In 2011, Scotland’s Highlands left us with some great memories of breath-taking landscapes and experiences you can’t put into words. We promised we’d be back, but this summer, we only made it as far as the southern reaches of this beautiful country. We found that the word “adventure” can have many meanings, particularly when you’re travelling with kids and sleeping in a tent at 7°C in July, with millions of midges plotting all the while to feed on your blood...
Despite all of which, Scotland is, simply put, wonderful! Everywhere you look, you’ll find a picturesque landscape, as if someone had taken the time to put all those natural elements together to draw a stunning picture. A loch here, a tree there, some funny-looking clouds… and the mountains, of course. You can stare for hours and not feel time passing by at all.
We camped in Cashel Camping Site, a good place to be, just on the shores of Loch Lomond. We found it to be very quiet, well-managed and affordable too. As we spent our first day struggling with traffic from London to Cashel (a total of 12 hours’ drive instead of the predicted seven: you do the maths!), we missed check-in at the campsite and got a hotel room instead. So we decided to spend the second day just chilling out around the loch and the campsite. It was then that the midges introduced themselves. We had underestimated these tiny creatures’ power to annoy and draw blood, with the result that we got bites which are still healing a week later. Conclusion: always prepare in advance!
Loch Lomond is the largest lake in the UK by surface area. It takes a good couple of hours just to drive around it. It’s surrounded by mountains and thick forests, and there are plenty of trails for hiking, the West Highland Way being one of the more popular ones passing by the lake. We visited Inversnaid, which is a small settlement on the loch’s shores, with a spectacular waterfall dropping down into Lomond. Rain was our enemy, so we couldn’t do too much in the way of hiking.
We spent our last day taking a boat trip on the loch, which was great as the sun had finally come out. The visibility was superb and I took some nice shots with the islands, of which there are over thirty, and the surrounding mountains.
Ben Lomond is the highest of the mountains in the Loch Lomond area and we set out to climb it on one of the more promising days (in other words, sunny). The ascent is around 990 m (3,250 ft) and it takes almost 5 hours. There are about 12 km (7.5 mi) of hiking, with some really steep sections, so it’s not really an easy undertaking... especially with a 3-year old in the child carrier. We spent around 2 hours doing a quarter of the trail before we were forced to retreat as the rain returned.
On one of our days away, we decided to spend time in Oban, a chic seaside town about two hours’ drive from the camping site. It has a vibrant atmosphere, brimming with seafood restaurants, shops and tourists. Ferry and boat trips are also available, but we arrived too late, as departures are usually in the morning. We hung around for a while taking in the sights until, you guessed it, the rain started again.
We experienced Scotland from the perspective of a family with kids in search of an active holiday. As spectacular as it is, Scotland requires advance planning and, for preference, good weather! Most of the time we spent there was rainy and quite cold, fairly typical for this time of year, unfortunately, so expect different and you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Good preparation in advance is a must, but no matter how many of the bases you cover (like taking repellent for the midges), the weather will still dictate whether your experience will be entirely positive. However, at least your holiday will be memorable, that's for sure.
If you're going solo or with friends, then Scotland is one of the best places for adventure trips!
Thanks to Louise McTigue for proofreading this article.