On the Wildside

Lochleven Castle
Lochleven Castle

After a drizzly morning near Kinross in early June, the weather cleared a bit and the mist was lifting farther east on the Lomond Hills so we decided to take a boat trip to Castle Island on Loch Leven.

Walking along Gallowhill Road on our way to the pier, a stoat scurried across the main road ahead of us - amazingly unaware of the busy M90 beneath our feet under the bridge! As we boarded the small ferry at the pier, shelduck and tufted duck were dabbling near the shoreline.

Further out in the bay we spotted the unmistakable elaborate waterdance courtship of the great crested grebe - it’s a pity I had forgotten my binoculars today!

Approaching the small jetty on Castle Island, mute swans and heron could be seen peacefully minding their own business. 

What a wonderful feeling of remoteness on this tiny island with such a varied and important history.

As we climbed the steps into Lochleven Castle a pair of oystercatchers screeched at us from above, protecting their young in a nest probably near the ramparts.

The Castle, built in the 1300s and owned by the Douglas family, Lairds of Lochleven, was the residence of Mary Queen of Scots when she was imprisoned in 1567 and forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son, until she escaped from this isolated island jail and left Scotland forever. Castle Island is now owned and cared for by Historic Scotland.

A pleasant short stroll around the island revealed a very pretty picture of scented pink purslane everywhere - lining the footpaths and into the woodlands beyond. A lone pheasant made its way through the trees ahead of us, looking back indignantly at our intrusion. As we sat quietly enjoying the tranquil scene around us awaiting the return of the ferry, it seemed strange that we could see in the distance the silent movement of traffic on the M90. 

Loch Leven is the largest loch in lowland Scotland and is now a nature reserve and a scenic spot for fishing. In the breeding season the loch is home to a large number of water birds and later in the year more than 20,000 ducks, geese and swans flock here for the winter. This is the most important grey goose roost in the British Isles with large numbers of pink-footed and greylag geese wintering here.

As we made our way back to the pier, fishermen were preparing a boat ready for a trip. Apparently the Loch Leven record for a brown trout was caught in 2013 and weighed in at a whopper of 11 and a half pounds! A warming cuppa followed for us in the restaurant by the pier after a very satisfying trip.