Went for a run on the Beemer today, badly needing some BMW therapy, I didn’t know where I was going but I knew where I didn’t want to go, into Perthshire or into Fife as I have been spending too much time there lately. The south meant going over the Bridge the road works just boil my brain, so west it was.
Along the hillfoots; Muckhart, Dollar, Tillicoultry, Alva and Menstrie to Stirling, Through Stirling and out towards Balfron, not Aberfoyle, too many tourists, too many dawdlers.
Drymen, then until I literally ran out of road on the shores of Loch Lomond.
It’s the first time that I have been here in nearly 30 years and a lot has changed. The biggest thing was the establishment of the Loch Lomond National Park, they have certainly had their fingers in a lot of pies, effectively killing off the common man culture that used to come up from Glasgow, camp up, make a fire by the loch and drink themselves happy.
That’s all gone. First it was an alcohol ban and then just recently a wild camping ban. Now you need a permit to pitch your tent by the shores and only at designated places.
I passed through Balmaha, a village and a tourist destination of the eastern shore of Loch Lomond and kept on going to Rowardennan, some six miles down a narrow road, to the end of the road.
Coming out of Balmaha a large yellow and black sign proclaims, No stopping, No Parking for six miles. It’s a yellow sign, few people will realise it is an advisory notice, but the Park Nazis want you to behave and keep on going… however the first thing you come to is a car park, run by the National Park. So you can stop but only when they let you.
I stopped, got off the bike and went down to the loch shore and the first thing that struck me was that the place was so clean the whole area looks sanitised and made into some gardening center idyll. The stones on the shore were like gravel, no boulders, no driftwood, just boring gravel.
The grand scenery on the far side of the loch.
Time to get back on the bike and travel up and down, up and down, left and right until I ran out of road at Rowardennan.
The Forestry Commission was getting in on the act here, £3 for a whole days parking! No mention of motorbikes being excepted, just where you stick the ticket if open to debate here!
The hotel here used to be a Mecca for bikers and now, not one other than myself. Times really have changed.
Beyond the car park, there is a granite memorial with an inscribed stone nearby, “this land rising from the shore of the loch to the summit of Ben Lomond, was dedicated in 1996 as the Ben Lomond National Park to be held in perpetuity as a tribute to those who gave their lives in the service of their country.”
The memorial is like a large Q, for question.
Probably a symbolism between the all encompassing nature of the National Park and the top of Ben Lomond.
I noticed that the steamer pier has been fenced off with the ubiquitous Heras fencing. Allowed to go to rack and ruin when the Maid of the Loch was laid up. Let’s hope it will be refurbished when the boat is back in business.
Speaking of the Ben, it was shrouded in cloud, here it is towering above the Youth Hostel.
No doubt there would be a fair number of Munro baggers up there, queuing in the rain to get to the summit. I’m kind of glad that the last time I was up there, I came in from the north, away from all this nonsense.
I didn’t feel like making this one a true monochrome as the wee beech tree give the whole picture a little lift, so I bled some of the colour back into the monochrome.
With that done it was time to head back, down the wibbly-wobbly way to Balmaha and my appointment with a folk hero.
Tom Weir, a working class lad from Springburn in Glasgow became an accomplished climber, hill walker, author and television presenter, with his takes of his travels around Scotland.
He spent his latter years at Gartocharn, on the south end of the loch maintaining his association, with the Loch and the Ben.
He died in 2006 and a bronze statue was erected in Balmaha on the 100th anniversary of his birth in 2014.
Tam with his trade mark wooly bunnit.
I really wonder what Tam would make of all this now…
Time to start heading back, following the front wheel to Drymen, then up to near enough Aberfoyle (the Dukes Pass will wait for a quieter day), out past the Lake of Menteith, to Thornhill, Doune and up the A9 cutting through Gleneagles back home to Kinross, in time to give the bike a hose down and put it away for another day…. but there’s one thing for sure….
Dedicated, as ever to my number one fan, my darlin’ wife.