It has become a little tradition of ours to break away for a few days early in the year, usually when the weather is still cold and miserable, to the Trossachs National Park. It is an area we usually avoid during the rest of our Scotland wanderings due to the newly appointed camping management zones and the fact that it is a small area that gets very busy. The boom of tourism in Scotland, especially that of camping and vanning, is having a big impact on some places and going when nobody else does allows us to enjoy the area without adding to the burden… and we pretty much get it to ourselves!
The forecast offered up weather warnings of snow and ice, but we decided to ignore these and head off anyway. Driving to the south side of the Duke’s Pass we found ourselves driving down the single track road leading down to Invernsaid – before too long it got precarious and being in a heavy vehicle without snow tyres we decided not to risk it. We found a small spot to park up for the night and emerged from the van under a gloriously clear, twinkling sky. Sadly within 5 minutes (but thankfully after I got a photo) the clouds had rolled over and the snow was falling heavily… and settling. We decided not to risk getting stuck on our first night and headed back towards civilisation.
We were treated to a couple of glorious days which we spent leisurely ambling along various walks in the area, finding a few nice spots we hadn’t visited before. We spent the first day taking in the lake shore and the forestry tracks on the north side of Loch Ard. The golden sun accentuated the bronze of the winter landscape and the water reflected the pale blue of the sky, apart from the edges where it was a frosty frozen white. The lack of other humans was delightful and we engaged in snowball fights as we trotted along the snowy paths.
The light began to fade after a short day and we found ourselves on the edge of Loch Chon, a small body of water which has only ever offered us perfect reflections and this time was no different. The scene lacked colour in the dying day and as the mist fell down the hillside the trees were silhouetted against the swirling vapour. The glassy surface offered a perfect replica of what lay above, the snow-capped hills and detailed shoreline doubled.
The nights were cold, trying to cook in temperatures of -5° made for an amusing effort and a luke-warm dinner. Tucked up under the duvet was cosy, but the van itself wasn’t particularly warm – our boots (which had gotten wet during the day) were frozen solid by morning. Having to plunge ones feet into, what are essentially, blocks of ice was definitely an invigorating way to start the day if not the most pleasant!
We ventured along to Inversnaid and stopped off at the RSPB reserve en route. We left the van behind made our way along a snowy path which took an upward trajectory. The day started with low level cloud, but in no time at all it had drifted away, leaving nothing but bright blue skies and glistening peaks. The snow covered landscape stretched out before us, the sun’s reflection gleaming all around it – it was hard to believe we were in Scotland, it felt as though we could have been in the Himalayas or the Alps.
Our last night was spent tucked away in the trees, the low lying mist swirled through the snow-clad forest outside the window offering up a particularly wintery scene. We awoke to another glorious day, the sky was clear and crisp, the yellow glow of the horizon merged seamlessly with the powder blue overhead.
The sun blinked through the branches of the trees bathing us in a dappled light which did nothing to warm us but looked pretty at least. Breaking camp we emerged from our forested location into the result of an incredible haw frost. The entire area was white; trees, bushes and grasses looked to be made of ice and twinkled in the morning sun accordingly. The vibrant blue waters of the rivers ran calmly, reflecting the crystalline flora on the banks. It was stunning!
Before heading home we went for one last explore and did some walking around Aberfoyle. We discovered a beautiful lochan, completely frozen over and nestled in the middle of dense forest, long reaching views over the surrounding hills and gorgeous oak woodlands, offering an impressive display of veteran trees. The walks were easy going and we strolled along taking in the scenery, the sun was bathing the hilltops in its warm light and everything that lay within the shadows remained ghostly white, the two halves of our surroundings contrasting starkly.
All in all, another wonderful weekend up north and our passionate love affair with bonnie Scotland burns as brightly as it ever has. Despite returning to same areas on our shorter trips there is never any repetition, there is so much to discover and every time we go we are heartily reminded that we have only just scratched the surface.