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Loch Lomond and The islands
Loch Lomond is 23 miles long and 4 miles across at its broadest point. This large expanse of water is interspersed with picturesque and mysterious islands, which boast a wealth of history, and the surrounding scenery provides magnificent views in every direction. No visit here would be complete without taking to the water.
Island I Vow – 'The Island Of The Cow'
The northern most Island of Loch lomond lies in one of its narrowest parts.
It is likely that the name Island I Vow was derived from the Gaelic translation of 'Island Of The Cow' and that this name owed something to the professional interests of its inhabitants.
The Macfarlanes, who were notorious cattle thieves, built another stronghold here after their earlier castle had been destroyed.
The ruins of the castle remain today and steps still lead down to the dark, dank dungeon below.
Inveruglas Isle – 'The Isle At The Mouth Of The Black Stream'
The black stream is the Inveruglas water which flows from Loch Sloy and enters Loch Lomond just south of the village of inveruglas.
This wooded islet lies in the bay just in front of Inveruglas village and should not be confused with Wallace's Isle, which is right in the river mouth nearby.
Hiding amongst the high pines near its eastern shore is the ruin of a castle, which was once the residence of the chiefs of the clan Macfarlane and was destroyed by soldiers of Oliver Cromwell during their occupation of Scotland in the seventeenth century.
Among the ruins of the castle, an old sword and keys have been discovered.
Wallace's Isle – 'The Island Of Someone Called Wallace'
Wallace's Isle lies low and flat and alder covered in the mouth of the Inveruglas water, just south of the village of Inveruglas.
Its claim to fame is that one of the most famous patriots of Scotland sought refuge here, but it is possible that the island simply belonged to someone else named Wallace at one time.
Tarbet Isle – 'The Island Of The Drag Boat'
Tarbet Isle takes its name from the nearby village and the isthmus on which it stands.
Here the ocean in the shape of Loch Long makes its nearest approach to Loch Lomond. In the thirteen century King Haakons Viking fleet entered Loch Long and after dragging their longboats overland, across the isthmus from Arrochar to Tarbet, they sailed around Loch Lomond causing alarm and terror; raiding the monastery on Inchtavannach and the church on Inchcailloch before descending the River Leven to rejoin the ocean via the Firth Of Clyde.
A little north east of Tarbet Isle is the deepest part of the Loch with depth soundings showing readings of 630ft.
The Ross Islands – 'The Islands Off The Ross Promontory'
These small islands lie just off the south shore of the great Ross promontory, about two miles south of Rowardennan.
They are basically rocky ridges appearing above the surface of the Loch and are lightly vegetated with small trees, mainly birch, holly, rowan and willow, and with heather.
Inchlonaig - 'The Island of Yew Trees'
This wonderful Island is steeped in History with traces of man found here dating back to 5000BC.
Dark green yew trees are scattered across Inchlonaig. These ancient trees were first planted in the fourteenth century by King Robert the Bruce, to supply bows for his archers at The Battle of Bannockburn.
In more recent times the island was used as a deer park and a stone built cottage, now used as a holiday home, once provided shelter for drunks and a certain cure from their alcoholism.
Fraoch - 'The Heather Island'
Fraoch lies slightly east of Luss and boasts a multitude of bird and plant life. It is a small and rocky Island, but very picturesque and most beautiful when the heather is in full bloom.
Legend has it that this island was once known as 'Luss Prison' and being so near to Luss, yet so isolated and secure, it would surely have been a very convenient place to deposit the local undesirables.
A trip through 'The Narrows' as it is popularly known, is a must for anyone visiting Loch Lomond. This narrow, winding, river like stretch of water separates the islands of Inchconnachan and Inchtavannach and is undoubtedly the jewel of all the Loch.
These sheltered waters are unaffected by any wind and trap the sun for most of the day.
Inchconnachan - 'The Colquhoun's Island'
Inchconnachan boasts a wealth of secluded bays that no other of Loch Lomond's islands can excel. Throughout the summer these havens are filled with overnighting yachts and cruisers. A 1920s wooden bungalow is situated near to the narrows and was previously the holiday home of Lady Arran Colquhoun who introduced Wallabies to the island. The wallabies roamed wild and these strange creatures can still be seen today, if you are lucky.
Inchtavannach - 'The Monk's Island'
This long wooded island rises steeply at its northern end to a rocky summit, which provides splendid views. A large house has stood on the site of an old monastery since 1760 and the present owners keep all types of livestock as well as several horses.
Bandry Bay separates the island from the mainland, just south of Luss. It is thought that St Kessog was killed here.
Bucinch - 'The Island of Goats'
Bucinch rises fairly steeply from a rocky coastline to a fairly central summit. The whole island is densely covered with trees and bushes. It has been uninhabited and completely unspoiled for centuries. Even the goats have left.
Inchcruin - 'The round Island'
The name Inchcruin comes from the Gaelic for 'round island' but it certainly is not round.
The island is small and mostly wooded. It has several small beaches but is mostly rocky and unapproachable by boat.
A solitary house, surrounded by open fields, is approximately 150 years old and lies on the site of an even earlier house. These fields were previously farmed and the house would have been home to various families throughout the years. It is now used as a private holiday retreat.
Inchmoan - 'The Island of Peat'
For centuries Inchmoan was a source of peat fuel for the inhabitants of Luss.
The centre of this island is a jungle of plant life with peat, rhododendron, birch, alder, gorse, bog myrtle and blueberry. The north and south shores offer long curving sandy beaches, whilst the western peninsula is covered in Scot's pine trees and home to a large ruined building.
The neighbouring island of Inchcruin can almost be touched from the eastern tip of Inchmoan and the narrow passage between these two islands is known as 'The Geggles'.
Inchfad - 'The Long Island'
Loch Lomond's Islands were widely used for the illicit distilling of whisky until, in the middle of the nineteenth century, a government revenue cutter sailed the Loch to put an end to this trade. Somehow one of these illicit stills gained respectability on Inchfad and became an official registered government distillery. The ruined foundations and an old chimney place can still be seen today, close to the north-east shore of the island.
Near to the distillery site is a modernised stone cottage that has provided a home for generations of Inchfad farmers. There is also a modern timber bungalow.
Inchfad has changed ownership frequently in recent times and was once home to Ted Toleman, the powerboat racer who crossed the Atlantic Ocean with Richard Branson.
Inchgalbraith - 'The Island of the Galbraiths'
Inchgalbraith is thought to have originally been a 'Crannog' or man made island. Tree trunks would have been driven into the bed of the Loch, close to one another like modern piles, and rocks and stones heaped up between these posts. This process was often used by Iron Age people to create a safe dwelling place.
Despite these primitive origins the island was strong enough to support the medieval castle of the Galbraith family, the ruins of which can still be seen today.
The Highland Boundary Fault Line
Millions of years ago, the rocks of lowland Scotland collided with those to the north and formed the highland boundary fault line. It runs from Stonehaven to Kintyre, marked by the conic hill just east of Loch Lomond, and runs directly through the islands of Inchcailloch, Torrinch, Creinch and Inchmurrin.
Inchcailloch – 'The Island Of The Nun'
In 717AD three Christian missionaries arrived in Scotland from Ireland. After much travelling one of these missionaries settled on Inchcailloch and there she died. A nunnery was founded in her memory and in the twelfth or early thirteenth century a church was also built and dedicated to her memory.
For approximately 500 years the people of the mainland parish rowed across to their Sunday worship, and here they also buried their dead. Those ruins and the graveyard remain on inchcailloch today.
Inchcailloch is now owned by Scottish Natural Heritage and boasts a wealth of vegetation, wildlife and carefully maintained nature trails. There is also a sheltered sandy bay with a picnic area and campsite at the southern end of the island.
Torrinch – 'The Tower Island'
As far as can be ascertained, no one ever lived or built anything on this island.
The tower name is suggested by the sheer face of conglomerate rock, which soars 100ft above the level of the Loch at the south west corner of the island.
The rest of the island gently rises from its north eastern shore and is shaded by honey suckle-garlanded oaks, aspen trees, alders and Scots firs. The ground is carpeted with berry plants and bracken.
Creinch – 'The Island Of Trees'
Like the other 3 islands on the highland boundary fault line, Creinch rises steeply from the water to a rounded summit.
It is completely covered in ivy-draped trees and often, during Summer, the undergrowth becomes so dense that it can be difficult to explore the island fully.
Inchmurrin – 'The Island Of St Mirren'
By far the largest of Loch Lomonds Islands, Inchmurrin is truly an enchanting place of woodlands and meadows, high ridge and gentle vale.
Set on a headland on the south western extremity of Inchmurrin stand the ruined walls of an ancient castle and early Christian monks are known to have constructed a chapel somewhere nearby, prior to the castle being built. This chapel was dedicated to St Mirren who must have visited or even lived here at some point.
The current owners of Inchmurrin are the Scott family who have lived here for approximately seventy years. They farm here with a large herd of beef cattle and sheep, growing all their own feed on the island, as well as keeping game birds.
The Scott family also operate a fully licensed bar and restaurant on the island which is open from March to October. There is a variety of self-catering accommodation and approximately 15 houses, some with permanent residents.
A cluster of wooden cabins also exists near the south eastern shore and is frequented by a 'naturist' or nudist colony.
Clairinsh – 'The Flat Island'
Situated just east of Inchcailloch, Clairinsh is indeed flat, especially when compared with its almost mountainous neighbour.
It is covered in oaks and thickets of holly.
Just off the northernmost point of Clairinsh lies a tiny man-made island or 'Crannog' known as 'Keppinch', meaning 'The Kitchen'.
Aber Isle – 'The Island At The Mouth Of The River Endrick'
Aber Isle is little more than a crescent shaped bank of stones, capped by a struggling vegetation of stunted alders, willows, and a solitary Scots pine.
The Island lies approximately ½ mile from the mainland at the moth of the river Endrick.