The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond
It has always been a special place for me ‘the Bonnie, Bonnie banks of Loch Lomond’ as the song goes. A good version to check out, by the way, is a version by Runrig. (A Celtic rock band from the Isle of Skye).
As a small child one of our regular summer trips was to Loch Lomond in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, the first of two National Parks in Scotland. It has been voted as the sixth greatest natural wonder in Britain.
One really memorable trip there was to celebrate my mum and dad’s silver wedding anniversary. I think this was partly because I was allowed to miss 2 weeks off school! All my family and friends gathered at the little hotel where 25 years earlier my mum and dad had spent their honeymoon. Loch Lomond still conjures up a sense of romanticism today.
The lyrics of the song, ‘where me and my true love will never meet again’ ….tell the story of a young bride saying farewell to her husband as he leaves the next day to fight for Bonnie Prince Charlie on the side of the Jacobite army on the battle fields of Culloden (1746).
The name Lomond, meaning to illuminate or beacon hill in Gaelic. It is actually the hill Ben Lomond looming over the Loch that gives the water its name. They believe that thousands of years ago beacons would be lit on the summit of the Ben and the flames would be reflected on the water ‘illuminating’ it.
Ben Lomond is the most southerly of the Munros. 282 mountains in Scotland with a height over 3,000 feet (914.4 m) and are named after Sir Hugh Munro, 4th Baronet (1856–1919), who produced the first list of such hills, known as Munro’s Tables, in 1891. The best known Munro is Ben Nevis (Beinn Nibheis), the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,345 metres (4,411 ft) near Fort William in the western Highlands of Scotland.
10 years after mum and dad’s anniversary celebrations, in 1983, I found myself back along Loch Lomond’s shoreline, this time attempting the newly opened long-distance footpath ‘The West Highland Way’ 154 km of pathway from Milngavie to Fort William. I remember the blisters and sweltering heat (one of Scotland’s hottest summers) and some of the most spectacular scenery.
The footpath follows the length (23 miles) of Loch Lomond on its eastern side. Its distinctive shape, a wide basin to the south and a narrow glen (valley) to the north, carved by the melting ice of glaciers formed from the last ice age 20,000 – 10,000 years ago. It is the largest of the 30,000 + lochs in Scotland by surface area. The large expanse of water is interspersed with more than 22 picturesque and mysterious islands and 27 islets. These’ inches’ (“inch” being from the Scottish Gaelic innis meaning “island”) have histories going back 5000 BC. Inchlonaig for example– ‘The Island of Yew Trees’ with its dark green yew trees scattered across the island. These ancient trees were first planted in the fourteenth century by King Robert the Bruce, to supply bows for his archers at The Battle of Bannockburn. You can search out ruined castles and dungeons and discover more recent stories of wallabies living on an island.
You may be lucky and find one of the islands for sale!
From a vantage point above the loch you can straddle the highland boundary fault line; standing both in the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland at the same time. (Millions of years ago, the rocks of lowland Scotland collided with those to the north and formed the highland boundary fault line)
Today I travel to the Loch Lomond for my job as a driver guise with Highland Experience Tours stopping at shore side village of Balmaha or stop at the pretty village of Luss (made famous in Scotland’s ‘soap opera’ Take the High Road1 . If you get the chance to stop here, go and find the Viking grave in the church yard. (They stopped by almost a 1000 years ago)
I hope you too have great memories of our Bonnie Scotland.
Enjoy your travels.
Written by Aileen Jeffrey