After staying near Inverness on my week long tour of Scotlands smaller islands, I decided to visit the tiny island of Inchmahome on my way down to my next B&B, near Loch Lomond. The island is situated about 6km east of Aberfoyle, just off the A81 and was a perfect stopping off point. Inchmahome is an island I had never visited before, although I had come close on several occasions. I was especially interested in visiting Inchmahome Priory, as i had visited other Priories and Monasteries on other scottish islands.
Inchmahome is situated within the only Lake in Scotland, Lake Monteith. It is quite unusual to find a Lake in Scotland because most bodies of water are called Lochs. Until the 19th century it was known as the “Loch of Menteith”. No explanation is known as to why the Loch became a Lake, although there are many theories, such as a mis-translation by a Dutch Cartographer or because there were a lot of English tourists visiting in the 19th century.
It was late afternoon, by the time I reached the turn off for Inchmahome. I parked in the spacious car park at the Port of Monteith and walked through a very small interpretive display housed in a cosy wooden building. After reading the useful information, I walked out onto the wooden jetty, hailed the boatman by turning round a sign on the pier and waited for the vintage mahogany ferry to take me over in style. Luckily, there was only me and one other passenger there, as the small ferry only has a capacity for 12 passengers.
I only had to wait about 20 minutes for the ferry to arrive and then I was speedily crossing the placid lake and about 10 minutes later, I was stepping ashore. As I headed up from the jetty, I noticed a Historic Scotland shop. I had a quick look inside and bought myself a guide to the island. I thought this would be useful, to give me some background information about the the Priory and the island as a whole.
The first thing that I saw after leaving the shop were the remains of the Priory. The Priory is a ruined Augustine Priory founded in 1238 by Walter Comyn, who was the Earl of Menteith. The Priory, which functioned for over 300 years, has had many distinguished royal visitors including Robert the Bruce, who came here three times in the early 14th century and Mary Queen of Scots, who stayed here in 1547, seeking refuge. Although the Priory is now a ruin, enough remains to give a good impression of what the main parts of the building would have been like. The recently re-roofed Chapter House contains some of the grave slabs and effigies, which were originally situated within the Priory. For more information on Inchmahome Priory visit the Historic Environment Scotland page about the History of the Priory.
Once I had seen all of the different parts of the Priory and read about their history in the Guide, I decided to follow the trail and walk around the island. I was hoping to see the Spanish chestnuts and boxwood bower supposedly planted by Mary Queen of Scots, but unfortunately I was not able to find them (I am sure they are there somewhere). The island is perfect for a short walk or a waterside picnic and is a haven for wildlife. In springtime the island becomes colourful as a result of the daffodils and rhododendrons growing there. With a bit of luck, you may be able to spot Ospreys, which nest in nearby Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.
After my leisurely walk, I made my way back to the Tourist Shop and was tempted by the ubiquitous Highland Shortbread, but luckily I was momentarily able to restrain myself and settled for a calorie-free bottle of water. I then headed down to the Jetty, drank my water and waited for the ferry to arrive. Eventually the small ferry arrived and I was transported back to the Port of Monteith in style.
Inchmahome is a very peaceful and well maintained island, but it is tiny. You really don’t need to spend more than a couple of hours there. However, it is a great island to visit for a morning or an afternoon and is easily accessible. I would recommend that you buy the Guide from the Historic Scotland shop, to give you a better understanding of the Priory and the island and to make the most of your time there.