Inversnaid overlooks the positively magical setting of Loch Lomond’s upper eastern side. For wildlife and wild land enthusiasts, this is a perfect place for a short but energetic walk to recharge your batteries after the long winter. The remote nature of this area of the famous loch – which is roadless apart from the single, long and dramatic approach – adds to the appeal. At this time of year, it’s buzzing with life as the abundant flora and fauna explodes into the new season. On this rugged woodland walk you’ll also discover a hideout used by the Scottish folk hero Rob Roy and enjoy superb lochshore views.
The Inversnaid Falls
Start from the car park at Inversnaid beside the Inversnaid Hotel, built in the Victorian period. The route follows the long distance West Highland Way but first take a detour to the side of the hotel to see the impressive Inversnaid Falls. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, while on a visit here in the 1880s, was inspired to write of “this darksome burn, horseback brown” in his poem Inversnaid. The stirring verse concludes with a heartfelt request for man to leave wild places alone:
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
Those sentiments are something to ponder as the walk leads north along the route of the thistle-marked 96-mile West Highland Way, which links Milngavie, to the north of Glasgow, with Fort William in the Highlands. Soon a sign indicates that you are entering the RSPB’s Inversnaid Reserve. The reserve lies within Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and the woodland forms part of the larger Loch Lomond Woods Special Area of Conservation.
Oak trees, with their vibrant green leaves of spring, dominate in these ancient woods where you will also see holly, hazel, rowan, alder and birch. Rare black grouse are found here and arriving summer migrants include pied flycatchers, wood warblers and redstarts. If visiting in the early morning, look for black- and red-throated divers from the lochshore path, which weaves past clumps of pretty wildflowers. A rockier section ahead signals your approach to Rob Roy’s cave.
Rob Roy’s cave
The cave, which is marked by a sign, is a natural shelter formed by boulders and is reached by a scramble. It is unclear how this hideout – invisible from the path – came to be associated with Robert MacGregor, better known as Rob Roy, but it is quite possible that the legendary figure used it during his numerous exploits.
Born by nearby Loch Katrine in 1671, he became a laird, MacGregor of Inversnaid, and built a house there. Life was fine for the red-headed MacGregor until his cattle-trading business got into trouble. A sympathiser of the Jacobites, who were intent on restoring the Stuart dynasty to the throne, he was suspected of being involved in plans for the 1715 Jacobite Rising. He became a bankrupt, an outlaw and a cattle thief and was wanted by George I’s troops. In 1725, after writing a letter of submission, he received a royal pardon and lived out his final years in peace in Balquhidder. Known in his lifetime as a charming rogue, his various adventures later inspired many myths and stories.
After exploring the cave, return to the lochside trail and follow the route as it continues to a clearing at Pollochro.
Views to Ben Vorlich
Here there is a ruined farm steading that is a good place for a picnic. Across the loch from here lies the Munro Ben Vorlich. In the sky above, if you’re very lucky, you may see a golden eagle soaring in the fresh spring air by the Raven’s Crag, Creag an Fhithich.
To return, simply retrace your steps back along the path to the car park at Inversnaid.
HOW TO GET THERE
Inversnaid lies 14 miles north-west of the village of Aberfoyle and is accessed via the B829.
FIND OUT MORE
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Further information about some of the things you can see and do in the national park.
Aberfoyle VisitScotland Information Centre
Main Street, Aberfoyle
The Forth Inn
Aberfoyle FK8 3UQ
A welcoming family-run hotel in the centre of Aberfoyle with homely bar meals and including outside tables.
Corrie Glen B&B
Aberfoyle FK8 3XF
Comfortable and spotless accomodation in a quiet setting with hill views.