Made famous by Sir Walter Scott’s 1810 poem The Lady of the Lake and Rossini’s subsequent opera, La Donna del Lago, Loch Katrine is a popular tourist destination in Scotland’s scenic Trossachs National Park. The 120m deep fresh water loch located in Stirlingshire stretches to 13km in length and 1km in width and serves as the primary water reserve to its surrounding areas, including the city of Glasgow. Opened by Queen Victoria in 1859 and developed by renowned civil engineer John Frederick Bateman (but since upgraded), it proved invaluable in ridding the area of its typus epidemic during this period. Its importance hasn’t decreased since then; Katrine Waterworks supplies over 400 million litres of fresh drinking water to more than 700,000 locals each day.
It is not Loch Katrine’s freshwater supplies that attract tourists from around the world and local day-trippers, but its popular attractions and the natural beauty of the mountainous landscape surrounding the loch itself. Many visit in order to experience a ride on the historic steamship Sir Walter Scott; the 115-ton ship has been carrying visitors the loch since 1900, with sightseeing cruises departing from the Trossachs Pier multiple times a day between April and October. A crewmember narrates the history and legends of the ship whilst visitors take in the scenery or relax in the ship’s saloons and enjoy refreshments. A newer and smaller liner, Lady of the Lake, provides alternative trips across the loch for visitors, its name also inspired by Sir Scott.
Alternative activities at Loch Katrine include cycling; bicycles (including tandems and electric bikes) are available to hire for an hour or longer for adults and children from Katrinewheelz, based at the Trossachs Pier. Families can set off from the pier and explore the terrain on wheel or take their bikes onto the Sir Walter Scott or Lady of the Lake and then cycle back the 13 miles along the loch shores from Stronachlachar. Since 2010 fishing has been allowed on the loch, with the opening of the Loch Katrine Fisheries at Stronachlachar on the west side of the loch enabling visitors to take part in pike or trout fishing from electric powered boats. Having worked up an appetite cycling, fishing, walking and cruising, visitors to Loch Katrine have a choice of several dining options around the loch. The Pier Café at Stronachlachar Pier is open daily from 10am between March and October for light lunches, tea and cakes. On the Trossachs Pier side of the loch the Brenachoile Café serves both lunch and dinner.
Located 45 minutes away from Stirling and roughly an hour from Glasgow, Loch Katrine is easily accessible by car or public transport and allows for a scenic journey through the Trossachs. From Aberfoyle, only 7 miles away, the A821 leads to the Trossachs Pier. From Callander one can drive the A84 to Kilmahog and the A821 through Brig o’Turk, a 10 mile journey. The Trossachs Trundler provides a seasonal public bus service on a circular route between Callander and Aberfoyle that travels via Trossachs Pier, taking visitors directly to the loch.