IN MAY this year my wife and I set of from our North Yorkshire home, along with our border terrier Tilly, to travel to the part of Scotland known as the Trossachs, east of Loch Lomond.

We stopped for lunch at Rheged service area near Penrith. This is much more than a café - there are several quality shops, even a cinema. It is run by the same family who have the award-winning service areas at Tebay on the M6, among others, all of which are renowned for home- cooked food and farm shops. All are dog-friendly.

Heading North via the the M6, M74 and M8 we travelled through countryside towards Glasgow and Loch Lomond, crossing the mighty Clyde via the Erskine Bridge - now like all previous toll crossings in Scotland, free.

We arrived at our destination mid-afternoon in glorious sunshine. Our base for the next few days was the Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel near Aberfoyle.

Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel in AberfoyThe beautifully-maintained hotel groundsThe beautifully-maintained hotel grounds

The Lady of the Lake making her way along Loch KatrineThe Lady of the Lake making her way along Loch Katrine

The complex is set in the most beautiful grounds overlooking the lesser- known Loch Ard, behind which looms the magnificent Ben Lomond. This mountain is the most southerly of 282 Scottish peaks known as Munros, all of which are more than 3000ft (914m) high. They are so- called after the mountaineer Sir Hugh Munro who surveyed and catalogued them all in 1891. There is a popular pastime known as ‘Munro bagging’ which involves climbing as many of them as possible. To date, more than 6000 intrepid climbers have conquered them all: we certainly won’t be adding to that number!

Day two dawned bright and clear: we drove west along the edges of Loch Ard and Loch Chon on a typically Scottish single track road. The passing places at strategic intervals were thankfully not needed as we did not encounter any vehicles at all.

We eventually arrived at a charming hamlet with the wonderful name of Stronachlachar (try saying it correctly first time) at the western end of Loch Katrine. There is a pier here which serves as the terminus for the steamship Sir Walter Scott which has plied up and down the Loch since 1900. It is still steam driven but biofuel has replaced coal to heat the boilers. The ship was built at Dumbarton in 1899 at a cost of £4629; after trials on the Firth of Clyde she was dismantled and the numbered pieces taken by barge to Loch Lomond, then overland by horse-drawn cart to Stronachlacher Pier on Loch Katrine where she was reassembled. The cost of the delivery was almost half the build costs. She has recently undergone a £850,000 restoration.

The Sir Walter Scott at StronachlacharThe Sir Walter Scott at Stronachlachar

Sandra and Tilly pause to admire the viewSandra and Tilly pause to admire the view

Looking out to the Scottish fells across Loch KatrineLooking out to the Scottish fells across Loch Katrine

The hamlet's other claim to fame is as the starting point of a magnificent feat of Victorian engineering, namely an aqueduct which carries water from the Loch to Glasgow. Katrine is the principal source of water for the city, travelling entirely by gravity some 30 miles, and has been doing so since it was opened in 1859.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert travelled here to perform the opening ceremony, arriving on the steamboat Rob Roy, predecessor to the Sir Walter Scott. A royal lodge had been built near the pier to provide accommodation for the royal family during their visit. Unfortunately they were unable to use it as a 21-gun salute, sounded upon their arrival, was so loud and explosive it blew out every window in the building. Alternative arrangements were hastily found and perhaps the famous phrase “we are not amused” was heard.

We travelled back to Aberfoyle for lunch - a pleasant little town with full marks for free parking, and no time restrictions, in the town centre. We had a wonderful walk among the mountains and waterfalls in the Queen Elizabeth Forest which surrounds the entire area. Vast swathes of bluebells carpeted the forest floor and to complete our day we heard the call of the cuckoo.

Queen Elizabeth ForestQueen Elizabeth Forest

On day three we travelled from Aberfoyle to the eastern end of Loch Katrine and walked along the northern shore of the loch on a quiet road owned by Scottish Water; the prohibition of public vehicles adding to the peace and tranquillity, with no other noise than the lapping of the water and the bird song.

We passed a plaque informing us that an upgrade to the abstraction works was opened by Princess Margaret in 1958, adding more than seven million gallons a day to Glasgow’s water supply.

Princess Margaret opening the improved water works at Loch Katrine in 1958Princess Margaret opening the improved water works at Loch Katrine in 1958

Walking Tilly around the lochWalking Tilly around the loch

After a hearty two-hour walk we drove to the nearby town of Callander for lunch and found a wonderful bakery-cum-café called Mhor Bread Shop. We had never seen so many delicious pies, sandwiches, bridies (pasties south of the border), sausage rolls and sweet delights. A pleasant town, although, like so many these days, a bit faded and, sadly, no free parking. For those with long memories and black and white televisions Callander was the fictional Tannochbrae in the series Dr Finlay’s Casebook of 1962 onwards. Patients seemingly just turned up at the surgery and saw the doctor then and there - how times have changed.

Day four, homeward bound. I was rather anxious about the traffic as it was the Friday of the Bank Holiday weekend. Apart from a horrendous downpour on the M6 approaching Penrith, reducing traffic to a crawl, the journey thankfully passed without incident, but not without taking the opportunity to revisit the excellent Rheged for more of their delicious soup.

Upon joining the A66 at Penrith we were fortunate to be heading east as westbound traffic was at a standstill for at least 12 miles almost back to Appleby. There is a strange, rather smug, feeling when travelling on a clear road, when everything going in the opposite direction is at a standstill.

A thoroughly enjoyable little break in a beautiful part of wonderful Scotland.

It's always nice, though, to get back to our Yorkshire village.