Paddlers: Allan, Geoff
Weather: Grey. Light but cold breeze from SW
Report: The Lake of Menteith is an unusual destination; too small for a day paddle, too far away for a half day or evening paddle, poor launch points and a fishing club that still resents paddlers. Why bother then? The simple answer is that the islands are lovely and contain both a ruined castle and a beautiful , ruined Augustian Priory. The Lake is well worth a visit.
We set off from Helensburgh at 9am and were on the water at 10.10. The obvious launching place is at the large Fishing centre but the “Private” signage was not encouraging. The Car Park for the summer ferry was closed as was the road past the car park (for repairs). We retreated to the Hotel and having asked permission to park, launched at the rear of the small pier. With a large party this is probably not an option.
Turning at Dog Island we headed back towards Inch Talla and the ruined castle of the Earls of Menteith. Larger than InchGalbraith on Loch Lomond and much more impressive than the castle on Loch Ard it would still not be worth a special trip.
The Priory on the next island, Inchmahome, is worth a visit. Built in 1240 the ruins include one of the few complete “chapter” houses in the UK. Mary Queen of Scots was brought here as a 4 year old on her return from France to take up the crown.
There are short walks, picnic tables and, in summer, toilets and a fee for landing. We arrived about 11.30 and after a good look at the ruins and a very early lunch, left about 12.15.
The paddle back to the hotel was helped by a significant breeze, apparently characteristic of the loch, and we arrived at our launch point at around 12.45, a very short but very worthwhile day.
Finally on arrival we were approached by a polite young man who suggested we should have asked permission from the Fishery, who held the “Rights to the Loch”. Allan tactfully diverted my attempt to engage on the subject of Access Rights but, unless you wish to park and launch from the Fisheries beach my view is that to ask permission, even if it is automatically granted as he stated, would suggest that they do have a right to prevent access as opposed to a requirement to assist responsible access. As paddlers we need to ensure that the battles won are not lost by oversight.