortunately, we didn’t stop at all until we got to the end of Loch Voil where there’s a fun photo opportunity with a mirrored box (and parking spaces, thankfully).
You might remember our failed trip to Perthshire last year, which culminated in a drive through the Trossachs in the exact opposite of yesterday’s weather, meaning that the scenic mirrored box and neighbouring lochs were not only shrouded in torrential rain, but also –
It was IN the loch.
This time… oh boy, THIS TIME. Some people had parked up RIGHT AGAINST IT and were having a huge barbeque… AROUND it. I couldn’t even go take a photo and crop it; it was unphotographable. The thing is, this is private farmland within a padlocked gate, and so I feel like the people there must have been the owners of the land. As annoying as it was, I really can’t think that it was a wholly irresponsible group of people blocking off this sight that frankly quite a few people had stopped to look at and were probably as irked as us.
So I’ve decided it’s just not written in my future to be allowed to photograph this damn box.
Instead, though, we headed to the neighbouring loch that we had accidentally stood in last time.
So it turns out Loch Doine looks a bit different when it’s not flooding an entire field.
This is undoubtedly one of the prettiest lochs I have EVER seen in Scotland.
Loch Doine is absolutely stunning and I kind of wish we had dropped everything and spent the rest of the day lounging by the water.
But we were off to find more lochs, back through the myriad of arseholes lining Loch Voil until we eventually got back to wider roads.
Loch Katrine is probably the most visited loch in the Trossachs, which ironically is why I’d never visited – I just kind of assumed it was really touristy and actually not that scenic compared to other lochs in the area.
I am pleased to say I have been proven wrong.
I think it would get SUPER busy in the summer, and many people go to take a ride on the historic steam boat, which in fairness would be pretty cool. As of this weekend the boat still isn’t running, so we happily settled for a walk along the loch.
I only found out recently that Loch Katrine has a path all along its length to another pier on the other end, so we’ve decided we need to take our bikes along!
From there, we could have carried on driving around the loop to Aberfoyle and up to three more lochs, but we thought that might be a bit much for one day! However we did manage to visit a whopping SEVEN lochs yesterday – the missing ones are Loch Achray, which we passed on the way to and from Loch Katrine, and Loch Lubnaig, which we’ve stopped at so many times before so we didn’t this time.
The final one was Loch Venachar, along the road from Loch Achray, and I did stop for a couple of photos.
Instead, it was time for dinner, which meant heading back to a regular haunt of ours.
Callander is one of my favourite towns in Scotland, and we stop there regularly to swap drivers, so it was fitting to be able to visit just before lockdown lifts again.
We grabbed fish & chips from Mhor Fish, which is highly rated but this was actually our first time there.
Can confirm: it is gooood!
We sat by the church in the centre of town enjoying the last of the sunshine, so the fact we couldn’t actually eat out anywhere wasn’t a problem in the slightest.
Honestly, I was a bit taken aback by the Trossachs. At one point, I got a bit emotional that we were managing to experience such beautiful places again.
But most of all, I just really couldn’t believe the weather. It was PHENOMENAL.
We got so… wait for it… LOCH-Y.
On that note, I’m grabbing my coat and leaving, but not before sharing with you my lovely fail of a tweet earlier:
This was retweeted by the official Loch Lomond & The Trossachs account. Four pretty good photos, I hope you’ll agree. Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t like vertical photos.
So my tweet shows you three good pictures along with a picture of a damn rock. Thanks Twitter.
Anyway, I’m excited as heck to get back out there again! Over the next few weeks, we have trips planned to Loch Lomond/Argyll, Assynt, Orkney, Skye, the Lake District… we’ll have friends and family visiting, and we’re having a small-scale Eurovision party. Honestly, with the vaccine roll out steaming ahead, I cannot WAIT for things to feel a bit more normal again.
It’s been a long time coming, hey?