A historic setting for Loch Katrine accommodation in the heart of The Trossachs, where Scottish tourism began.
It’s pretty much self-evident that when you get an attraction or an area that gets lots of visitors, the ‘infrastructure’ follows on – whether that takes the form of car parks, information boards, interpretation centres, cafes or accommodation. And it’s true the world over.
Take that day in 1803, for instance when three travellers went exploring the Trossachs, pre-Sir Walter Scott but already known to pioneering Romantics. They came north by boat up Loch Lomond to Inversnaid on its east bank, then walked uphill and eastwards past Loch Arklet, in those days small and reedy.
They then came to Loch Katrine, also then much lower than it is today. They were impressed enough – long story short – to get a boatman to row them up the loch to the east.
One of the three was a bit of a difficult character – moody, drank a lot – so that the two, who were brother and sister, were actually quite pleased he decided it would be too cold on the open boat. He walked round the north side of the loch. Here’s a map. That’ll help…
In spite of the rough terrain he got to the end of Loch Katrine first, where he found some crude shelters. These had been built on the instructions of the then landowner, Lady Drummond, specifically for tourists. (Yes, they had them in 1803!)
Trossachs, Loch Katrine Accommodation – 1803 – Huts With Bracken
At the beginning of the 19th century, rough wooden huts, some say roofed with bracken, passed for tourism infrastructure for any adventurous types who made it this far into what was already called The Trossachs.
(Most of the visitors came from Callander, ie from the east, which was why this particular three visitors some were being adventurous. They had come down Loch Katrine from the west.)
Anyway, our visitor sheltered in a hut, and waited for the boat bringing the other two. They duly arrived and he greeted them ‘with a shout of triumph from the door…exulting in the glories of Scotland’.
That quote is from the journal kept by Dorothy Wordsworth. She was in the boat – along with her famous romantic poet brother William Wordsworth.
Their moody and possibly drug-addled companion was the not-quite-so-famous Samuel Taylor Coleridge – who, at that time, plainly worshipped William. (They fell out later!)
Beds at a premium in early Trossachs and Loch Katrine accommodation choice
But here’s the thing. The poets were already part of a tourist trend.
Only seven years later the shores of Loch Katrine were even more thronged with visitors, who came to follow Sir Walter Scott’s Trossachs-rooted narrative as told in ‘The Lady of the Lake’. Infrastructure couldn’t keep up. (Think Isle of Skye today!)
At the few inns in the vicinity, you had to share a bed with goodness-knows-who back then – if you could get one. Even the Isle of Skye hasn’t quite got to this stage yet. (Or the Harry-Potterised Glenfinnan.)
Gradually, better roads and means of transport followed on in the wider Trossachs area, as did cruises on Loch Katrine, and the railway to Callander and also Aberfoyle (both stations now sadly gone).
And the landscape itself changed a bit as Katrine’s level was raised more than once later in the 19th century when it became Glasgow’s water supply.
Trossachs Tourism Infrastructure – Victorian Improvements
Gradually, better roads and means of transport followed on in the wider Trossachs area, as did cruises on Loch Katrine, and the railway to Callander and also Aberfoyle (both stations now sadly gone). And the landscape itself changed a little as Katrine’s level was raised more than once when it became Glasgow’s water supply.
Likewise the rough path that once led from the east through the crags to the shore became a motorable road with a carpark, pier and everything you’d expect from a popular tourist spot.
But what didn’t change after the rough huts disintegrated was that there was nowhere for visitors to stay right in the very heart of the Trossachs.
Sure, there was accommodation in plenty at the ‘gateways’ such as Callander and Aberfoyle, and also the still nearer Brig o Turk, and a little further afield, say, at Inversnaid.
But nobody could actually stay overnight more or less in the exact historic location where those Romantics had stood more than two centuries ago. That is, not until recently.
Loch Katrine Eco-Lodges – A Different Perspective
Loch Katrine Lodges were new for the 2018 season, with ‘eco-pods’, camping spaces and electrical hookups for campervans. The rationale is all about low-environmental-impact accommodation.
The fact that the little lodges look a bit cool and exclusive is almost accidental. Dorothy Wordsworth would have loved one.
They are open all year and offer stays on a per night basis – so they are flexible and should appeal both to central belt Scots looking for a quick get-away-from-it-all break and visitors from further afield who want more than a hurried glimpse of this historic setting.
Plenty to see and do in the Trossachs
The Great Trossachs Forest path runs past the front door, there are bikes to hire round the corner on the main car park, the SS Sir Walter Scott is moored opposite and you are also in a National Park.
You’re also only a few minutes by car from the nearest supermarkets (Callander), just in case you thought you’d be roughing it. Actually, you will be if you buy any meals that require an oven – the lodges have a microwave only! (Possibly not enough space in the kitchen area?)
But no matter, if you have a hankering for a fry-up, then you can even get breakfast at the Steamship Cafe in the Trossachs Pier carpark, a moment’s walk away.
I should disclose that we were guests of Loch Katrine Lodges. The overall impression is that, both in terms of the location and by the standard of the facilities, this venture is going to prove very popular – especially post-pandemic when overseas travel is still sorting itself out.
Worth a look for a new perspective on the Trossachs.