We were looking for somewhere to swim, and had driven out along Loch Ard in the Trossachs, just west of Aberfoyle.
Camping and parking bans, access problems and grumpy landowners were all in the back of my mind as my son Rob kept saying “This looks good” … “Why not here?”
We’d struggled to find the spot referred to in a guidebook as “perfect for swimming” – no grid ref, map or directions that made sense – and had turned as a last resort onto the road that leads on to some houses and the sailing club at the head of the loch.
So imagine my pleasure at seeing the welcome laid on by the good people of Kinlochard. We’d actually gone past this sign and I reversed back to it expecting to see the usual “keep out”, or a list of charges and what was banned.
Not only were we being made welcome to use this green field running down to the loch, the car-park at the village hall opposite was open and we were invited to use it.
We had a great swim in the loch, including the novelty of watching a heron on the bank from the water, and seeing ducklings scurrying down the bank for what may have been their first swim.
Next it was up to Loch Chon, just up the road, looking for somewhere for a quick dip to round off the trip. The spot recommended in the guide could be found easily this time – but signs told me I was forbidden to use the car park there unless I was officially resident at the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park camp-site there.
We went back instead to the scruffy car park 300 metres back along the road, where we swam but found a pile of broken glass and hundreds of nails, evidence I’m sure of the former misuse that the LLTNP camping rules and regulations are intended to prevent.
I couldn’t help wondering, though, what harm it would have done to park at the other spot, and wander down to the loch through the campsite, or on a path round it.
They’re two contrasting attitudes to how to manage outdoor spaces in popular tourist areas, close to towns and cities and therefore well-used .
The good folk of Kinlochard clearly have the right idea: I’m not sure if local tourist businesses feel the benefit but they deserve to as visitors who are essential to the area’s economy are made to feel welcome, as if something is laid on for them. It probably also stops some people blundering through livestock or private grounds to get to the loch.
And of course we put a small donation in the honesty box when we had finished and packed up there: why wouldn’t you?