The Trossachs

Fp.laussy.jpg The Trossachs is an area in Scotland (!?), you could say this is where the Highlands begin. The most famous spot here is Loch Lomond, second in fame and volume only to the Loch Ness but with a larger area~[1] and also the largest body of fresh water in Britain.

We stopped there for a couple of days on my birthday (on 30 September (2012)) on our way from Madrid to Munich).

There is a sense of freedom in Scotland that you don't get elsewhere in occidental Europe. The scenery might not be always as imposing as the Alps (but we have not been to the best places yet), still, you don't feel like in what became the rest of Europe, that is, like in the USA, "trespassing" wherever you go, with all the signs and directives to keep you on the trail, where you'll typically cross with or follow along a queue of other "tourists". In Scotland, it feels like what it used to be, when law and society, private property and the words "forbidden" were not stamped all over the place.

More specifically on the area we visited, the Trossachs: we've chosen this spot since, for lack of time, we couldn't go deeper into the Highlands, or to Iona, although Oban is not much farther, but we'll go there when there'll be time enough even for Staffa. Of course, at some point, we want to go to the Hybrides. But the Trossachs area is already captivating and you're there in no time from both Glasgow or Edinburgh. Once inside this national park, roads are few and narrow and every spot seems difficult to get to. You meet more wild animals than people.

On day~1, we followed the road that, from Callander, brings you to Inversnaid along the Lochs Ard and Chon, then Arklet. There we engaged onto a trail that, however, quickly disappeared in the grass. We carried on towards the top of a hill, thinking that with great efforts we were climbing a Munro, but we remained always less than 520m, and culminated at the northernmost top of the Lochan Cruachan. It was very wet and the ascent was not completely trivial, but its improvised character made it a lot of fun, gaining a wider and broader view of Loch Lomond and discovering other Lochs and even the sea as we kept raising. We came back to our hotel by the only other road existing, thus exhausting the local road network, that is, at Aberfoyle, we went towards Loch Achray and stopped by Loch Venachor. We were surprised to see that this secondary road was actually better and wider than the main one. It also had no traffic at all, although it doesn't seem it was making any detour less convenient than the other route. Surely a modern form of these mysteries that make the reputation of Scotland.

A hill overlooking Loch Lomond

Nearby Loch Voil

Our hotel, the King's House Hotel is hotly recommended if you are in the area, with friendly dogs all over the place and a genuine Scot as the landlord/barkeeper/breakfast waiter, who, it seems, was doing everything from before we wake up till much after we went to sleep. It's a desolate place on the road with a taste of Jamaica Inn. It's close to Balquhidder, and that's where we went on the second day, paying homage to Rob Roy, "Mc Gregor despite them", and exploring random points (again) of visual interest. We still stopped a lot by the Lochs. What is nice with them is that they come in all varieties, those between mountains, those standing in a valley, by the road, in the middle of a forest... They're lakes all right, but not too big to let you loose the big picture, they don't just dully end in an horizon, they show you everything and there is definitely something proper to them in the way they slosh their dark waters. They are like little seas. They make you feel like a giant. We felt like such and decided to go for another mountain again.

When we stopped the car, I was carried away by the sight of waterfalls falling from the mountain in front of us, and started walking, fretting, while Elena was preparing the shoes, locking the car and distributing the weight to carry. I was like a terrier who smelled a rabbit, I couldn't wait to go. I've seen a lot of waterfalls before, I can't resist any of them, but there, in the thick fog, scattered all over the mountains like scares in the moss, like tears in the rocks, like pure white light recombined from the colours themselves, it was experiencing a symphony of waterfalls, and each instrument of this orchestra of falling water was extraordinary by itself, it was like if a normal river that would want to go its normal way, would find the path so tough, it would keep falling off course and "waterfall over itself". The whole mountain was literally riddled with torrents emerging from every point these millennial rocks would crease. I made a million pictures but in the mist, in the light, in my frenzy, none could capture this feeling that I'm trying to evoke now, rather lamely. So, in my haste, we went towards the general direction, and after a gratifying elevation that brought us an overall view of this paradisal panorama (of a misty paradise in Autumn), we kept on to find ourselves on a path in a forest. Apparently, people plant forests (we could guess from the pattern) of firs, with the result that we lost the magnificent views of the Trossachs to get those of just anywhere. We decided to cut through to recover the naked hill and the sight of Scotland. Our first attempt did not get us far, it was difficult to walk in the forest and there was no sign it would ever come to an end. A second attempt at a point where we could spot the nakedness of the mountain from the path was also challenging—it was wet, sloppy and unpracticable—but we finally pierced through. The slope became too steep for Elena and I carried alone for a while. The grass was so high and the inclination so close to vertical, I had my chest against the mountain, wet till the elbows as I was grabbing the floor by its tufts; it was climbing a mountain like one is climbing a tree or a wall. I think I could have gone till the top like this, it was actually very easy. But it looked a bit far, not too much, I thought I was halfway. Still, Elena had shrunk to a point and looking at the summit was still making my neck tear apart. After a twenty minutes of this shooting for the sky, I thus stopped, turned around, looked at the world, at the same time standing and lying on my mountain, breathed the damped air as if a fish. This point is marked as "On the flank of a hill in the Trossachs" in our map of visited locations. It looks like nothing as seen from a satellite, but it was feeling like a conquest. With the satellite layer on, you can see the path we took, how it was bringing us towards Katrine, the impenetrable forest and the tiny little bit I've climbed like a squirrel and how ridiculously far I still was from the top. It was my birthday then, I don't think I had one so great before.