Best known as the burial place of Robert MacGregor, the brigand ‘Rob Roy’ immortalised in Scott’s novel, Balquhidder is beautifully situated at the eastern end of Loch Voil. Rob Roy died at his home nearby at Inverlochlaraig in 1734. His wife Mary and two sons Coll and Robert (Robin Oig of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped), are buried beside him in the churchyard of the ruined kirk.
The National Trust owns the 58-acre battlefield, at the heart of Scottish conflicts over the centuries. Here, in 1314, Robert the Bruce triumphed over an English army three times larger than his own. A rotunda with panels describing the course of the battle encircles the Borestone in which the shaft of Bruce’s (and Scotland’s) Standard is said to have been set Stirling Castle, the prize of the battle, can be seen from Bannockburn. Sir Walter Scott describes the conflict in Lord of the Isles. A statue of Bruce mounted on horseback by C d’O Pilkington Jackson was unveiled by the Queen in 1964. In the vicinity is also the site of the Battle of Sauchieburn, where James III was defeated and fatally wounded in 1488. Prince Charles Edward made Bannockburn House, One and a half miles south east, his headquarters in 1746.
The ruined 15th-century castle often called Ship Castle because of its shape was one of the four left fortified in Scotland after it was merged with England by the Act of Union in 1707; it has been a prison for Covenanters in the 17th century, a powder magazine in the 19th – and a youth hostel in the 20th!
The Safari Park at Blair Drummond features a variety of animals in their natural surroundings. It includes a Pets’ Corner and such attractions as Boat Safari and Astra Glide. There are picnic and amusement areas.
The Roman fortification known as the Antonine Wall had its eastern end at Bo’nes’s (Borrowstounness); a facsimile of a distance slab excavated in 1868 has been set up at the east end of the town, the original being on display in Edinburgh’s National Museum of Antiquities. Bo’ness was an important port in the 19th century (until the development of Grangemouth a few miles away), but it is now involved in industry. Kinneil Museum, housed in the renovated 17th-century stable block of Kinneil House, traces the growth of the town’s industry and also has an extensive display of local pottery. Kinneil House itself has interesting 16thand 17th-century wall paintings,
Callander describes itself as ‘the natural gateway to the Highlands’ though its appearance is more suggestive of a Lowland town. It is the Tannochbrae of the television series, ‘Dr Finlay’s Casebook’, and there are some very pleasant houses built in the Regency style, especially in the main street and square. Several beauty spots are within walking distance – such as the Falls of Bracklinn and Ben Ledi. One mile west of the town is the interesting Kilmahog Woollen Mill, famous for its handwoven blankets and tweed.
Falkirk, situated on the Firth of Forth, was a centre for coal-mining and for the great Carron Ironworks, which began making ‘carronades’, as the cannon were known, for Nelson’s navy in 1760. Falkirk Museum has some interesting local exhibits and just west of the town is Rough Castle, one of the 19 Roman forts which guarded the Antonine Wall. On the east of the town, in the grounds of Callendar House, is one of the best preserved sections of the wall.
Loch Katrine, which inspired Scott’s The Lady of the Lake, is considered one of the loveliest in Scotland. Lying beneath the Achray Forest, the loch is not accessible by car. However, walks or a steamer trip give some idea of the rugged beauty of the surrounding Trossachs. Ellen’s Isle is named after Ellen Douglas, the original ‘Lady of the Lake’. This is MacGregor country, and until the 18th century they used the island to hide cattle stolen in raids on the lowlands. Glengyle, on the north shore, was the birthplace of the famous MacGregor brigand, Rob Roy.
A prisoner of Prince Charles Edward is said to have composed the song ‘Loch Lomond’ on the eve of his execution in Carlisle, the ‘low road’ being the path that his spirit would take back to its native land when released by death. Loch Lomond, the ‘Queen of Scottish Lakes’ and the largest in Great Britain, runs from Ardlui in the north to Balloch in the south a distance of some 23 miles and varies in width between 5 miles and three quartersof a mile. There are 30 islands in its length, the most significant being Inchmurrin (with the ruins of Lennox Castle) and Inchcailloch (where the remains of a former nunnery lie near the burial ground of the MacGregor clan). There is good fishing for trout, pike and powan (a white freshwater herring). A National Nature Reserve covers the southwest corner of the loch and five of its islands.
Strathyre is a pleasant little resort in the heart of country made famous by Sir Walter Scott in Lady of the Lake and Legend of Montrose. It is not too remote; the climbing is not too difficult; and the River Balvaig is full of brown trout. The Ben of the Fairies rises to the west.
‘The Highlands in miniature’, as this famous landscape area north of Glasgow is known, has been popular with tourists since the early 19th century. The combination of mountains, lochs, rivers and woods rich in hazel, oak, birch and mountain ash, proved irresistible to Sir Walter Scott. His poems Lady of the Lake and Rob Roy were both inspired by the region. Ellen Douglas was the ‘Lady’ and Loch Katrine along with Lochs Achray and Venacher one of three in the area -was ‘her’ Lake. Steamers still ply Loch Katrine in the summer and call at Stronachlacher from where Rob Roy’s birthplace at Glengyle can be reached. Part of the area now lies in the 45,000 acre Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and all of it is dominated by Ben Venue (2393ft), above the south east shore of Loch Katrine