Loch Arklet, January 2021
This is one of our favourite drives and a strong contender for ‘best stretch of road in the Trossachs’. Our latest pootle was just last week and we set off under beautiful wintry skies, with the promise of a decent amount of sunshine (always a bit touch and go…😉 ).
If you’re coming from Stirling on the A84/A873, it’s worth taking a little pause at Port of Menteith to admire the lake. Covid-related restrictions notwithstanding, The Lake of Menteith Hotel (where I celebrated my 40th birthday!) is a lovely place to dine, drink and potter at the water’s edge. And if you carry on down the road about 100 yards, you find the pier where the boats run over to Inchmahome Island, with its historic Priory - particularly gorgeous in the Spring, when the bluebells are out.
At the end of the main street in Aberfoyle, there’s a hard right bend, which takes you up over Duke’s Pass – a lovely drive in itself, with the Three Lochs Drive about half-way over and Ben Aa’n, Ben Venue and Loch Katrine all lovely excursions over the other side. But carry on straight ahead, signed for Kinlochard, Stronachlachar and Inversnaid.
In about 1.3 miles, you come to the first signs of Loch Ard and it’s worth bunking over on the side of the road for a quick photo, with Ben Lomond in the background.
Just over a mile further on, you reach Loch Ard and a great photo op, especially on a clear day.
After you’ve travelled along the edge of Loch Ard, the road surface gets a bit patchy and becomes mainly single-track with passing places for a few miles as you wiggle though the forest and along the side of Loch Chon. Although there’s nothing specific to see, it’s just a rather nice stretch of gnarly trees, glimpses of water and tons of bracken – particularly lovely at the start of autumn.
As you begin to come out of the trees, you hit fresh tarmac (phew!) and the road straightens out and climbs for a couple of miles. You start to see the mountains surrounding Loch Lomond and then as you swing round a right-hand bend, you get your first glimpse of Loch Arklet.
A little way further, there’s a place to pull in on the right and if you squeeze through the gate and clamber up the heathery hillock, you get a grand view.
Opposite the parking spot is a path down to the shore. Hop out and head down for some smashing waterside shots.
Back on the road, keep going and turn right at the end, signed Stronachlachar, where you get rewarded for your clambering with the wonderful Pier Café on the West shore of Loch Katrine. The food is great, the staff are lovely and it’s totally dog friendly. A couple of years ago, I went with a friend who has various allergies and they very kindly whipped up a special chicken salad for her – nothing was too much trouble.
Delicious Cullen Skink and my friend’s beautiful salad
After that, head down the side of Loch Arklet, towards Inversnaid and not far past the dam at the end, there’s a sign to Rob Roy’s viewpoint. You go over the wooden bridge and up the hill to the car park, then follow the path for about 10 mins and there you are!
Loch Arklet & the dam
Rob Roy’s viewpoint, looking across Loch Lomond
The last part of the journey, from there to Inversnaid, can be a bit hairy. The road’s quite steep and winding, with very few places to pass another vehicle. I wouldn’t attempt it in tourist season, because if you meet a coach coming the other way it’ll be a tussle! But it’s worth the effort any other time of year for the great waterfall (as featured in ‘The 39 Steps’) and the forest walk above it. If the weather’s nice, you can grab a drink in the sun or take a stroll down by the side of the loch. The pathways running north and south actually form part of the West Highland Way, so you can kind of say you’ve done it… 😊
Getting there: From Stirling, take the A84 towards Callander / Crianlarich (A85), then at Blair Drummond, bear left onto the A873 towards Aberfoyle & Port of Menteith (A81). Port of Menteith is about 10 miles and Aberfoyle another 4.5 miles.
Sat Nav: Inversnaid FK8 3TU (Note: there is only one road from Aberfoyle to Inversnaid, so if you put in the postcode, you’ll pass all the places mentioned!)
Terrain: Rough paths & heathery hillocks – wear walking boots.
Nearest facilities: There’s the ‘Wee Blether Tea Room’ in Kinlochard, which seems to have had mixed reviews since it went under new management in 2019. Personally, I’d hang on until you get to Stronachlachar and grab a nice bowl of Cullen Skink at the Pier Café. The Inversnaid Hotel also has refreshments & facilities.