Balloch and Loch Lomond

Valhalla, our B&B in Balloch is immediately across the road from the Balloch train station. Thor, Odin and Loki are interesting fellows.

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Graham, our new landlord greets us at the door and welcomes us inside. I see a couple of acoustic guitars on the lounge as we enter. Our room is simple and very clean with a comfortable bed.

Graham has noticed me looking at his guitars and invites me into the living room to have a little play. One of his guitars is a 36 year old Ovation that he has just restrung which he kindly lets me play for a while. I have never played an acoustic Ovation guitar before. The rounded back makes it hard to play seated however it has a lovely warm tone and great sustain.

Graham is a much more accomplished player than I and shows me a few new chops. I switch over to his Yamaha that he uses most and we have a little jam.

It is amazing how rapidly fingertips lose conditioning for by the end of our short session it feels like I have not touched a guitar in years rather than six months.

Pam is keen to get outside and has been waiting patiently for me to have my fun. The tourist office is very close by and we venture over.

Alas we are told that due to heavy rains from the last few days Loch Lomond is flooded and the nearby piers where the tour boats moor for boarding are under water. If the water subsides during the night there may be tours the following day.

Loch Lomond is the largest fresh water lake in the UK. Snow topped mountains of its Northern shores form the beginning of the Scottish Highlands.

Pam has specifically brought us to Balloch and Loch Lomond for the loch boat tour so she is disappointed by the news that we will probably not be able to tour this beautiful lake.

Leaving the tourist office with maps in hand we walk paths taking us alongside the swift flowing River Levin that runs from Loch Lomond to the river Clyde. Near the entrance to the Loch we sit on park benches near the water and eat the croissants we had taken from our breakfast table in the morning.

A pair of ducks swimming nearby decide to befriend us when they see us eating. The female is bold and daring with the shimmering green necked drake much more reticent.

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Mundane tasks like ATM cash withdrawals completed at the nearby shopping complex, we take photos of the Loch shores and paddle steamer before drifting back to our B&B.

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Light rain falling as we have dinner in the nearby hotel does not improve our chances of touring Loch Lomond the next morning.

Rain has continued falling during the night, the road outside is black and slick as we leave Valhalla in the morning.

A quick glance at the river flowing by the tourist office confirms our fears.

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The piers are still underwater. Inside we are advised of still operational tours that leave from the Northern shores of the Loch however accessing the little town where they moor will prove difficult and expensive.

We vacillate for a while and finally elect to walk the paths of the shore and forest on the far side of the River Levin

Balloch is small, flat, low lying. we cross the bridge across the fast flowing stream turn left at the far bank near a large group of ducks and a couple of white swans.

A small row boat with a too short mooring rope has been dragged below the swift flowing water. The path that makes its way round the shoreline is impassible in parts due to flood waters breaching the Loch banks.

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Alternative paths lead us through grasslands into the expanse of lawn rolling up the hill to Balloch Castle.

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Grey clouds threatening to pour their flying contents upon us at any moment suddenly break. Blue skies do occur in Scotland.

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Stately homes across the Loch have their own unique access options.

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Divergent paths lead us beside a small stream coursing down a hill.

Verdant green moss covered tree trunks and rocks contrast with leaves fallen brown lining the steep sloping banks.

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Seeing a chance to possibly win 250 pounds on You’ve Been Framed (the UK equivalent to Funniest Home Videos) Pam videos me as I put the waterproof claims of my new boots to a good test by teetering onto slippery rocks midstream in search of photos.

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Watching me huff and puff my way back may have been funny to us however I remain dry so there is no video to submit.

Climbing on up the hill I take another opportunity to win and disappoint Pam once more.

Taking a path that turns right from the course of the stream at the top of the hill we wander past the Balloch Castle. The buildings are undergoing restoration and are not accessible to the public.

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Light rain begins to fall again as we pass the castle and we decide to walk down the long lawn covered slope back to the shore of Loch Lomond and make our way back via quick familiar paths.

A few meters down hill Pam turns back to put a used tissue in the rubbish bins beside the path near the castle and urges me to continue on as she will easily catch me up.

Reaching the bottom of the soggy slope I turn back in search of Pam who is nowhere to be seen. She seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time to rejoin me and eventually I see her waving from the top.

Together again she tells me a tale of how the very top of the slope near the bin was so steep and slippery that she fell in the mud. Urged on by a laughing gaggle of walkers at the top she had attempted to regain her feet and climb the last little slope slipping and falling another three times.

I am peeved that I have missed two opportunities here. Laughter filled mocking revenge and the 250 pounds we would surely have won.

Nearing the town on our return we meet an older couple setting off into the forest. The gentleman obviously has some fairly severe muscular palsy as his movements are wild and jerky. He is using two walking poles to assist his balance, from afar I recognise the resting comfort of his grips however he has a black string hanging down from each rather than my bright orange.

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‘You have the carbon fibre Pacerpoles’ I say by way of greeting, holding up my own for him to see.

‘Yes’ he replies, ‘I keep my alloy spare set in our caravan’.

We have a quick mutual admiration session that concludes with me heartily agreeing with his synopsis of Pacerpoles as being ‘the best hand held mobility device in the world’.

Walking on we pass by a mother and child feeding the frenzied gaggle of waterbirds that have gathered to fight over breadcrumbs.

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Lunch beside the roaring fire within Balloch House is delicious. Outside the rain intensifies.

Later in the day we meander over to the Tullie Inn that is much closer to Valhalla. We work on the blog, chat to an enthusiastic young music loving staff member and groove to the eclectic soundtrack being played over the sound system into the evening.

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Grey skies greet us again next morning. Keen to be on our way to Edinburgh we bid our friendly B&B hosts, Graham and Becky, farewell and cross the road to the train station.

Pam leaves me at the station sitting on damp seats guarding our bags as she goes to the post office to send some of our gear onwards to Ireland.

She returns grumbling about postal charges.

We have missed the train and have to wait an extra half an hour for the next one.

PLL

Pam and Mick

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