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The Islands on Loch Lomond

The islands on Loch Lomond includes Inchmurrin Island, the only island on the loch to provide accommodation.

A large part of Loch Lomond's beauty is due to its islands...the jewels in the crown.

There has always been controversy over exactly how many islands there are in Loch Lomond, for there are varying definitions of what constitutes an island. Some would include barren rocks while others would say that there must be vegetation. In 800AD, Nennius wrote decisively about the number of islands in the loch.

The first marvel (of Scotland) is Loch Lomond. In it are sixty islands and men dwell there, and it is surrounded by sixty rocks and an eagles' nest is on every rock; and sixty rivers flow into it, and there issues not therefrom to the sea save one river which is called Leven.

By the eighteenth century, Alexander Graham of Duchray gives a slightly more believable report:
"The above ment lake of Loch Lomond is computed to be threttie two miles of watter in length, where at its broadest is computed to be about nyne miles of watter. In this Loch are thirtie islands, great and small."

Crannogs are artificial islands of boulders, logs and brushwood built offshore usually to provide a safe place from attack.

Luss Estates manage all the islands to the west and they are quite happy to let you on these islands as long as you respect them. The islands on Loch Lomond are increasingly popular with many boat users visiting on a daily basis or staying overnight.

TAKE LITTER HOME & RESPECT THE PLANT AND ANIMAL LIFE

 

The islands on Loch Lomond include:

Inchmurrin Island
Inchmurrin - the island of St Mirren

By far the largest of Loch Lomond's islands, and the largest inland island in Britain, 1.5 miles long x 3/4 mile wide, Inchmurrin is truly an enchanting place of woodlands and meadows, high ridge and gentle vale.

Set on a headland on the south western extremity of Inchmurrin stand the ruined walls of an ancient castle and early Christian monks are known to have constructed a chapel somewhere nearby, prior to the castle being built. This chapel was dedicated to St Mirren who must have visited or even lived here at some point.

The current owners of Inchmurrin are the Scott family who have lived here for approximately seventy years. They farm here with a large herd of beef cattle and sheep, growing all their own feed on the island, as well as keeping game birds.
A cluster of wooden cabins exists near the south eastern shore and is frequented by a ‘naturist’ or nudist colony.

The Island is steeped in history and is reputed to have been visited by such greats as, Robert the Bruce, King James VI of Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots. The ruins of a 7th century monastery and Lennox Castle can still be seen today. There is a wealth of natural beauty and history to be enjoyed on Inchmurrin, many lovely walks, quiet coves and clear water for swimming. Inchmurrin has a total of forty nine archaeological sites including the remains of a 7th century monastery and Lennox Castle, which dates back to the 14th century.

It is also an ideal base for water sports, boating, and fishing. There are many lovely walks and safe beaches for swimming.
Inchmurrin boasts the only hotel located on the islands of the loch.

The island is accessible by boat and several piers are available for hotel visitors. The Balmaha mail boat also makes regular journeys to the island and passage can be obtained for a small fee, delivering visitors with the daily mail! By prior arrangement, the hotel will also arrange to pick visitors up from Midross, near Arden.

It is hard to believe that the peace and tranquility of Inchmurrin is within such easy reach. Just 30mins from Glasgow city centre and a 15 minute ferry crossing from the car park on the mainland brings you to this idyllic island setting. This is the real Loch Lomond that few are privileged to see. There are no cars, no hurries, no pressure to do anything but relax and enjoy the island's natural beauty, peacefulness and superb views.

Ceardach Island
Ceardach - the smithy

Situated a little to the east of Bucinch and north of Inchcruin, this tiny islet is little more than a rock covered thinly with soil and with fairly deep water all around it. Nevertheless there is an easy landing place for small boats in a natural harbour leading directly on to the gentle sloping area of flat exposed rock, which is a delightful place to lie and take the sun on a summer's day.

Known locally as the Tinkers Island, because the Gaelic word ceard means both the trade of smith and tinker, experts have found indications that here might have been the site of an Iron Age bloomery or furnace for smelting iron ore. Presumably, it was a secure place to work, free from surprise attacks by enemies or wild animals, and supplies of fuel and ore could be transported fairly easily by water. Another more recent name is Gerbil Island, because here in the 1960s two gerbils were liberated.

It is amazing how many different varieties of trees and other plants grow on this small rocky place, doubtless originating from seeds brought by birds, by wind and water and occasionally by unsuspecting humans. There is a mature if stunted oak tree, willow, holly, briar and bramble and many other shrubs and smaller plants. During prolonged periods of drought, the thin layer of soil becomes apparent, for trees and plants begin to look distressed, and sometimes the island adopts an autumnal aspect in the height of summer.

Like Bucinch, Ceardach belongs to the National Trust for Scotland.

Creinch Island
Creinch - the island of trees

Creinch is the third in a chain of four islands, the others being Inchcailloch, Torrinch and Inchmurrin. These are formed by the high points of a submerged ridge marking the line of the geological Highland fault line.

Thus, like the others, Creinch rises steeply from the water to a rounded summit. As the Gaelic origins of its name implies, it is completely covered in ivy draped trees, including some wych elms, with undergrowth in summer growing so densely that it can be difficult to penetrate the interior. In spring, it is carpeted in wild garlic, wood hyacinths and wood anemones.

It is an island which guards its secrets well. Its size and position would mark it as a secure refuge for early peoples, harried by enemies or wild animals, but recorded history reveals no evidence of human habitation on Creinch. Now part of Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve, it still preserves its aloofness to man.

Torrinch Island
Torrinch - the hill island or the tower island

As far as can be ascertained, no one ever lived or built anything on this island. The tower name is suggested by the sheer face of conglomerate rock, which soars 100 feet above the level of the loch at the south west corner of the island. Seen from afar in the afternoon sun, the rock does assume the aspect of a tower.

Situated between Creinch and Inchcaoiloch, Torrinch forms part of the same partly submerged ridge on the Highland fault line.   Gently rising from its north-east shore, the greater part of the island is shaded by honeysuckle-garlanded oaks and carpeted by blackberries and bracken.

Towards the south-west, it rises abruptly to a little highland place of birches and heather and nearby is a colony of aspen trees, the leaves of which continuously shake and quiver unless the air is perfectly calm. The old Highland people believed the aspen trembles because the Crucifixion Cross was formed from its wood.

Clairinsh Island
Clairinch - the flat island

Situated just east of Inchcailloch, Clairinsh is indeed flat, especially when compared with its almost mountainous neighbour. It is covered in oaks and thickets of holly.

This was the first land owned by a Buchanan, but the clan grew strong, and until 1682 held much of east Loch Lomond side.
Clairinch was purchased in 1682 by the 3rd Duke of Montrose, and it remained the property of this family for the next 250 years.

Clan Buchanan still looked towards this small island as the birthplace of their grandeur, and over the centuries had honoured it by using its name as their battle slogan Clar Innis! In 1934, they acquired it for the Buchanan Society, and just off the northernmost point of Clairinsh lies a tiny man-made island or crannog, known as Keppinch or The Kitchen.

Inchcailloch Island
Inchcailloch - the island of the nun

Lying close to the shore at Balmaha, Inchcailloch may not be the largest, but it is the most accessible and probably the most beautiful of Loch Lomond's islands.

In 717AD, three Christian missionaries arrived in Scotland from Ireland. After much travelling, one of these missionaries settled on Inchcailloch and there she died. A nunnery was founded in her memory and in the 12th or early 13th century, a church was also built and dedicated to her memory. Although the church was abandoned in 1670, the graveyard was used until 1947.

For approximately 500 years, the people of the mainland parish rowed across to their Sunday worship, and here they also buried their dead. Those ruins and the graveyard remain on Inchcailloch today. The graveyard on the island was also used by the Clan MacGregor, some of Rob Roy's ancestors are buried here.

Inchcailloch is now owned by Scottish Natural Heritage and boasts a wealth of vegetation, wildlife and carefully maintained nature trails. There is also a sheltered sandy bay with a picnic area and a camp site at the southern end of the island.

The remains of farm dwellings can be seen on Inchcailloch, although this livelihood would appear to have died out around 1770. Subsequently the land was planted with oak trees for the production of pyroligineous acid (wood vinegar) which was used in industry. Processing was carried out at the Liquor Works, at Balmaha, which is now the Highland Way Inn.

Today Inchcailloch is a delight to the 20,000 visitors who annually wind their way round the island's carefully maintained nature trail enjoying some of Scotland's finest scenery.

A slender crosslet formed with care
A cubit's length in measure due
The shafts and limbs were rods of yew
Whose parents in Inch Cailliach wave
Their Shadows o'er Clan Alpine's grave,
And, answering Lomond's breezes deep,
Soothe many a chieftain's endless sleep.

From Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott

The island can be reached by the ferry service from Balmaha Boat Yard. Camping is allowed on the island at the southern tip in Port Bawn, during the summer months, a warden is on site 24 hours. Toilet and washing facilities are available to fee-paying campers.

Inchfad Island
Inchfad - the long island

Loch Lomond's islands are reputed to have been the source of smuggled liquor for the Glasgow market. In the middle of the 19th century, a Government Revenue cutter sailed the loch to put an end to this trade. It may have been one of these illicit stills that gained respectability on the island of Inchfad, becoming a registered government distillery.  The Inchfad distillery was run by Duncan MacFarlane, an ancestor of the MacFarlane family of Balmaha, well known in modern times for their Royal Mail service to Loch Lomond's inhabited islands and for their boatyard at Balmaha. The full barrels were brought by boat to Balmaha, where they were stored until excisemen supervised their disposal, and presumably most of the grain was imported by water too.

On the island, a small sheltered canal was dug from the very exposed shore of the loch right up to the site of the distillery, indicating the importance of water transport in the business. Recently cleared and brought into use as a sheltered harbour by the latest owners of the island, the Inchfad canal is once again serving a useful purpose.

Near to the distillery site, is a modernised stone cottage that has provided a home for generations of Inchfad farmers. There is also a modern timber bungalow.

Inchfad has changed ownership frequently in recent times and was once home to Ted Toleman, the powerboat racer who crossed the Atlantic Ocean with Richard Branson.

The lush green grass of Inchfad attracts Loch Lomond's fallow deer, which may frequently be seen grazing on the fields. The deer are not long term residents, but travel freely between the islands and to the mainland, swimming mainly at dawn or towards dusk in search of new feeding grounds, or perhaps just for the adventure! Another frequent visitor to Inchfad is the wild mink, an illegal immigrant descended from escapees from mink farms.

Inchmoan Island
Inchmoan - the island of peat

For centuries, Inchmoan was a source of peat fuel for the inhabitants of Luss. All the activity is on the fringes of the long, flat island for the interior is a jungle of rhododendron, birch, alder, gorse, bog myrtle and blaeberry, the peaceful sanctuary of visiting fallow deer.

There are no swaying palm trees or coral reefs, but on a summer's day, Inchmoan's long, curving sandy beaches become the nearest thing to a tropical paradise that Scotland has to offer.

Along with Inchlonaig, Inchmoan was granted to the Colquhoun clan by Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, in the reign of Alexander II. Sir Robert Kilpatrick of Colquhoun, married the daughter of the Laird of Luss, and their descendants became known as the Colquhouns of Luss. Inchmoan has remained the property of the Luss Estate since these far away times.

Despite the fact that there are ruins of a substantial building, with wall still standing two storeys high, among the pines on the western peninsula, there is no record of anyone having lived on Inchmoan within historical times. It is said that the ruined building was started by a man from the Vale of Leven early in the nineteenth century, but running out of money he was unable to complete it. Standing gaunt and empty among the pines it conceals its secrets well.

For centuries, the mainland inhabitants of Luss used Inchmoan as their source of peat fuel, and in early summer it must have been a hive of industry, with boats being rowed out, men cutting deep into the peat banks, and women and children stacking the peats to dry in the summer sun, later to be carried to the boats and brought home in autumn. The narrow, shallow strait between Inchmoan and Inchcruin is called the Geggles.

Inchruin Island
Inchcruin - the round island

The name Inchcruin comes from the Gaelic for round island but it certainly is not round. The island is small and mostly wooded. It has several small beaches but is mostly rocky and unapproachable by boat.  Privately owned and probably used as a holiday retreat by the owners.

A solitary house, surrounded by open fields, is approximately 150 years old and lies on the site of an even earlier house. These fields were previously farmed and the house would have been home to various families throughout the years.

Ellanderroch
Ellanderroch - island of oak

This tiny island is just over 100 yards at its widest point and is separated from the larger Inchfad Island by only a few yards of shallow water. The fishing is reputed to be good hereabouts and the island is much frequented by fishermen who take refuge here when caught by the many unexpected squalls. A former owner of Inchfad sold up but retained ownership of Ellanderrach so that he still had a bit of Scotland. It is now privately owned by the owners of the larger Inchfad.

Inchtavannach Island
Inchtavannach - the monks island

     Here at Ton-na-Clag, it is said that monks tolled their bell to call the faithful to worship at the monastery. More recently, Victorian visitors carved their names on the rock at the summit.

This long wooded island rises steeply at its northern end to a rocky summit, which provides splendid views. A large house has stood on the site of an old monastery since 1760 and the present owners keep all types of livestock as well as several horses.

The producer of TV soap, Take The High Road lived for 10 years in the house. Bandry Bay separates the island from the mainland, just south of Luss.

There is also believed to be an association with St Kessog who was killed at Bandry Bay, south of Luss.

Inchconnachan Island
Inchconnachan - the Colquhouns island

Inchconnachan has a coastline of small secluded bays. In the summer, these havens attract yachts, cruisers, and day trippers who picnic on their shores. Lady Arran Colquhoun introduced wallabies to the island. The wallabies roamed wild and these strange creatures can still be seen today, if you are lucky.

The narrow strait between Inchtavannach and Inchconnachan is said to be the most beautiful place on the loch. A local historian once observed that although from time to time, the loch south of Luss was so frozen as to allow men with horses and loaded sleds to go from each side to the islands yet at no time, not even in the great freeze of 1740, did this strait freeze over, despite being nowhere more than 2.5 fathoms and having no perceptible current. A trip through the narrows as it is popularly known, is a must for anyone exploring Loch Lomond!

There is a bungalow near to the narrows. This was once the holiday home of Lady Arran, sister of Sir Ivan Colquhoun, and who was once the holder of a power boat speed record! The bungalow was built in the 1920s by a retired admiral, who was known as Admiral Sullivan, and who it is said brought electric power to the island. It is also said that when his business collapsed, he went to live in the dungeon of Island I Vow at the north end of the loch.

Inchlonaig Island
Inchlonaig - the island of yew trees

This wonderful island is steeped in history with traces of man found here dating back to 5000BC. Its hills and dales have long known the footprints of men, for here have been found stone tools which may be as much as 7,000 years old.

Dark green yew trees are scattered across Inchlonaig. These ancient trees were first planted in the 14th century by King Robert the Bruce, to supply bows for his archers at the Battle of Bannockburn.

Along with the mainland around Luss, Inchlonaig was granted to the Colquhoun clan by Malcolm, Earl of Lennox in the reign of Alexander II, and thereafter for several centuries, the Colquhouns used the island as a deer park. A stone built cottage, now used as a holiday home, and the remains of a byre are snugly tucked in just above a bay on the southern shore. Nearby was a large rectangular enclosure, probably used for cultivation. The Admiralty chart of 1861 shows an old limekiln, but this may well have been a kiln for drying grain.

It was in this cottage that a succession of gamekeepers or tenant crofters and their families lived, the last being Angus
Colquhoun in the early 1920s. He farmed some of the land, kept two cows, and daily rowed his two daughters to school in Luss. One of his predecessors in the 1830s boarded persons that had been addicted to drinking - presumably isolation on an island was deemed a certain cure for alcoholism.

In 1873, James Colquhoun of Luss, gamekeepers and a boy, were drowned near Rossdhu after a day's deer shooting on Inchlonaig. Fallow deer, including white deer, may still sometimes be seen on the island.

With its high central ridges and valleys, its many secluded bays. and the long vistas through its scattered yew trees, Inchlonaig must be numbered among the most picturesque of the islands

Island I Vow
Island I Vow  - The island of the cow

The northernmost island of Loch lomond lies in the centre of the loch at the narrow northern end and midway between Ardlui and Inversnaid.

It is likely that the name Island I Vow was derived from the Gaelic translation of ‘Island Of The Cow’ (Eilean Vow) and that this name owed something to the professional interests of its inhabitants. The castle was built in 1577 by Andrew Macfarlane, the hero of the Battle of Langside. The Macfarlanes, who were notorious cattle thieves, moved their clan seat here in the mid 17th century after Inveruglas Castle was destroyed by Cromwell. The ruins of the castle remain today and steps still lead down to the dark, dank dungeon below.

More information about the island can be found at islandivow.org

Inveruglas Isle
Inveruglas  – The isle at the mouth of the black stream

This is the Island of the Black Stream, the stream being the Inveruglas Water which decends the hillside from Loch Sloy and enters Loch Lomond just south of the village of Inveruglas. The stream enters the loch just to the south of Inveruglas village. This wooded islet lies in the bay just in front of Inveruglas village and should not be confused with Wallace’s Isle, which is right in the river mouth nearby.

Hiding amongst the high pines near its eastern shore, is the ruin of a castle, which was once the residence of the chiefs of the Clan Macfarlane and was destroyed by soldiers of Oliver Cromwell during their occupation of Scotland in the 17th century.

Among the ruins of the castle, an old sword and keys have been discovered.

Wallace Isle
Wallace Isle - the island of someone called Wallace

Wallace’s Isle lies low and flat and alder-covered in the mouth of the Inveruglas Water, just south of the village of Inveruglas.
Its claim to fame is that one of the most famous patriots of Scotland sought refuge here, but it is possible that the island simply belonged to someone else named Wallace at one time.

Tarbet Isle
Tarbet Isle - the island of the drag boat

Tarbet Isle takes its name from the nearby village and the isthmus on which it stands. Here, the ocean in the shape of Loch Long makes its nearest approach to Loch Lomond. In the 13th century, King Haakon's Viking fleet entered Loch Long and after dragging their longboats overland, across the isthmus from Arrochar to Tarbet, they sailed around Loch Lomond causing alarm and terror, raiding the monastery on Inchtavannach and the church on Inchcailloch before descending the River Leven to rejoin the ocean via the Firth of Clyde. A little north east of Tarbet Isle, is the deepest part of the loch with depth soundings showing readings of 630 feet.

The Ross Islands
The Ross Islands - the islands off the Ross promontory

These small islands lie just off the south shore of the great Ross promontory, about two miles south of Rowardennan. They are basically rocky ridges appearing above the surface of the loch and are lightly vegetated with small trees, mainly birch, holly, rowan and willow, and with heather.

Fraoch
Fraoch - The heather island

Fraoch lies slightly east of Luss and boasts a multitude of bird and plant life. It is a small and rocky island, but very picturesque and most beautiful when the heather is in full bloom. Legend has it that this island was once known as Luss Prison and being so near to Luss, yet so isolated and secure, it would surely have been a very convenient place to deposit the local undesirables.

The Narrows

A trip through the Narrows as it is popularly known, is a must for anyone visiting Loch Lomond. This narrow, winding, river like stretch of water separates the islands of Inchconnachan and Inchtavannach and is undoubtedly the jewel of all the loch. These sheltered waters are unaffected by any wind and trap the sun for most of the day.

Bucinch Island
Bucinch - the island of goats

Bucinch rises fairly steeply from a rocky coastline to a fairly central summit. The whole island is densely covered with trees and bushes. It has been uninhabited and completely unspoiled for centuries. Even the goats have left.

Inchgalbraith Island
Inchgalbraith - the island of the Galbraiths

Inchgalbraith is thought to have originally been a crannog, or man made island. Tree trunks would have been driven into the bed of the loch, close to one another like modern piles, and rocks and stones heaped up between these posts. This process was often used by iron age people to create a safe dwelling place. Despite these primitive origins, the island was strong enough to support the medieval castle of the Galbraith family, the ruins of which can still be seen today.

Aber Isle
Aber Isle - the island at the mouth of the River Endrick

Aber Isle is little more than a crescent shaped bank of stones, capped by a struggling vegetation of stunted alders, willows, and a solitary Scots pine.The island lies approximately ½ mile from the mainland at the mouth of the river Endrick.

The Highland Boundary Fault Line

Millions of years ago, the rocks of lowland Scotland collided with those to the north and formed the highland boundary fault line. It runs from Stonehaven to Kintyre, marked by the conic hill just east of Loch Lomond, and runs directly through the islands of Inchcailloch, Torrinch, Creinch and Inchmurrin.

 

Further information on the islands should be directed to the Countryside Ranger Service:

Balloch Public Slipway, Pier Road, Balloch G83 8QX
Tel: 01389 757295

Visitor centres at:
Luss: 01301 702785
Balmaha: 01360 870470

The Ranger Service provides advice and information relating to the countryside, recreation and wildlife. The visitor centres can help with general tourist information.

Loch Lomond

Broken clouds
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  • Visibility: 10 km
Reported on:
Thu, 2014-07-31 18:20

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