Island of the Cowled Women.

Start. Balmaha.

Route. Balmaha Boat Yard - North Jetty - St Kentigerna's Church - ruined croft - Port Bawn - Endrick View - Tom na Ngheanan - North Jetty.

Notes. Welcome to the largest island on Loch Lomond, Inchcailloch, 52 hectares of pristine Oak woods, Scots Pine, Hazel and Blueberry, Alder thrive amongst the many mosses and lichen on the wettest parts of the island. Visit in Spring, you'll find the forest floor alive with Bluebell, Primrose and Wild Garlic. Folk law tells us 1,300 years ago Saint Kentigerna, daughter of an Irish king and mother of Saint Fillan settled here and set up a nunnery, five hundred years later a church was built in her memory, the remains of which are on view for the lucky visitors. Come along, ignore the wind and rain, make the short boat trip from Balmaha and enjoy the delights of Inchcailloch (Island of the Cowled Women).

We first discovered Inchcailloch while walking the West Highland Way, unfortunately time was against us, the island looked idyllic, it's sun kissed shores beckoning the visitor, we made a vow to return so here we are, braving wind and rain on a very different Highland day. The boat deposited us on the North Jetty where we immediately ascended a set of stone steps into a world of peace and tranquility. This island may get 20,000 visitors a year but the place has a calming atmosphere quite unique, and we had it to ourselves. With way-marked paths to guide us we ascended a set of steps to access the remains of St Kentigerna's Church. From the church we idly wandered on, passed a ruined croft and on to Port Bawn, here we found a charming beach with picnic tables and barbecue facilities, the Scots certainly know how to charm the visitors. A short ascent saw us wandering along the summit of Tom na Ngheanan with splendid views over Loch Lomond for company, up there is a kind of no man's land, you're able to stand with one foot in the Lowlands, the other in the Highlands, for the Highland Boundary Fault carves the island in two. A short winding descent deposited us back at the North Jetty just in time for the return boat.

view route map.


Inchcailloch from Balmaha.

The boat man departs, we have the island to ourselves.

Our route into paradise.

This set of unassuming steps guides the visitor to....

....St Kentigerna's Church and burial ground. Folk law tells us somewhere on the island is the last resting place of St Kentigerna, this is the final resting place of Gregor MacGregor of the Clan MacGregor, cousin of Rob Roy.

The remains of St Kentigerna's Church, built in the 12th century and in constant use until 1770, the final internment took place in 1947.

The small scattering of grave stones gives no inkling to the amount of burials in this small patch of land, I believe it's almost full.

A pile of stones and a ruined wall are all that remain of the last people to live here, they were farmers and this was their home, the family that lived here kept a few hens, some cattle and sheep, like other families paying their rent in kind, with butter, cheese and grain.

A distant Glen Luss over Loch Lomond.

Rising behind Inchfad, it's summit in cloud Beinn Uird with Ben Lomond hardly visible through the murk.

Looking west over Loch Lomond.

Glen Luss as seen from near the jetty at Port Bawn.

The beach and picnic area at Port Bawn.

Scanning the horizon from Port Bawn, looking to the islands of Torrinch and Creinch.

A gap in the trees gifts us with stunning views along the Highland Boundary Fault.

Torrinch, Creinch, Inchmurrin and Ben Bowie mark the crumple zone where Scotland collided with England, to the left of this fault the Lowlands, the right the Highlands.

Views to the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, taking in the lower slopes of Beinn Bhreac, Beinn Uird and Ben Lomond.

Even on a grey day the views north a quite special.

Conic Hill above Balmaha.

Viewing Balmaha from the North Jetty.

Moody views towards rain washed Ben Lomond,

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