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LOCH LOMOND, LOCH KATRINE AND THE TROSSACHS
Among the first of the features of Scotland which visitors to the country express a wish to see are the island reaches of the "Queen of Scottish Lakes", and the bosky narrows and mountain pass at the eastern end of Loch Katrine, which are known as the Trossachs. During the Great War of 1914-8, when large numbers of convalescent soldiers from the dominions overseas streamed through Glasgow, so great was their demand to see these famous regions, that constant parties had to be organized to conduct them over the ground.
The interest of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs to the tourist of to-day is no doubt mostly due to the works of Sir Walter Scott. Much of the charm of Ellen's Isle and Inversnaid and the Pass of Balmaha would certainly vanish if Rob Roy and The Lady of the Lake could be erased from our literature. The actual personages of history are not more real amid these scenes than the romantic figures created for us under the names of James Fitzjames and Rob Roy and Roderick Dhu. Yet the wild loveliness of these sylvan waters and lonely mountain fastnesses attracted pilgrims long before the Wizard of the North put pen to paper in their praise. To mention only one of these, the poet Wordsworth, with his sister Dorothy and S, T. Coleridge, came hither in 1803, immortalized in jewelled verse the sweet Highland girl reaping at Inversnaid, and chanted the glories of the bold Rob Roy in the green recesses of Glengyle.
To-day it may be questioned whether the memories, real or imaginary, or the natural magic of the scenery itself is more attractive to the wayfarer here. Assuredly the two together weave a fascination greater than any that witchcraft ever hoped to achieve. Whether one chooses to linger on the narrow loch-side road that looks across to Ellen's Isle, and to picture the gallant James wakening the echoes with his winded horn, or whether one prefers to recline on the pine-crowned bluff above Balmaha, and drink the pure loveliness of the silver waters winding away by the shores of bay and island into the far recesses of the mountains, the effects are the same, a marvellous refreshment and exaltation of the human spirit.
This country, the once remote fastness of Macgregors, Macfarlanes, Buchanans, Colquhouns, and Grahams, lies now within the compass of an easy day's tour from Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee; and along the beaten tourist route, by train and coach and steamer, streams, all summer long, a continuous throng of sightseers, more or less informed. But it is still, for the most part, an unspoiled sanctuary. Except at one or two spots, its shores and islands and mountain-sides remain as wild and lonely and beautiful as when Rob Roy trod here upon his native heath, and the monks on Inch Tavanach listened to the sound, across the water, of Inch Cailleach's convent bell.
Less is known about Loch Katrine than about Loch Lomond. It was for centuries the caterans' secret stronghold, all but inaccessible, in which the stranger without a passport set foot at peril of his life. To the present hour one seems to tread its shores as if on sufferance. But what it lacks in actual recorded memories has been made up by the incidents of imperishable romance, and the story of Ellen Douglas, and Snowdoun's knight and Roland Graham amply satisfies the instinctive conviction that something strange and moving ought to have happened amid these scenes.
One final matter, and that not the least important, may be noted. No part of Scotland is better supplied with comfortable inns and hotels than this delightful region of Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine, and the Trossachs.
Parts of the region, it is true, are by no means remote and untrodden, as they were a hundred years ago. At the southern end of Loch Lomond, where the lands of Tullichewan come down to the ancient ferry of Balloch, the old road from the West Highlands to Stirling crosses the "Water of Leven". Early in the nineteenth century the ferry was replaced by a suspension bridge, and sometime in the nineties this was in turn superseded by the present substantial bridge of iron. The coming of the railway to Balloch in the middle of the century also made a great change in the place, the later coming of the tramway-cars did more, and the acquisition of Balloch Castle estate by the Corporation of Glasgow in 1915 as a public park still further popularized the neighbourhood, so that to-day on a public holiday the scene is like a fair. Crowds pour thither by train and tramway-car; private motors and motor-cycles constantly hum through the village; and huge charabancs by the half dozen bring freights of passengers from places as far off as Falkirk and Dunfermline. But the charm of the spot has not been spoiled. To the lover of his kind, indeed, there is the added pleasure and interest of seeing so many people, mostly young and free from care, so innocently and whole-heartedly enjoying themselves. The river, with its islet in midstream above the bridge, its dozens of house-boats anchored along the banks, its motor-boats, gay with bunting, embarking passengers at the little piers, and its rowing craft with happy parties, moving everywhere on the water and out upon the loch above, forms a picture from the bridge that is not rivalled anywhere in Scotland. For anything like it one must go to certain spots on the Thames or on the Seine near Paris, and in none of these are there surroundings of loch and mountain scenery to match the glories of Balloch. Here, too, are creature comforts more delectable than Bailie Nicol Jarvie ever boasted in the Saltmarket. In Balloch Hotel, where the Empress Eugenie once spent a night or two, one may still take one's ease at one's inn. The picturesque Tullichewan Arms is the resort of countless marriage parties and happy couples on their honeymoon. And in tea-rooms and tea-gardens near the station and at Balloch Castle there is abundant refreshment to be had by the holiday makers.
The Straits of Balmaha from Inch Cailleach
The scene has changed tremendously since the enterprising David Napier in 1817 placed the first steamer, the Marion, named after his wife, on Loch Lomond, and another steamer, the Post Boy, to run between Glasgow and Dunbarton on the Clyde, with a coach running through the Vale of Leven to connect the two. But the change is not for the worse. A thousand people now enjoy the beauties of Balloch for one who did so then.