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Gartocharn >  Google™ Map May 2018+  West Dunbartonshire Coat of Arms

gart field + (a) charn Scottish Gaelic (by the) cairn, hill. Population - 700.

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May 2018+

West Dunbartonshire Coat of Arms

There's something about the A811 between Balloch[1] and Stirling and back and it's up there as one of SlyBob's favourite 'A-ers' but why is not really clear. The fields and hills roll by gently enough and there's what passes for a river in these parts meandering under a bridge but that's not it. What exactly is it?...

That's it! It's verdant! Verdant verging on vivid some days to the point where it hurts your eyes and you need to put your grass goggles on. Verdant, of course, means it rains a lot and there are at least two people who will vouch for that.

Gartocharn - Duncryne

The theme continues through the village of Gartocharn and this distracting hillock is Duncryne, which you can get up at from the back. Great views to Loch Lomond and the hills beyond from up there, they say, although one wouldn't really know for there are other distractions here.

[1] Heading from Balloch, you'll have to slow down to pass through before pulling in for Kilmaronock Millennium Hall to park up next to a church.

You might be distracted to make your way to Loch Lomond and Ross Priory. This was once the only public access to the water although the road suggests private.

It's not even the site of an old priory, the early 19th-century house was built by the Buchanan family and given a romantically, religious affectation.

It's owned by Strathclyde University now and looks to be a source of income from weddings and bar mitzvahs. For that reason, it's not thought too many laws were being broken by paying a visit.

You can find yourself distracted by a new distraction, the RSPB Loch Lomond nature hub.

Near Gartocharn - RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond
Near Gartocharn - RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond

Just east of the village, a purpose-built hut with parking on previously private land, a pair of trails with wooden wildlife and a pond where you can brandish the binocs, not shown.

The hub is part of the larger Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve, which can be accessed from the village. Just up from the parish church and right next to the village hall, they've taken the strimmers to the Aber Right of Way path making access, supposedly, easier.

Gartocharn - Parish Church
Gartocharn - Aber Right of Way

The literature suggests you should be grateful to the landowner but what did you think people would be up to before you let the lawnmowers in? Stealing tyres from that pile in the muddy field? Kicking thistles?

You might as well have because once the grass track runs out, there's no clear way other than up people's driveways. There's no sign of Loch Lomond, never mind the ospreys, but some post-map analysis suggests you'd have to be a complete idiot to lose your bearings. Oh well.

You may also come to be distracted, on more than one rainy occasion, with the, quite frankly, unfathomable House of Darrach, which is just opposite where you pulled in for petrol.

Gartocharn - The House of Darrach
Gartocharn - Fill Her Up

This used to be a pub and in a nod to Ross 'Priory', the monk concerned was either hungry or merry. That can't quite be remembered but the lunchtime sarnies were satisfactory.

It's now a tartan knick-knack emporium with a café\restaurant in it and is family-run by Cawley Hotels whose other offerings are at least fathomable. A couple of carveries either side of the Clyde and a hotel on Loch Lomond with a smaller version of this in the foyer.

It's not cheap neither, that gigantic giraffe will set you back a ton but far better value is a small, novelty book highlighting just how rubbish husbands generally are etc.

The café is packed with Miss Jean Brodies and no Mr Darrach, 'Monte Cristo' does not warrant nigh on a tenner for a toastie!

Or rather, all of this used to be true but it seems they permanently closed the doors in 2021. It's hoped the hungry, or was he merry?, monk makes a return, your options for a sarnie really are quite limited along the A811.

As of 2022, it can be confirmed to be Cawley HQ & Training Academy complete with electric gate normally seen at GCHQ. Deary me, who and what are they training in there?