Inchcailloch Island

Introducing Inchcailloch Island

There’s something quite magical about Inchcailloch Island. The charm begins as soon as you board the small wooden ferry at Balmaha Boatyard for the short crossing. The ferry from Luss Pier is a longer journey, but the route gets you close to some of the other picturesque islands of Loch Lomond. Portnellan Farm also run speedboat tours that can include stops at the island.

There is no debate that Inchcailloch is a very special place, arguably perhaps the most beautiful location within the National Park. It is protected as part of the Loch Lomond Nature Reserve, looked after by Scottish Natural Heritage and the National Park Authority. The island is popular but doesn't get too busy even in peak season, especially when compared with the departure point villages of Balmaha and Luss.

This blog is an appreciation of Inchcailloch, mainly through a series of photographs and video captured on many visits to the island. If you have never been then hopefully this will help you to plan a visit. If you've been do let me know about your experiences on Inchcailloch in the comment section below. 


Getting to Inchcailloch Island

Ferry from Balmaha to Inchcailloch Island

Sandy MacFarlane follows in the footsteps of previous generations of his family running the Balmaha Boatyard. With beautiful wooden boats he operates the iconic island post boat service, as well as the short on-demand ferry trip from the boatyard to the island. 

Here is a video profile of Sandy MacFarlane of Balmaha Boatyard and his story for the 'Celebrating Park People' series.

Video - Balmaha Boatyard

Ferry from Luss to Inchcailloch Island

Cruise Loch Lomond run a ferry service from Luss pier (on the west side of Loch Lomond) to Port Bawn at the southern end of the island. Check their website for timetables and ticket information. They also now have a new circular island cruise around the islands (including Inchcailloch), departing from Balmaha. 

Central path across Inchcailloch Island to Port Bawn

If you get the ferry from Balmaha you will land on the north side of the island. As you head across the island stick to the central path and at the end of an enjoyable short walk you will arrive at Port Bawn. Port Bawn has a beautiful sandy beach, BBQ areas, picnic tables and some camping pitches (pre-book from the National Park). 

Summit Path on Inchcailloch Island

The summit path reminds me of a large, natural spiral staircase. The climb to the top is well worth it as the view is excellent. The Highland Boundary Line that runs from the Isle fo Arran in the west of Scotland to Stonehaven in the east cuts across Loch Lomond and the island itself, this separates the lowlands and the highlands of Scotland. 

This is the highest point of the island at 85 metres (279 ft).

Inchcailloch Island through the seasons

I’ve enjoyed visits to Inchcailloch in all of the seasons. Spring is probably my favourite season, as for part of it (usually mid May) the island is covered in a thick blanket of bluebells. Autumn is a close contender though with some vibrant autumnal colours. 

Inchcailloch Island Nature 

Look out for Fallow deer, especially in the mornings and when the island is at its quietest. There are Osprey nests nearby so keep an eye out for the magnificent birds, you will also see many Dor Beetles on the pathways. Look out too for White Butterfly and Wild Geese.

Inchcailloch Island History 

Inchcailloch means the isle of the old woman. The island itself is just 0.19 square miles in size. There was a farm on the island, that is now in ruins. For 130 years there was an oak plantation, which was processed across the water at Balmaha.

Once parishioners from the mainland took the boat over to their church on the island. The burial ground is worth a visit, as you saw in the film of Sandy MacFarlane’s story some of his ancestors are buried there. There are also graves for ancestors of Rob Roy MacGregor. 

Walter Scott refers to Inchcailloch in his poem The Lady of the Lake, which did so much to put the Trossachs and Loch Katrine on the map. 

A slender crosslet formed with care
A cubit’s length in measure due
The shafts and limbs were rods of yew
Whose parents in Inch Cailliach wave
Their Shadows o’er Clan Alpine’s grave,
And, answering Lomond’s breezes deep,
Soothe many a chieftain’s endless sleep.
— Extract from Sir Walter Scott's poem 'The Lady of The Lake'

Photography on Inchcailloch Island

I have had the pleasure of photographing families on Inchcailloch Island. I’ve also taken a few newly married couples on their wedding days over for them to have a few photographs taken on the island. 


This article and accompanying photographs are by Paul Saunders for See Loch Lomond. Visit Paul’s other websites, Paul Saunders Marketing & Paul Saunders Photography, for his marketing, photography & video services in Loch Lomond and beyond.

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