Touring from Callander – good choice

Touring from Callander makes sense because of its geography. It’s a touristy town (but in a good way) on the edge of the Highlands. Over the many years I’ve been in it or through it, I’ve never known it quiet. It’s a bustling kind of place, as it’s on an easy day trip from the cities of the central belt of Scotland.

And that’s before you get to the other visitors staying in the local accommodation or just travelling through.

Recently, I got a question from a family from Italy who were planning a trip to Scotland. (They had made a small donation for this site’s upkeep, so were welcome to ask a question…)

They had a couple routes through Scotland planned but were only going to be in the country for a week. Before I could comment on their plans they wrote again to say that instead of touring day after day, they had changed their plans and booked accommodation in Callander as a base for touring. What did I think?

I thought it was a good idea and (below the pic) this is what I told them…

Callander main street looking north
Having said Callander is always busy it looks really quiet in this pic. That’s because it was early when I passed through. It was also August, as you can tell by rainy-looking clouds (only joking) that hide Ben Ledi, the mountain that sort of looms at the end of the main street.

Touring from Callander – things to see close by

Read these notes with a map (or Google maps) open.

Callander is a real ‘gateway’ town – a place that is an introduction to the Highlands of Scotland. It is situated on the very edge of the Highlands.

Touring from Callander has been popular with visitors ever since the nearby scenic Trossachs area was discovered more than 200 years ago. That area was where tourism in Scotland began.

To confirm: the main street of the town is worth a look. Lots of shops, some a bit ‘touristy’ and likewise cafes and restaurants. The nearest scenic attraction is the Bracklinn Falls behind the town and signposted from the east (or Stirling) end. It’s a pretty waterfall with a bridge. A nice evening stroll perhaps.

For an overview of the town, you can also walk over the Callander Crags. There are paths through the woodlands up to the rocks that overlook the streets below. Good views back towards Stirling to the east, and much further. (You can sometimes even see the Pentland Hills, beyond Edinburgh.)

Remember your ‘Right to Roam’

If you are touring from Callander a little further afield, remember your ‘Right to Roam’. This is the name given to the law that gives people in Scotland the right to explore the countryside, so long as they respect it. In practical terms, it simply means don’t worry – with only a very few exceptions you can walk wherever you wish on paths and tracks.

And the area around Callander has plenty of signposts to walks and trails for every ability.

Ben Ledi from Vennachar
Ben Ledi from across Loch Vennachar. Must have been late spring – still snow on the hilltop.

The area around Callander…

Just to the north is where the ‘real’ Highlands begin. There are plenty of walking trails (one that uses the old railway line – so it’s level!) and also a very short walk to view the Falls of Leny (another waterfall!) just off the main road.

If the weather is good, and you are a well equipped outdoorsy type, you could climb Ben Ledi (879 metres – needs care when icy). That’s the hill you see at the end of the main street at Callander and it’s a good landmark with great views into the Highlands to the north. It takes a few hours though. My page on Ben Ledi.

Touring from Callander, you'll find Loch Venachar, in the Trossachs close by
Looking eastwards to Loch Venachar on the edge of the Trossachs, from one of the many signposted walking trails in the area.

Day drives from Callander

Off to the Trossachs

Sometimes described as the very essence of Highland scenery, as mentioned above, they have been a ‘must see’ for centuries! There is a popular boat trip on Loch Katrine (also a cafe at the Trossachs pier, which is the starting point for the cruise. (The boat is called the SS Sir Walter Scott.)

Trossachs Pier, Loch Katrine, with SS Sir Walter Scott
The Trossachs Pier and today’s SS Sir Walter Scott, ready for cruising. Launched in 1900, it ran on coal till conversion to bio-fuel for the 2008 season, as part of a major re-fit.

Note that your map may show a road on the top or north side of Loch Katrine. This is closed to motor vehicles, though people on foot or with a bike are welcome to use it.

Or drive round the loch, via the village of Aberfoyle, taking in the tiny settlement of Stronachlachar, (with a cafe) then continuing west to arrive half-way up Loch Lomond at Inversnaid. You could even catch a cruise or a ‘water taxi’ from here.

This road is narrow in places and, again, popular, so take care! But it’s a way of seeing both the Trossachs area and Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond 

Touring from Callander westwards brings you to Loch Lomond. One of the most famous lochs in Scotland, partly because it lies close to large population centres. It is best enjoyed by a short cruise, perhaps from the town of Balloch at the south end of the loch. 

Bluebells - spring on Inchcailloch
Bluebells – spring on Inchcailloch

Reach Balloch via Aberfoyle and Drymen, as this route will also take you right through the middle of the Trossachs.
Loch Lomond Shores is a large shopping centre also by the loch shores near Balloch – featuring mostly high quality goods and souvenirs (and places to eat). Again, the area can be busy, especially in peak season when you are visiting.

If you go to the Balmaha Boatyard at Balmaha on the east side of Loch Lomond, you can catch a water taxi across to Inchcailloch island – a lovely car free island for a few hours walk. 

A little escape to the mountains

A few minutes drive north of Callander is the village of Strathyre. To the north is a road junction signed for Balquhidder (there is also a nice restaurant here called Mhor 84), near the main road. The road to Balquhidder and beyond is a little off-the-beaten-track but gives a good flavour of Scottish Highland scenery.

It’s an option for, say, a picnic, perhaps by Loch Voil or further into the hills. 

Touring from Callander: Loch Voil and the Braes o Balquhidder - an easy drive
Loch Voil and the Braes o Balquhidder.

Two castles close to Callander

Stirling Castle

This represents one of the very best castle visits in Scotland. It’s a very historic place, well preserved and costumed guides will bring the castle to life. It was always on the itinerary when Johanna was guiding clients.

Not much else to see in the small city of Stirling itself – though the Old Town below the castle is fairly atmospheric – but could just make this a visit to Stirling Castle only.

If driving, a car park close to the castle at the top of the hill can be very busy. There are other options lower down in the town, then walk through the old part of Stirling up to the castle. Go early!

Doune Castle

A completely different kind of castle experience. This one is ruined and has a different atmosphere. Plenty of interest and (oddly) a place of pilgrimage for fans of the movie ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’.

More day trips from Callander

When you look at a map of the Highlands of Scotland you can easily find lots of circular routes touring from Callander northwards. These routes follow the valleys/glens in which there are long lochs. This makes route-planning quite easy.

Looking north from Crieff's Knock Hill
Looking north into the Highlands: Glen Turret from Crieff’s Knock Hill. I see it’s autumn already

Callander>Lochearnhead>Crieff and return by A9

This is a simple touring from Callander circuit with a turn to the east at Lochearnhead to travel along picturesque Loch Earn, eventually reaching the Highland-edge town of Crieff (which is quite like Callander).

Attractions here include a whisky distillery visit – The Famous Grouse at Glenturret – and also the short walk to the top of the Knock Hill for great views (again!) It’s right at the top of the town. Cafes and small shops here – nice for a stroll. Drummond Castle Gardens just south of Crieff are magnificent too.

It’s June, and the Falls of Dochart at Killin are in spate. Hmm. Must have been rainy in the west.

…or go further: Callander>Lochearnhead>Killin>Aberfeldy and return.

Continuing north from Lochearnhead, takes you up Glen Ogle, then on (turn right) to the little village of Killin, notable for its famous Falls of Dochart (yet another waterfall!!!!!!). The road then leads east along scenic Loch Tay

(Optional) You can even go over a hill pass (signed Ben Lawers) via a small road that will take you to Glen Lyon – really an off-the-beaten-track part of the Highlands. (It’s a narrow but very picturesque road) Return to Loch Tay at Kenmore at the east end of the Loch. (Upmarket shopping here at…..) then continue to Aberfeldy. This is a very attractive and typically Highland town, worth a stroll around.

NB The Glen Lyon extension will be slower because of the little road, so you may want to go directly along Loch Tay towards Aberfeldy.

One quite long day trip…just one suggestion

Touring from Callander might include a trip all the way to the west coast.

This is a big day – 270km – that takes you to the west coast of Scotland, and gives you a glimpse of the islands, plus a drive through of the most scenic glens in Scotland with spectacular mountain views for most of the way.

It is a reminder that there is a lot of Scotland to see! 

More on how the Trossachs became famous.