Feel the magic of Inchcailloch Island

Posted by Katy Peck on 18 March 2020
Related property: Tigh Mor Trossachs
Feel the magic of Inchcailloch Island

Scotland is full of magical islands where you can really escape and appreciate the wild, untamed beauty of this spectacular part of the world. But did you know that you don’t have to go all the way to the coast to experience them? Inchcailloch Island is one of 22 islands on Loch Lomond, reachable within an hour from Tigh Mor Trossachs.

Inchcailloch is a National Nature Reserve found between the Highland and Lowland landscapes, providing an idyllic retreat and some of the most beautiful views in the region. Despite its small size, the island has plenty to offer visitors and is well worth a visit during your break. 

Reaching the island

There are two routes for reaching the island. Firstly, the traditional wooden ferry from Balmaha Boatyard (40 minutes’ drive from Tigh Mor Trossachs) only takes around 5 minutes. Alternatively, another ferry is available from the pretty conservation village of Luss (55 minutes’ drive from Tigh Mor Trossachs). The Luss ferry takes a much longer 45 minutes, but includes a trip around the waters surrounding the other small islands, complete with amazing views and fascinating local insight from the Captain.

Depending on which boat you catch, you’ll be dropped off on either Port Bawn, on the island’s south side, or on the northern jetty. However, due to Inchcailloch’s small size, it makes little difference where you end up! Please note that although the boat from Balhama runs regularly throughout the day (weather permitting), there are only a few seasonal ferries from Luss, so make sure to check the timetable before you set off.

History of Inchcailloch

The word Inchcailloch is Gaelic for ‘island of the old or cowled woman’. The island is named after St Kentigerna, who is said to have set up a nunnery here over a thousand years ago. According to legend, she later settled here in her old age, finally passing away in 734AD. A church was built in her memory and the ruins and graveyard can still be seen on the north side of the island – the only Scheduled Ancient Monument in or around Loch Lomond. For hundreds of years, villages would row across to the island for their Sunday service.

For over 2000 years, Inchcailloch was a farming community, with the last farming family remaining on the island until the early 19th Century. In 1796, over 2000 acorns were planted across the island, signalling an end to farming here as the final inhabitants moved away.

Today the island is a National Nature Reserve, full of oak woods (grown from those very acorns!) and a wide array of wildlife, including Osprey, Dor Beetles, Wild Geese and White Butterflies. Another highlight is the resident fallow deer, although they are famously elusive! Visit early in the morning for the best chance of spotting them. The whole island is a pleasant change from the many of the area’s other tourist attractions, staying relatively quiet throughout the year. It’s a tranquil, peaceful haven that gives visitors the feeling of being in their own world, at least for a few hours.

Walking around Inchcailloch

There are three walking routes around Inchcailloch island – the Low Path, the Central Path and the Summit Path.

The Summit Path takes around 40 minutes and leads to the top of the highest hill on the island; Tom na Nighteanan (Hill of the daughter). There’s a short, steep section at the start but the rest of the route is relatively simple, although still uphill, and the views from the top (85 metres above sea level) are nothing short of spectacular. Some even claim it’s the best view in Scotland!

Meanwhile, the Low Path allows walkers to explore the ruins of the abandoned church and farm, also taking around 40 minutes. It’s a beautiful, gentle walk through woodland, with a carpet of ferns spreading out in every direction and all manner of wildlife, birds and flora. It’s  well worth a visit in spring, when the bluebells emerge and fill the island with swathes of colour. During the autumn, the island becomes home to many migrating wildfowl, tucked away on the forest floor.

Last but not least, the Central Path is the most direct route between Port Barn and the North pier, taking about 20 minutes. You can enjoy Port Barn’s beautiful sandy beach, as well as other limited facilities, which are explained more below.

The Low Path and the Summit Path are both marked with stopping points, with numbered posts which relate to areas in the walking guide (available online here).

Facilities

In keeping with its surroundings and unspoilt nature, the island has minimal facilities. There is no running water, so make sure to bring a bottle of drinking water. There are compost toilets and a handful of picnic tables close to the beach at Port Barn. It is also possible to bring your own barbeque, but please be mindful of the local environment and leave the site clean for other visitors. There are no bins on the island, so it’s important to pack up all your rubbish to take home and preserve this naturally beautiful haven.

There are so many beautiful places to explore around Tigh Mor Trossachs, and Inchcailloch island is only the start. While away your days exploring everything this spectacular part of the world has to offer, from amazing peaks to crystal-clear waters and beautiful walks. And once your feet have had enough, retreat back to your comfortable holiday accomodation for some much needed rest and relaxation.

Find out more about how you can stay at Tigh Mor Trossachs, as well as our 30+ other locations, here.

Katy Peck

Katy Peck

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