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A Trail Through the Sallochy Woods

A gentle stroll by the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Distance 2 miles (3.2km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 131ft (40m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths West Highland Way, forest trail and forest road

Landscape Loch, hills and woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 364 Loch Lomond North

Start/finish NS 380957

Dog friendliness Suitable for dogs

Parking Sallochy Woods car park

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the car park head towards the entrance on to the main road. Go right on to a track beside the starting post to the Sallochy Trail. Cross the road with care and continue along the trail on the other side. This runs alongside some woodland which you should keep on your your right-hand side. Continue and, when the path eventually forks, keep right and go into the wood following the obvious waymarker posts.

2 The trail goes through the wood and passes into the ruined 19th-century farm steading of Wester Sallochy which the Forestry Commission has now cleared of trees. Several buildings can be seen and its worth spending some time investigating these old ruins and trying to imagine life in those times. When you have finished, circle the buildings to the left and follow the well-worn trail until it ends at a T-junction beside a waymarker post. Turn right on to the forest road here.

3 Follow the forest road for about ½ mile (800m) to reach a gate just before the junction with the main road. Cross the gate, then cross the main road and turn right. Look carefully for a faint track running through the woods to your left.

4 Follow the faint track back towards the loch (if you miss the track then enter the wood at any point and head west towards the loch). When the track intersects with a well-surfaced footpath turn right. You are now on the West Highland Way. Follow the waymarkers, keeping on the main path and ignoring any subsidiary tracks branching off it.

5 Follow the path uphill through a rocky section and then, as it levels off, through a wood. There is some boggy ground here but strategically placed duckboards make the going easier. Eventually the trail passes through the Sallochy Woods car park returning you to the start.

One of Scotland's best-known songs, The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, was reputedly written by a soldier of Prince Charles Edward Stuart's army during the Jacobite rising of 1745. During the long, slow retreat from Derby the soldier was captured and taken to Carlisle Castle and it was here that he wrote the song for his love, while languishing in prison awaiting execution. It tells of their joy in each other's company on the banks of Loch Lomond and how she would make the lonely journey home to Scotland by the 'high road'. Meanwhile his soul would be instantly transported at the moment of death back to his beloved loch along the 'low road' of the underworld and reach there before her. It's a poignant song of love and parting and a nostalgic remembrance of a landscape that the soldier will never see again in life.

Loch Lomond is the largest fresh water lake in Britain. It is 24 miles (38.6km) long, 5 miles (8km) wide and, at its deepest point is 623ft (190m) deep. Within its banks are approximately 38 islands, some of which are inhabited while others form sanctuaries for birds and wildlife. Most of them are in private ownership and not open to visitors. Inchcailloch is part of the National Nature Reserve and Bucinch and Ceardach are National Trust for Scotland properties. They can be visited and in summer a ferry and mail boat operate a regular passenger service from the boatyard at Balmaha, allowing island exploration and the opportunity to lunch at the Inchmurrin Hotel on Inchmurrin.

The loch straddles the Highland Boundary Fault, a fracture caused by movement of the earth's crust millions of years ago, and the geological differences between Highland and Lowland Scotland are clearly visible from its banks. Here the fault runs from Conic Hill on the south east shore and through the islands of Inchcailloch, Torrinch, Creinch and Inchmurrin.

Most visitors rush up the busy A82 along the west side of Loch Lomond, but on the more secluded eastern shore there is a largely unspoilt area of tranquillity and beauty, even in the height of summer. The diverse woods here are part of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and contain walking and nature trails and isolated picnic spots. The variety of animals and plants which can be found is staggering. Over a quarter of the plants that flourish in Britain can be found around the loch. You may well spot the rare capercaillie (it's the size of a turkey), ptarmigan or even a golden eagle. On Inchcailloch white fallow deer have been spotted in the past. While on Inchconnacan you might encounter a wallaby. They were transported here from the Australian outback some years ago, by Lady Arran.

Where to eat and drink

Try the tea room of the garden centre on the shores of the loch at Balmaha. Here you'll find friendly service, food that is hot, tasty and nourishing and some dreadfully fattening cakes. Alternatively eat in one of several cafés and restaurants at Loch Lomond Shores where, as well as superb views, you'll find everything from snacks to seafood.

While you're there

Head for Loch Lomond Shores a new gateway visitor attraction situated at Balloch. Within Drumkinnon Tower are viewing galleries and shops as well as two informative shows and a street theatre troupe. Here you can journey with a young otter through some of the myths and legends of the loch or watch and listen as the scenery becomes the backdrop to the story behind the song.

What to look for

Large oak trees remain from when these woods were used to provide a constant supply of timber. They were under a coppice system of management throughout the 18th and 19th centuries which divided the area into a series of sections or 'hags'. Each hag was felled every 24 years but the best 400 trees would be left another 24 years and eight of these were spared to go on growing.

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