This page will feature any Seaplane trips taken after Summer 2019. The Main Seaplane Page has much more information on locations likely to be flown over on Loch Lomond Seaplanes` West Coast Explorer Tour including points of interest and historical background, supplemented by numerous photos. The Explorer Tour which usually lasts at least an hour is the longest standard flight offered by the company, the other being the Discovery Tour with a duration of 30 minutes. Both routes cover a large area but can vary depending on various factors including the pilot`s personal preference and changing weather conditions.
My latest trip with Loch Lomond Seaplanes was at the end of October, a time chosen due to the autumn colours and the chance of some early snow on the high tops. I was lucky with the weather, which obviously can`t be guaranteed, and the pilot will fly whenever conditions safely allow which may not necessarily always be ideal for photography.
I`d taken a run up through Glen Coe less than a week previously when there was a fair amount of snow on the upper reaches of the higher peaks north of Crianlarich but a thaw and dry spell immediately thereafter left most of the hills to the south totally clear.
Below: Blackrock Cottage and Buachaille Etive Mòr...
Take-off time for my Explorer Tour flight was just after 13:00 hrs and after a quick turn above the southern end of Loch Lomond to let everyone see Ben Lomond, Cessna Caravan G-LAUD headed west to pass over the north end of Bute then the Kintyre peninsula. After checking out Gigha, the plane continued a couple of miles out to sea towards Islay and Jura before starting the return leg. The route is retraced so that no matter where you`re sitting you don`t miss out on the constantly changing panoramas.
Inchailloch (below) is the most easterly of the Loch Lomond islands which define the line of the Highland Boundary Fault. a geographical feature which marks the southern limit of glacial expansion at the end of the last Ice Age. Inchailloch may not be the loch`s largest island but it lies very close to shore making it one of the easiest to access, usually from nearby Balmaha from where a Mail boat / passenger ferry operates year-round. The more energetic can hire their own small craft or rent a kayak. There is a nature trail on the island and a camp site at Port Bawn bay at its south end. Port Bawn means `white port`.
The name Inchcailloch means `Isle of the old woman` or `Isle of the Hooded Woman` in the Scottish Gaelic language. The island is thought to be named after Saint Kentigerna, an Irish woman who went to Scotland from Ireland to preach and spread Christianity. She is not to be confused with St Kentigern. a male Saint who is more commonly known as St Mungo. Inchcailloch had a church dedicated to St Kentigerna, which was the parish church until 1621, but the graveyard remained in use until 1947. An old tale said that the bones of a woman were found under the altar stone during an excavation. The moss-covered Clan MacGregor burial ground includes some of Rob Roy's ancestors.
Inchmurrin is the largest and most southerly of Loch Lomond`s islands and although it is heavily wooded there are a number of buildings including a bar and restaurant. The island`s high point towards its north end reaches 89 metres (292 ft) and provides an excellent view of the surroundings. Inchmurrin was the site of a 7th-century monastery, with a chapel dedicated to Saint Mirin, after whom it was named. The island is served by a small passenger ferry. There are scant ruins of Lennox Castle, thought to have been built for Duncan, 8th Earl of Lennox, whose seat was at nearby Balloch Castle at the south end of the loch. The castle on Inchmurrin was probably a hunting lodge for the deer park established on the island by King Robert I of Scotland (Robert the Bruce) in the early 14th century.
I was sitting on the left hand side of the plane which meant I was looking directly into the sun for much of the outbound leg, making it tricky to avoid unwanted reflections on the glass. This is a long-range telephoto view of Greenock`s Ocean Terminal with Hebridean Princess and Ocean Dream tied up at the quayside. The latter cruise ship is a product of Danish shipyard Aalborg Vaerft and dates from 1982. She has had many operators since launch as well as several name changes and spent much of her early years cruising the Caribbean and waters off the Southern USA and Alaska.
The above view shows Dunoon and the Holy Loch with the mouth of Loch Long above, coming in from the left. Greenock is across the firth.
The route crossed the southern tip of the Cowal Peninsula and continued across Loch Striven to the north end of the Island of Bute. Toward village, six miles south of Dunoon, is a picturesque spot and marks the location is the south-west extreme point of the Highland Boundary Fault as it crosses the Scottish mainland. There has been a lighthouse here since 1812. It was built by Robert Stevenson (1772–1850) for the Cumbrae Lighthouse Trust and two lighthouse keepers' houses were added in the late 1800s. A white building on the foreshore housed the foghorn mechanism, originally a steam engine and then diesel engines. The foghorn was taken out of operation in the 1990s and now the buildings are a private home and not open to the public.
Arran from the north.
These shots show a ferry heading for Lochranza Bay on Arran. The Goatfell ridge is hidden in cloud. Lochranza is the most northerly of Arran's villages and due to its low-lying situation with hills on three sides, it`s reputed to have among the least hours of sunshine of any village in the United Kingdom.
The settlement stands on the shore of Loch Ranza, a small sea loch and ferries connect with Claonaig on the mainland for most of the year, weather permitting.
Like Tarbert on the mainland, Lochranza was formerly a busy herring fishing port, but the economy is now geared more towards tourism, although the Arran Distillery producing the Arran Single Malt since the mid-1990s, does a fair trade both at home and for the export market.
The distillery is one of the island`s main industries along with farming and fishing, mainly for shellfish. The bar of the Lochranza Hotel, to the north of the distillery, prides itself with one of the largest collections of Scotch whisky available in the country with over 350 different types on offer.
Loch Fyne (above) extends 65 kilometres (40 mi) inland from the Sound of Bute, making it the longest of Scotland`s sea lochs. It is connected to the Sound of Jura by the Crinan Canal. During the Second World War, the Combined Operations Training Centre on the banks of the loch near Inveraray, was an important military facility and trained thousands of troops. many of whom landed in Normandy on D-Day, in amphibious operations.
Portavadie on the remote eastern shore of Loch Fyne, was a village of just a few houses until the marina and resort were built in 2010 by the Bulloch family, one of the richest in Scotland. It’s since become a sought after destination for boating enthusiasts from around Britain and beyond.
Tarbert is built around East Loch Tarbert, an inlet of Loch Fyne, and extends over the isthmus which links the peninsula of Kintyre to Knapdale and West Loch Tarbert. Its picturesque harbour, overlooked by the scant remains of Tarbert Castle, is now a magnet for sailors, but in years gone by this was a bustling fishing
community with the Loch Fyne herring fishery attracting hundreds of vessels to the immediate area.
community with the Loch Fyne herring fishery attracting hundreds of vessels to the immediate area.
The village occupies a once-prized strategic position, guarding access to Kintyre and the Inner Hebrides and its name is an anglicised form of the Gaelic word tairbeart, which literally translates as `carrying across`, a reference to the narrowest strip of land between two bodies of water over which goods or entire boats could be transported.
In the late 11th century, Magnus Barefoot, King of Norway, had his longship hauled across the isthmus at Tarbert to signify his possession of the Western Isles. Trees, where available, would often be cut down and trimmed then placed to act as rollers under the boats which would speed progress. Viking raiders also used this tactic to move their longships from the head of Loch Long, a sea loch, to the inland waters of Loch Lomond where they were relaunched, allowing the Norsemen to plunder the island monasteries and shore based settlements before following the River Leven to its confluence with the Clyde and the open sea.
The Kennacraig - Islay route is usually served by MV Hebridean Isles and MV Finlaggan. Islay has two ferry terminals, one at Port Ellen at the south end of the island and the other, Port Askaig on its east side, further north. Scheduled departures or arrivals may be changed to the alternate port at the last minute as a result of weather and tidal conditions.
Above left: Looking back across the Kintyre peninsula toward Arran. The other shot looks in the opposite direction to the Paps of Jura.
Monochrome shots of the Islay ferry and the view looking toward the distant south end of the Kintyre peninsula.
A small, fertile island, Gigha, lies off the west coast of Kintyre and is part of Argyll & Bute. It has a population of just 160 people who enjoy the comparatively mild climate with higher than average hours of sunshine. The island is the ancestral home of Clan MacNeill and has been inhabited continuously since prehistoric times. It fell under the control of the Norsemen and the Lords of the Isles before becoming incorporated into modern Scotland and saw a variety of conflicts during the medieval period.
The population of Gigha peaked at over 700 in the eighteenth century, but during the 20th century the island had numerous owners, which caused various problems and restricted the island`s development. By the beginning of the 21st century the number of residents had fallen to just 98, however a `community buy-out` in 2002, transformed the island, which now has a growing population and a variety of new commercial activities to complement farming and tourism. Nowadays most people call to visit Achamore Gardens and witness the abundant wildlife, especially seabirds. There have been numerous shipwrecks on the surrounding rocks and skerries. When the weather permits, there are fine views, especially out across the Sound to Islay and Jura.
Ronja Supporter, a live-fish carrier was one of several workboats tending a fish farm off the coast of Gigha. The outbound Islay ferry can been seen in the right-hand shot. Achamore House, the largest dwelling on the island by far, is pictured below.
Created by Colonel Sir James Horlick with the assistance of Gardener Kitty Lloyd Jones in 1944, Achamore Gardens is the home of Horlick’s renowned Rhododendron and Camellia Collection. Flourishing in Gigha's warm microclimate, the 54-acre Gardens hosts many notable and unusual plants and trees from around the world. There are woodland walks, walled gardens and a Bamboo Maze. The Garden Viewpoint has stunning views over to the islands of Islay and Jura while the pond is a haven for wildlife.
Above Right & Below: The impressive peaks known as the Paps of Jura. The round of theses rough tops, in the southern half of the island, is a true Scottish classic hillwalk. These three great cones of rock and scree that dominate the massif give a challenging walk with stunning views on a clear day. The highest of the three is Beinn an Oir (785m/2,576 ft) , the Mountain of Gold, and Jura`s only Corbett, the name given to a Scottish mountain between 2,500 and 3,000 ft. Beinn Shiantaidh, the Sacred Mountain (757m/2,477 ft) stands to the east of Beinn an Oir, while Beinn a’ Chaolais, the Mountain of the Sound, stands to the south-west and is the smallest of the three at 734m/2,407 ft. Cora Bheinn, the steep mountain, stands at a height of 569 m/1893 ft to the north-east of Beinn Shiantaidh and, while not considered to be one of the Paps, is part of the same group.
The Jura Fell Race, held every year in May, ranks as one of the toughest challenges in Scotland when it comes to skills such as endurance, mountaincraft and fell running techniques. The 16 mile-long route takes in seven summits, including the three Paps, with the record currently standing at 3:06:59 for a man and 3:45:31 for a woman.
The village of Ardrishaig at the top end of the Kintyre peninsula marks the east end of the scenic Crinan Canal. The cliffs and mountains of the Isle of Mull tower in the background.
The route on the way back passed over Tighnabruaich and the Kyles of Bute. Although she now operates the five-minute crossing from Colintraive to Rhubodach on Bute, CalMac`s MV Loch Dunvegan, Loch Dùnbheagan in Gaelic, was originally designed to sail between Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin on Skye. She moved to her current post when the Skye Bridge was completed in October 1995 - after a brief retirement and a stint of repairs on the Clyde.
The Kyles of Bute form a narrow sea channel that separates the northern end of the Isle of Bute from the Cowal peninsula on the mainland. The Kyles are split into the East and West Kyles, the East running from Rothesay Bay northwest up to the entrance to Loch Riddon. Here at the northern end of the East Kyle are the Burnt Islands and the island of Eilean Dubh. The West Kyle runs from here southwest, past the village of Tighnabruaich and out to the Sound of Bute. The area is a designated National Scenic Area.
Below: Loch Riddon lies immediately north of the Kyles of Bute. The adjacent image shows the bottom end of East Kyle.
Below: The head of Loch Striven. During the Second World War, the waters of the Firth of Clyde, including this loch, were ideal for training as the long, narrow bodies of water with mountains rising from their shore could replicate the Norwegian Fjords where the biggest individual threat to Allied shipping lay - the formidable Tirpitz. Loch Cairnbawn, a sea loch in northwest Sutherland near Kylesku, was another location where similar training took place. Although the battleship never saw action against an Allied convoy or naval fleet, by the time 1943 drew to a close she was the last heavy warship left to the Kriegsmarine and too great a threat for the British to ignore.
A Chariot (manned torpedoes) attack and a number of heavy bomber raids had all failed but in September 1943, following months of preparation, parent submarines towing six X-Craft, each with a four-man crew, set off for Norway for another attack. Only two eventually reached Tirpitz and placed their charges which caused serious if not fatal damage. It was a remarkable achievement and the battleship was put out of action for six months and didn`t leave her anchorage until April 1944. Following the action, various medals were awarded to the X-craft crews including two VCs.
Loch Eck and the Cowal Hills lie just north of Dunoon. The summits on the west side of the loch, the highest being Beinn Mhor, at 741 metres, make a good round even though the views from this peak can be slightly disappointing as the neighbouring hills on three sides comprise of long,level ridges. However, Arran and the Paps of Jura peer above the horizon to add interest. The views northward are better and include the Arrochar Alps, distant Ben Cruachan and the high hills of Mull.
The shortest route onto the Beinn Mhor tops is from the small car park at the end of the public road in Glen Massan. A private road continues up the glen to Glenmassan Farm from where a bulldozed track zigzags through an extensive forestry plantation to terminate on the ridge, near the summit of Beinn Mhor. Clach Bheinn, although 100 metres lower than Beinn Mhor, is by far the better viewpoint and a rocky outcrop just to the north of the summit makes a fine perch above Loch Eck.
Continuing east for views of Loch Goil and Loch Long...
An MOD Police launch heads north up Loch long past RNAD Coulport. Loch Goil branches off on the left. Royal Naval Armaments Depot Coulport is the storage and loading facility for the nuclear warheads of the United Kingdom's Trident programme. Around 16 reinforced concrete bunkers have been built into the hillside on the eastern shore of the loch. The depot, the last of its type in the UK, was established during the Cold War as the storage, maintenance and loading facility for Polaris nuclear missiles.
Two docks are located on the shoreline at the foot of the hill. There, weapons are loaded onto Vanguard-class nuclear submarines before they go on patrol and are unloaded before the boats return to base at nearby Faslane. An older jetty is known as the Polaris Jetty, while the newer, covered Explosive Handling Jetty (EHJ) seen here is used for handling the Trident warheads.
VLCC Australis has been permanently berthed at the Finnart Oil terminal on Loch Long as storage tanker since the spring of this year at the start of a two-year stint. Shipbrokers said refiner Petroineos Trading has chartered the 299,000-dwt vessel (built 2003) at $20,000 per day. Australis is owned and managed by Athens-based Chandris Hellas and sails under a Greek flag. Chandris currently has nine tankers in its fleet, four of which are Very Large Crude Carriers. Australis was originally christened the Front Saga, a name she kept until October 2003 when she became Saga for a short time, receiving her current identity in the February of the following year. Ashana was the last tanker to be used in a storage capacity at Finnart. She left in June 2016 and ended up as DS Velvet and was reduced to scrap on the beaches of Gadani, Southern Pakistan, at the end of 2018 following a career lasting just 19 years.
Her Majesty's Naval Base, HMNB Clyde a.k.a. Faslane.
Although Joint Warrior had long-since ended, RFA Lyme Bay (L3007), a Bay-class Landing Ship Dock, was berthed at the head of the Gareloch and an unidentified RN sub, thought be an Astute-class, had just arrived at the base and was being assisted by three tugs. It`s not known whether either of these vessels had been involved in the exercise.
Above: Another view of the Arrochar Alps and, right, Ben More and Stob Binnein which rise above the village of Crianlarich.
The Luss Hills.
Another excellent trip , thanks to pilot David and all the crew - a flight with Loch Lomond Seaplanes is thoroughly recommended!