The Lochs and Glens Hotel, which gives this walk its title, is aptly named since you’ll be passing Lochs Drunkie, Venachar and Achray and looking across and up to at least five hills and mountains listed below. Originally, this was a glenda-white-cobbled-together route but in fact good paths and signposts have sprouted everywhere! There’s a totally-new route through to Brig o’ Turk and an alternative path up Ben Venue. Indeed, it was all getting so boringly unadventurous that an exciting assault course through the forest has been included The photo on the website was taken from this track. This is a lovely walk among the mountains!
Park in the Ben Venue car-park at Loch Achray. The Postal Code for the Loch Achray Hotel is FK17 8HZ.
To get there take your favourite route to Canniesburn Toll. At Canniesburn Toll take the second exit (avoiding the first exit to Bearsden and Drymen etc) and go round to the exit to Milngavie and the A81. The A81 takes you through the east end of Milngavie (past what was the East Dunbartonshire Council Buildings and is now a hotel); round the roundabout at Homebase, etc. Take the road sign-posted to Strathblane; go past the waterworks; on to Strathblane, Dumgoyne, Gartmore House to the roundabout outside Aberfoyle. Here turn left and continue for a mile into Aberfoyle itself.
You may wish to turn left just before the TIC to use the toilets which are next to the TIC since there are no toilets in the car-park.
Then continue to the end of the main road and swing sharp right and up the steep hill to the Duke’s Pass. Go past the entrance to The David Marshall Lodge, past the entrance and exit to and from the Forest Drive (all of which we have used before) and then down past Loch Drunkie on your right to Loch Achray in front of you. At the bottom of the hill swing left with the road and go past the Loch Achray Lochs and Glens Hotel (hence the title of our walk!) Swing right with the road this time, cross the picturesque bridge over the Achray Water which we will be following for much of our walk. The car-park is sign-posted on the right (50 metres) but is (obviously!) on the left. (Turn right and you’ll be in Loch Achray.) The journey is 30 miles from Glasgow and will take about 1¼ hours including the toilet stop.
At the time of writing Forest Enterprise was charging £3 for a day’s parking.
There are two exits at the back of the car-park but take the one on the left with your backs to the loch. There is a slight climb and then the most stupendous views up Ben Venue in front and Loch Achray behind. Continue on an idyllic path till you come to a metalled road complete with signpost! Turn left to the waterworks (marked ‘Private’ but this is for vehicles) which is signposted for Ben Venue and waterworks. (We all drink our water from here!) An easy walk follows along the lovely sparkling Achray Water. At the (signposted) hump-back bridge to Ben Venue, go left to take this. (Alternatively, you can continue to and over the dam at Loch Katrine. Initially, this is very easy, but there are stone, leaf-rot-covered, steps up the other side, then an easy path, then a fallen tree which is awkward and wet to get round. You should come down to a very substantial stile. Make sure that you continue forwards to join the path (which goes right up to Bealach nam Bo) and left back down to the hump-back bridge.
The hump-backed bridge comes up to join the LRT. At the first junction take the LRT to the right sign-posted Brig o’ Turk and Ben Venue. This follows round, losing the path to Ben Venue but sticking with the path to Brig o’ Turk. Ignore the first LRT to the left which goes nowhere and continue across a sturdy bridge and then on with fine views of Bens A’an, Venue and Vane. (You can argue about this but I think Ben Lomond is out of sight and you’re looking at two out of three of Beinn a’ Chroin, Beinn Chabhair and An Caisteal behind us; and Ben Ledi behind Ben Vane in front.) Ignore a tempting LRT to the left and down to the road and continue up to an excellent path down to and across the road, signposted to Brig o’ Turk.
Once across the road you have a choice. At the Forest Drive, and on your left going north, there are two short-cuts: one which goes straight down to Loch Achray and one which takes a slightly longer route. These are easy and well-marked. On your right the Forest Drive continues south (marked with a cycle symbol on the map). If you take this YOU MUST FOLLOW YOUR MAP CAREFULLY TO MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT ON A DEAD END.
However, if you need a little excitement go straight on! Be warned warned that there are three windfalls at the beginning, close together, which are very easy. The fourth windfall is slightly more difficult but you can crawl underneath although it may be wet. The fifth windfall, a little further on. The fifth windfall has a crack in the middle which you can squeeze through. The sixth windfall is prickly. You can get round it on either side but it is a little more difficult.
Your reward for all this is the loveliest view of Loch Venachar you’ll ever see. It’s so unexpected. One minute you’re watching you’re feet and the next you’re lost in the view. There’s a lovely path down (which disintegrates a little at the end) and you emerge on a fine LRT part of the Forest Drive). Turn left here and follow this past the Swiss–looking Loch Achray Farm.
At the junction of paths, leave the route to Brig o’ Turk and turn left to continue along Loch Achray on an excellent track. At the junction with the main Forest Drive turn right (actually straight on) down and over a foot bridge which emerges on the road. The footpath at Blar Loisgate appears to have been lost so you need to take to teh road for a short stretch. However, just after the Loch Achray Hotel but before the bridge over the Achray Water there’s a splendid easy footpath along the Water, round the side of the hotel, on to a LRT on the right which crosses the Achray Water and leads back up to the hump-backed bridge you came over at the start of the walk. Alternatively, you can make your way back along the metalled road, to the car-park. The total walk is just over 8 miles: 9 if you add-on the dam; 6 if you take the short-cut; five if you also make for the car-park along the road!