Some Points of View in the National Park
By Louis Stott
I rather think this particular stretch of Loch Lomond, in front of Inversnaid, is the most beautiful lake and mountain view I have ever seen.Nathaniel Hawthorne English Notebooks
Few would dispute that the view of the Arrochar Alps across Loch Lomond at Inversnaid is very fine. There are several variations of it: that from Rob Roy’s Viewpoint is quite good.
However, the best variant is probably The Queen’s View, at the head of Loch Arklet where the lesser loch constitutes the foreground, rather than Loch Lomond. Coming from Aberfoyle it is a breathtaking coup d’oeil. The prospect is one of four views in the district called the Queen’s View. Those nearby are The Queen’s View, Loch Ard, and The Queen’s View, Loch Achray, both connected with Victoria’s visit to Invertrossachs in 1869. Indeed in More Leaves Victoria is quite fulsome about the panorama at the foot of Loch Ard, likening it to Switzerland. At Loch Achray she implies that it was where Scott was inspired to write:
Each purpled peak, each flinty spire,
Was bathed in floods of living fire.
The Queens View at Auchineden, probably named after Edward VII’s Queen, is just outside the National Park. From the South, it is a spectacular first view of the Highlands.
Scott stayed at Ross Priory, which has a magnificent view of Ben Lomond across the loch. Craigie Fort, Balmaha provides another fine ‘foot of the loch’ view. However, most people would agree that Duncryne, the Witches’ Hill, above Gartocharn, is pre-eminent. Tom Weir held that
‘Duncryne is to my mind the finest viewpoint of any small hill in Scotland.’
It is perhaps worth noting at this point the significance of some elevation in providing aesthetically satisfying views. The view from Duncryne is superior to that from Ross Priory, just as, the view from Inchtavannach or Stronbrae is superior to that from Ross Dhu. On the other hand too great an elevation means that the prospect may be too diffused. It is for this reason that most hill summits have been excluded; in any case, Ben Lomond and other hills form essential features of the best views. Intimate views, such as that of Inchtavvanach from Camstradden, or of, say, the Falls of Dochart are also excluded from this survey.
There is a fine retrospective view of the head of Loch Lomond from Cnap Mor, another a coup d’oeil. At Inveruglas the northern aspect of Ben Lomond is seen in close to. Cruach Tarbert affords a view down Loch Long, but this little mountain also commands an unrivalled spectacle of the upper reach of Loch Lomond with Island I Vow, of Loch Sloy cradled between Ben Vorlich and Ben Vane, of the steep summit cone of Ben Lomond and of the Cobbler and its sister alps. Thus Cruach Tarbert is often regarded as one of the finest mountain viewpoints in Scotland. Since it is surrounded by much higher peaks the view from it is not diffused.
Christopher North drew attention to Firkin Point:
“From this eminence the whole surface of the lake, diversified with its numerous islands is displayed to the eye.”
The prospect towards the islands is less good than from Stronbrae, but this is more than compensated for by the view of the upper part of the loch. Ben Lomond is dramatically foreshortened and is seen from water’s edge to summit immediately across the loch.
In the opinion of Baddeley, the authoritative writer of guidebooks, there is little to choose between Stronbrae, above Luss, and Tom nan Clag, the highest point on Inchtavannach. The view of what Coleridge called ‘delicious islands’ from either of these two places is superb.
There are similar views from Inchcailloch and Inchmurrin. At the foot of Loch Lomond, between the loch and the sea, are a number of good viewpoints which command both loch and firth. Carman Muir, the Stoneymollan Road and Ben Bowie are all good.
It is unsurprising that Loch Lomond is associated with many notable prospects, but there are, of course, many others elsewhere in the National Park. There is an exquisite surprise view of the Lake of Menteith and Inchmahome at Malling on the A81. At Whistlefield one side of the hill provides a fine view of the Gareloch, in spite of the Clyde Submarine Base, but the other side provides a finer panorama, that of Loch Long at its junction with Loch Goil. The sombre character of Loch Long overshadowed by the steep hills of Ardgoil is offset by the generally better-lit lesser loch; it is a classic highland view. In Cowal the Wright Smith viewpoint in the Benmore Botanic Garden gives particularly good views of the gardens and the Clyde. Near Ardentinny Samuel Rodgers went to Shepherd’s Point from which there is a stunning view up Loch Long, ‘sublime, mountain behind mountain receding one behind another, on each side of the lake, till the vista terminates. . .’
At the head of Glencroe Wordsworth climbed to the Rest and Be Thankful half a century after the soldiers who built the road. There he wrote a sonnet. From ‘the Rest’ there is a fine view of the old road.
In the mid nineteenth century Chauncy Hare Townsend climbed the Duke’s Pass between Aberfoyle and the Trossachs to Tom an-t Seillich, watch hill, one the best viewpoints in the Trossachs, and wrote:
Half the horizon was filled with mountains, tossed and tumbled about like an ocean arrested in its wildest rage. . . . “Oh, ’twas an unimaginable sight!”
In Glenfinglas there is a good viewpoint overlooking Loch Finglas. At Balquhidder visitors ought to climb Creag an Tuirc which provides a grandstand view of the village. Finally, from Glenoglehead there is a fine prospect of Ben Lawers and the Tarmachans beyond Loch Tay.