Visiting Inchcailloch is a straight forward affair. There is an on demand ferry from Balmaha on the east side of Loch Lomond. It is one of the few islands within Loch Lomond that it is accessible to the public and attracts around 20,000 visitors a year. It is also one of the most interesting.
It is believed that around 1,300 years ago Saint Kentigerna, daughter of an Irish King and mother of Saint Fillan, settled here and set up a nunnery. She died here in 734AD and is remembered in the name of the island – Inchcailloch. It means, “island of the old or cowled women”. Five hundred years later a church was built here and dedicated to the memory of Saint Kentigema. It was in constant use until 1770. Long after the church fell into ruin local people continued to use the cemetery.
I got to Balmaha not long after 9am on a still, dry morning and parked in front of the Tourist Information Centre. I then quickly walked down to the jetty which is located through Balmaha Boatyard. I bought a ticket and waited patiently for the ferry. The ferry is an on demand service and it is a good idea to give the ferryman an idea of when you will return from Inchcailloch with most people spending between 1 and 2 hours on the island.
Eventually the ferry arrived and as I stepped onto the island, a father and son stepped off with all their camping equipment. I could see the delight on the young man’s face and wondered about the quality time they had spent together. As a father, I could think of nothing better!
From the North Pier, there is a steep incline towards the path up to the centre of the island. Two paths converged and I decided to take the lower path towards the islands cemetery. The island has been used for burials by the MacGregor clan for centuries and within the cemetery is the grave of the Clan Chief of the MacGregors.
From here, I then walked down towards the shore and passed by the remains of an old farmhouse (which took me a while to find as there is not much of it left). About half an hour later I came out at a clearing that turned out to be Port Bawn campsite. This is at the extreme south end of the island. This is a splendid spot to camp and had useful facilities such as compost toilets and picnic tables. It has great views out over Loch Lomond.
From Port Bawn, I took the central path back towards the north of the island. I was hoping to spot some of the islands elusive wildlife including Fallow deer and Wild Geese. Unfortunately, my noisy walking boots and rustling clothing probably scared them away. I then took the path to the right called that led to the summit of the island. This is quite a steep path, so care needs to be taken when ascending it. Once at the summit there were fantiastic views of the island and the other surrounding islands around Loch Lomond.
I then made my way back to the North Pier and quietly awaited the arrival of the Ferry. Inchcailloch is a great island for a day (or even half day) visit. It is well worth seeking out on the quieter eastern shores of Loch Lomond. Who knows, on my next visit there, maybe I will take my son on a camping trip. I am sure he’s love it.