Focus Trek #12 Part 2 – Gargunnock Scotland and the Love Lochs

Focus Trek #12 Part 1 - Gargunnock Scotland and the Love Lochs
Leland Harbor Dredging Time-lapse

Return to Part 1 of this adventure…

Loch Lomond

‘Twas there that we parted in yon shady glen 
On the steep, steep side of Ben Lomond 
Where in the purple hue the hieland hills we view 
And the moon coming out in the gloaming 

From “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond”

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Hills along Loch Lomond opposite Ben Lomond (Ben from Gaelic “beinn” = mountain.)

In part one of this adventure we stuck around the house for the most part and wandered the paths around Gargunnock House, occasionally venturing into town for supplies or to the local butcher shop. On Wednesday, we all caravanned up the east side of Loch Lomond for lunch at the Rowardennan. By far, the best smoked salmon next to Carlson’s in Leland, MI. We were very near the trailhead up to Ben Lomond, mentioned in the song.

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My name is Jim Burnham. I am a US photographer and I enjoy finding photographs in places I’ve never been before, with minimum preparation and a vague itinerary. This is a true Focus Trek from the Highlands of Scotland.


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The Rowardennan restaurant

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My ultimate goal on Loch Lomond was to rent a boat and travel up to the northwest shore to Inveruglas, which allegedly had the ruins of an old stone castle on a small island offshore. I was clued in on the existence of this by my friend, who is a McFarlane, of course. The “Castle MacFarlane” was built in the 1400’s and destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s troops in the 1650’s. It’s tiny and yes, it had a tiny castle, but a castle nonetheless! Long live clan MacFarlane! Read about the story here.

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It was too late to rent a boat and regardless, we were 14 miles from Inveruglas Island from the Balmaha Boatyard (run by MacFarlanes, btw). We decided to drive up the west side and take a look from the shore.

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Inveruglas Isle, with the ruins of MacFarlane Castle

After we arrived at the tour boat port in Inveruglas, I asked about the castle on the island. Nobody on shore seemed to know what we were talking about. But we know it’s there. Oh, it’s there, alright! UK topographic maps confirm it.

That night after dinner I played and won three games of ping-pong against Lt. Col. Alexis Neal. It may have looked like he won, but he was not aware of the Scottish rule of ping-pong where not only the low score wins, but the person to miss the most balls served to him gets bonus points taken off. That safely put me in double-digit negative territory. Game, set, match! Your move, Colonel.

Walled gardens, Forbidden Rooms
and the Stowaways on the Loch Katrine cruise

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I spent Thursday morning in the walled garden where the flowers for the property are grown. The sky was nicely overcast and gave off a very diffuse light. You don’t want bright sun and shadows on flowers (unless you want backlit petals). But you don’t want dark and dreary, either. You need higher ISO (= more grain) or longer shutter speeds (=blurry shots of moving plants in the breeze). While on the outside wall, I ran into a local Helen and her dog, Neo. She thought (and 30 other Helens in town agreed) that we should visit Loch Katrine. 

After that, I fulfilled my earlier promise to visit the upper level of an old stone farm building we had passed on an earlier walk. The outside stairs were covered in dirt and weeds and I knew that meant nobody ever went up there. There would be lots of abandoned joy to be had! 

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This is probably why stairs are now built inside buildings now for the most part. You can (kind of) see remnants of long forgotten steps leading to the second floor

I wasn’t disappointed.

The floor was “iffy” at best in many parts. Large doors and other pieces of wood were lined up along the floor as if to make a more sturdy path (in the distant past), but those were also fairly rotted. Keeping close to the wall was my best bet. Anything “middle” was either completely gone, or was simply looking for a victim (or next victim?).

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I imagined the last part of The Walking Dead Season 2, a herd of undead moving back and forth in the room below, waiting for me to take the wrong step.

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Things that haven’t been touched in decades have a certain personality. They sit, waiting for someone to discover them. And they seem content that they were found, but they know they might never be liberated from their dusty purgatory. So they sit, not smiling or frowning. They just sit and enjoy the brief light and attention.

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“So what if you had fallen through the floor and were hurt and dying and nobody knew where you were?”, I was asked when I got back.

When I am presented with unanswerable questions, I fall back on the ancient art of distraction and diversion. I regret nothing! I’ve done stupider things and survived. It makes doing the less stupid things that much easier (and safer, right?).


The next day, on all the Helen’s suggestion, Erin and I set off over Lake Katrine on “The Lady of the Lake” for a three hour cruise …a…three…hour…cruise.

Sit right back and you’ll hear a tale.
A tale of a fateful trip.
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship…

The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle

Actually, it was only two hours. Beautiful weather, but on the chilly side, so I bought a “Loch Katrine” sweater at the gift shop. That choice got me noticed and after the kids had their turn at the wheel, I got to drive the boat! I impressed the captain by knowing what direction port was. He offered me a job. At first, I accepted, but then thought about it more. Image me, a steamboat captain, on a loch in Scotland, telling jokes and serving drinks. I’d be giving up my family, my friends. I’d develop a Scottish accent. After more laborious thought and much crying, I heartily accepted again. It was nice knowing you all. It’s left, by the way, port is left.