Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Stronachlachar

The Arrochar Alps over Loch Arkaig

After another night when the mercury almost disappeared we drove up to Stronachlachar. It is always an inspiration with the Arrochar Alps beyond Loch Arkaig luring you onwards towards Inversnaid before the alternative attraction of the road to Stronachlachar pier on Loch Katrine. There were quite a few cars parked but everyone had retired to the excellent cafe. We strolled along the lochside taking in the scintillating views and admiring the Victorian engineering that had provided Glasgow with clean water since 1852.

The by-product was to make the Trossachs a favourite tourist destination for the central belt residents in the Edwardian era. It prospered in the days when the ferries and railways provided a fine round trip for walkers or cyclists from the railway station at Balloch by ferry up Loch Lomond to Inversnaid and then to Loch Katrine. There were youth hostels and hotels on the approaches to Callander and Aberfoyle from where trains were available before these lines closed in the 1950's and 1960's as road travel ruined the sort of sustainable tourism that we yearn for today.

The area is a mecca for the sort of coach tourism where visitors are held captive in group hotels and trailed round the woollen mills. There has been far too little attempt to attract the energy and enterprise of younger visitors or residents. Cyclists and adventure racing events are beginning to exploit the natural advantages of the area including the hundreds of miles of forest trails.

This is no thanks to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, which has been notably poor at encouraging creative enterprises utilising indigenous produce and materials to entice visitors or at facilitating new housing and environmental developments with distinctive sustainable designs. The National Park has been too wedded to conservation and has stagnated since its inception. It has failed to benefit to the extent of the Cairngorms National Park, which was designated at the same time. There has been a more open approach to developments, which were retained by Highland Council with a resultant strong insurgence of younger people keen to live, work and promote an outdoor lifestyle in the national park.

View down Loch Katrine from the pier cafe
Loch Katrine from Stronachlachar
Tourists
Loch Katrine and Ben Venue
The pier cafe at Stronachlachar

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