In central Scotland, north of Glasgow and East of Edinburgh, where the rolling hills of the lowlands turn into a wooded wonderland that’s home to the largest fresh body of water in all of Great Britain, is Loch Lomond. It’s here that The Trossachs National Park begins, covering 720 square miles and some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.
A couple years back, the Scottish government started a project called Scottish Scenic Routes, working with young local artists and architects to create installations within the National Park. Each piece is unique and complements the surrounding environment, providing visitors with a fresh perspective in a setting where art meets nature.
Loch Voil, off Highway A84 passed Monachyle
The first installation I found is Look Out, found in a small, hidden valley overlooking the secluded Loch Voi. Located on the eastern side of The Trossachs off the A84 north, this hidden gem is an adventure to get to, but worth the trip. I almost gave up after driving miles down a twisted one-lane road, getting further and further from cell phone service and the main highway. I had just gotten used to driving on the left side, now I had to quickly figure out who has the right of way in the back woods (the answer is whoever is closest to the passing turnout.) Just before all hope was lost, the landscape opened up to a storybook valley with steep hills on either side and a narrow, green meadow where the tips of Loch Voil and Loch Doine meet…breathtaking.
In the middle of the meadow, centered between the two lochs and a grove of trees, stood a mirrored cabin almost invisible to the naked eye. Designed and built by Angus Ritchie and Daniel Tyler, ‘Look Out’ is comprised of a wood-frame made from birch and a mirrored stainless steel surface, creating reflections of its surrounding scenery. It features benches cut out of either side so visitors can sit and take in the surrounding landscape.
Insider Tip: On the way to Look Out you’ll pass the town of Balquhidder, which was home to 18th century Scottish folk hero and outlaw, Rob Roy. He was killed in a clan duel after unsuccessfully debating a land claim with his neighbor John MacLaren of Invernenty. You’ll see the Balquhidder church and kirkyard where legend has it Rob Roy is buried. The church is worth a stop and open to visitors, just remember it’s an active place of worship, so act accordingly.
Falls of Falloch, Highway A82 outside Crianlarich
Woven Sound is much easier to find than our previous stop. You’ll find it off Highway A82 on the west side of The Trossachs, just north of Loch Lomond. A short stroll through the woods from the parking lot brings you to the Falls of Falloch, a 30-foot high sheer drop in the River Falloch as it winds it way south to the loch.
Created by John Kennedy, Woven Sound is a trellis extending out into the falls, made from and completely enclosed by interwoven steel rods. The unique perspective allows visitors to get closer to the falls from a protected area, and its shape curves through the trees so it doesn’t disturb the surrounding habitat. The unique shape and weaving of the steel also amplifies the sound of the waterfall while you stand inside, further immersing you into the scenery. When you reach the end, you’ll see a message etched into the metal. This is a diary entry from English poet and author, Dorothy Woodsworth, recalling the many 19th century writers and painters that would come to the falls with their lovers.
An Cean Mòr
Inveruglas, Highway A82
On the northeastern shores of Loch Lomond stands the 25-foot high structure, An Cean Mòr. Designed by local Scottish firm, BTE Architects, An Cean Mòr translates to ‘large headland’ and acts as one overlooking the banks of the loch. Visitors can sit on its amphitheater-style seating offering panoramic views of Loch Lomond and Arrochar Alps to the west. Made from sustainable timber, the design is striking, yet still complements its natural surroundings.
Look directly to the west and you’ll see large pipes leading up the mountainside. This is the Loch Sloy hydro-electric Power Station, the largest in the UK, and provides the National Park with a sustainable source of electricity. When demand for power surges, water is drained from the Loch Sloy above through 3 kilometers of valves and massive turbines. The plant was first used in 1950 and took 2,200 men five years to complete.
Scottish Scenic Routes Travel Tips
- Spread your itinerary over a few days. Some installations are close together, but others are hundreds of miles apart. If you’re heading north to Oban or Inverness from Glasgow, see one on your way up (Look Out), and the others on your back south (Woven Sound & An Cean Mòr.) This way you explore two separate routes and see something new each way.
- Always have snacks and water in the car. There are cafes, gas stations and restaurants sprinkled across The Trossachs, but some stretches are scarcely populated, so be prepared.
- Wear comfortable clothes with layers and bring a light jacket. You’ll be driving most the time, but when you get out it can be cold, windy and wet.
- Take your time and be a courteous driver. Most people drive the speed limit in Scotland and there are many narrow roads that require passing places to allow oncoming traffic through. Always drive cautious through these areas.