Made famous by Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake, the Trossachs are an area of wooded glens, braes and quiet lochs at the southern border of the Scottish highlands. The Victorians would travel by Caledonian rail, then steamer and horse and buggy to admire the misty lochs, walk amongst the purple peaks and mingle with the highlanders. I’m sure whisky had something to do with it too!
The Trossachs are still very popular with tourists today – all wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle and try their hand at outdoor sports and take long walks whilst surrounded by the gorgeous lochs and heathered hills. It’s so popular (50% of Scotland’s population live within an hour of the area) that The Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park was created in 2002 to help conserve this great treasure and ensure future generations can enjoy it as well.
The Modern Family recently visited, and below are our top tips of cool things to do in the Trossachs with the family.
11 Cool things to do in the Trossachs with family
1. Hike the purple hills
Put on your wellies and pick one of hundreds of Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park hiking trails. They range from easy peasey to rucksack hard — so you’re sure to find one that suits your family’s ability. Hike around peaceful lochs or through woodlands admiring the Scots Pines, Spruce and majestic Oaks. If you’re lucky you might spot a pesky pine martin or a golden eagle — all frequent the area. Please remember to respect the park when you visit by taking home everything you bring in and not taking anything out (even that cute pine cone you’d love to use for an art project). It all has its place in the delicate ecosystem.
2. Go Ape in Aberfoyle
Feel like flying through the trees like a crazy monkey and taking on a challenge? Set in the scenic Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Go Ape Aberfoyle combines self-guided high ropes and obstacles with ziplines to give youngsters 10 and older thrills to remember (older apes can join in the fun too). This Go Ape is special because it’s zipline heaven – hosting two of Britain’s longest zip wires, each stretching over 400m long, zipping baboons 150 feet above the ground and gushing waterfalls. After you Go Ape, have a snack or lunch in The Lodge Café, which features homemade sandwiches, hand rolled pizza baked in their own wood fired oven or a Jamaican Jerk chicken burger with mixed salad leaves.
3. View the spires on Dukes Pass
After you Go Ape, take this famous windy road, regarded as one of Britain’s best drives, which leads you through some of the most scenic parts of the Trossachs. Originally built by the Duke of Montrose in the 1800s to improve access to his estate (of course!) and was later upgraded to accommodate the thousands of Victorian tourists wanting to find the Lady of the Lake’. This 7-mile drive from Aberfoyle goes all the way to Loch Katrine. (My husband just told me he doesn’t understand my spires reference – I was trying to be clever and borrowing wording from Sir Walter Scott! OK, maybe it didn’t work.)
4. Cycle Loch Katrine
Rent bikes at Katrine Wheelz and explore the shores of Loch Katrine, which has supplied Glasgow with clean water since Edwardian times. Then take the Sir Walter Scott steam ship to the far end of the Loch and make your way back leisurely on your bike. It’s a challenging trek with some inclines, but worth the views. After, get a memento in the in the gift shop (we recommend something with a highland cow) and lunch or banana split at the Brenachoile café.
5. Take the Highroad to Luss
This quaint conservation village on the Western bank of Loch Lomond is a popular tourist spot. The shingle beach is a fabulous place to enjoy an ice cream and admire the largest freshwater Loch in the British Isles. The setting for Scotland’s popular Highroad soap, you can lunch/dine/walk the day away with the scenic backdrop just steps away. Catch a cruise from the pier and then make sure to dine at my new find, the cosy Loch Lomond Arms. Try the wild mushroom and Lanark blue cheese salad with hazelnut dressing and Gigha halibut with oxtail tortellini, wild mushrooms, sweet corn, roasted salsify and chicken jus. A perfect ending to a perfect day.
6. Cruise Loch Lomond
Get a different perspective of Loch Lomond by actually being on the water! You can pick up one of Cruise Loch Lomond’s boats at Luss, or try Tarbet, Inversnaid or Rowaedennan. The company operate a variety of cruises suitable for families and run April – October. Combine a loch cruise with a cycle trip or hike in a remote part of the national park. The friendly staff can recommend a route that suits your family.
7. Shop at Loch Lomond Shores
Visit SeaLife, play in the park, and shop till you drop at this Chic lochside mall with upscale boutiques, department store, cafes and kids’ play area. The best part is it has a Jenners, my FAVOURITE department store, and the Loch Lomond Shores store has a Ness Concession which has gorgeous women’s clothing with a Scottish twist.
8. Pose with a Highland cow
These cute furry beasts are everywhere –on key chains, hats and on the fields. My youngest daughter has proclaimed the Highland cow her new favourite animal (right after any kind of dog and California Sea Otters).
9. Lunch at The Lake of Menteith
There’s famously only one lake in Scotland (google it, it has to do with betraying William Wallace) and it hosts a great eating establishment, The Lake of Menteith Hotel & Waterfront Restaurant . And after lunch, visit Nick Nairn’s Cooking School, which is just down the road.
10. Visit a Distillery
If it rains non stop (it can happen) a visit to one of the area’s many distilleries, such as Dunstean and Glengoyne, may be in order. The kids will probably turn up their noses at the scent of fermenting grains, but think about how much it will cheer YOU up. Learn to shuggle, and the importance of water, wood, barley, peat and heather. You can’t visit Scotland without paying homage to the wee dram.
11. Buy fudge, tablet, a wool jumper, or anything with a Highland cow on it!
Well, you know, when in Scotland … don’t leave without getting some kitschy trinkets. And while you’re at it, indulge in the local cuisine. Eating a little haggis, neeps and tatties will be something to brag about to your friends!
Day trip to Edinburgh
Raining? It’s often drier in the east so head over to Edinburgh for some glitz and glamour. Each year we take a day trip to Edinburgh, and we have our favourite spots. If you’ve never been, go to Edinburgh Castle and explore the surrounding area, then drop down to Princess Street for some major shopping. While you are there, visit the Scottish National Gallery and Scottish Academy (they’re free!). We usually start the day at Jenners, the old-fashioned department store, including lunching in restaurant with views over Princess Street, then wander around. I always stop in Joules (perfect clothing for Scotland) and then for a taste of California, I go by the Hollister shop, which has a live web cam of Surf City USA showing on it’s entire shop front!
Where we stayed
Hoseasons has several rentals in the area, we opted for Forest Hills, which is run by the MacDonald resort group. The lodges have dated late 70s charm, but the pièce de résistance are the sweeping views from each over Loch Ard. Think steaming mug of tea on comfy leather sofa, watching the mist rise of the loch. You can almost see the Sir Walter Scott’s Lady on the Lake. The resort has a fabulous newly renovated spa and leisure facility, with swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam and sauna. They also offer authentic Scottish activities. Read my full review of MacDonald Forest Hills.
If you visit Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
The Trossachs are a very popular destination, please remember to respect the park! Check out the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park website for reminders.
Key points are as follows:
- Care for the environment and take your litter home – litter can harm wildlife and ruins experience of the Park for other visitors;
- Never cut down or damage trees. If you must have an open fire, bring your own wood, keep fires small and under control and remove all traces before leaving;
- Respect people’s privacy and peace of mind, for example by avoiding over-crowding in busy areas;
- Make sure that the river or loch is appropriate for your activity and that you follow any byelaws in place;
- You will need a permit to fish; please dispose of your fishing line responsibly;
- Always keep a safe distance from others using the water;
- Take care when entering and leaving water to avoid damaging the banks or disturbing wildlife – use a public slipway if one is close by;
- Do not pollute the water.
IF YOU GO:
Hoseasons, part of the Wyndam Vacation Rentals Group Vacation Rentals hoseasons.co.uk. Hoseasons is one of the UK’s leading self-catering accommodation specialists, with over 21,000 places to stay in coastal and countryside settings throughout Britain and Europe. From lodges and parks, to boats, cottages and apartments, they offer a wide variety of self-catering holidays in the UK. We stayed in the Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa The Trossachs, Aberfoyle, Stirlingshire FK8 3TL Kinlochard, The Trossachs, Aberfoyle, Stirlingshire FK8 3TL.
Go Ape! Aberfoyle David Marshall Lodge, Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Aberfoyle, Stirling FK8 3SY +44 0845 643 9215 goape.co.uk Zip wire heaven in Loch Lomond. Set in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park near Sterling, two of the UK’s longest zip wires over 400m long and 150 feet above the ground. The Lodge Cafe has a great menu and features floor to ceiling views of forest.
Cruise Loch Lomond The Boatyard, Tarbet, Argyll & Bute +44 01301 702356 cruiselochlomond.co.uk By yon bonnie bonnie banks. Cruises, ferries and day trips/cycle hire. Catch a boat at one of the four piers and enjoy loch views. This was a trip highlight.
The Loch Lomond Arms Hotel Main Road Luss G83 8NY +44 (0) 1436 86042 lochlomondarmshotel.com Traditional hospitality in Scotland’s loveliest village. After discovering the conservation hamlet of Luss, go to the cosy and inviting Loch Lomond Arms and have lunch or dinner. Try wild mushroom and Lanark blue cheese salad with hazelnut dressing and Gigha halibut with oxtail tortellini, wild mushrooms, sweet corn, roasted salsify and chicken jus.
Loch Lomond Shores Ben Lomond Way, Balloch G83 8QL +44 01389 751031 lochlomondshores.com Great views and shopping, including the only Jenner’s with a Ness concession.
The Lake of Menteith Hotel & Waterfront Restaurant, Port of Menteith FK8 3RA +44 01877 385 258 lake-hotel.com Drive through stunning Scottish scenery, and nestled by the lake (the only one in Scotland) is this award-winning New England waterfront hotel/restaurant. Offers local cuisine, like Crispy Ayrshire pork belly with corn succotash and BBQ sauce and the beef burgers are out of this world.
Katrine Wheelz Invertrossachs Road, Callander FK17 8HW +44 1877 331100 katrinewheelz.co.uk Rent bikes, catch the 10.30 Sir Walter Scott steamer to the far end of Loch Katrine and then take a leisurely cycle (1 and ½ to 3 hours, depending on ability). It’s a bit hilly, but the views are oh, so worth it.
Our accommodation was provided by Hoseasons and we were guest of Go Ape. All opinions and editorial are my own and my family’s.