We love Aberfoyle and the stunning scenery that surrounds it. Just under an hour from Glasgow, the winding A81 will take you past the concealed village of Drymen, then through rolling hills before larger crags appear from the earth. Home of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park (which features more glorious walks around waterfalls and under wires, thanks to Go Ape), Aberfoyle is a little hub of hikers and tourists. The town centre is small but usually busy, and we prefer to avoid it by either going uphill to the Forest Park or straight on, alongside Loch Ard.
The road towards Kinlochard weaves between refurbished stone cottages, larger lochside properties, tiny boat sheds and the loch itself. At this time of year, with the leaves turning all shades of red, brown and gold, the reflections on the dark water are amazing. Loch Ard is fairly small but courts a number of sailors and watersports lovers, some of whom stay at the Forest Hills Hotel that you’ll pass en route. Throw in a couple of islands and — hey presto! — you’ve got a perfectly miniature Loch Lomond, arguably even more idyllic in its tranquillity.
Of course, there is another reason that we love Aberfoyle so much. For us, walking unquestionably goes hand-in-hand with tea and cake, hence why no hike begins without a full belly. A stop at the Wee Blether tearoom at Kinlochard is a must. It’s a small cabin that looks directly out onto Loch Ard, with quirky décor and homely food. As it’s a family run business, you’re assured a warm welcome and the most amazing homemade cakes (their house is around the corner!)
I always mention cake, but in this instance, it really is all about the cake. I didn’t even take a photo of my gigantic slice of coconut and raspberry sponge (gluten free!) because I was too busy shoving it in my gob. If you like cake, the Wee Blether offers it in main meal size. Sponges, tray bakes, pies, sugary treats… there’s everything, plus some very nutritious toasties and soup to ‘counteract’ the calories.
Once you’ve finished eating, turn left after the Wee Blether and make for the Kinlochard forestry trails. There’s a car park just before the road turns to track and weaves a high route along the loch. Little cottages appear from the moulting trees and, on taking the lower course, you’ll reach the water. Canadian geese watched us warily as we wondered at the autumn colours, the blooming mushrooms and mild weather. Further round the path, turn left and you’ll end up looking back towards Kinlochard proper, where there’s a bench for you to take a breather from the Blether’s sugar rush.
In summer, this stretch can be pretty busy with cyclists and campers. However at this time of year, the road is peaceful, meaning you can admire the autumnal shades without the intermittent squeals of young scouts. No guarantees about the quietness of the Wee Blether though – regardless of the weather, everyone knows there’s always space for cake.