October 4, 2023
In the latest phase of a £1.8 million investment in sustainable tourism in the Trossachs, We have been awarded the £350,000 contract to construct a dramatic three-storey scenic tower and lookouts with walkways above Trossachs Pier at Loch Katrine for visitors to enjoy the views popularised by famous writers and poets in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The installation of the scenic tower and lookouts is the latest phase of the Trossachs Visitor Management & Scenic Viewpoints Projects being coordinated by the Steamship Trust with funding support from the Scottish Government's Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, administered by VisitScotland which is designed to improve visitor facilities at busy tourist hotspots.
This follows on from the completion of a hand-built stone path to the viewpoint with the help of helicopter lifts of bags of stone to protect the sensitive site as well as car park extensions and toilet improvements at the busy Trossachs Pier site which is also home to the recently restored Steamship Sir Walter Scott now back sailing daily on Loch Katrine.
This historic site is rightly credited with being the birthplace of Scottish tourism due to Sir Walter Scott's 1810 blockbuster poem 'The Lady of the Lake' putting The Trossachs and Scotland on the tourist map. Crowds flocked to visit Loch Katrine to see the landscapes described in Scott's poem. Other Victorian writers and painters were also drawn to the area, with boat trips, initially by rowing boats and then steamers, added to accommodate the growing number of early tourists.
The landmark lookout tower will feature two high-quality viewpoints with linking boardwalks on a headland above the busy Trossachs Pier visitor hub known as Roderick Dhu Watchtower due to earlier associations with Rob Roy Macgregor who lived on the shores of Loch Katrine. Clansmen would use the site to keep a lookout for oncoming redcoats through the glen to provide an early warning to Rob Roy and his clansfolk who would then evade capture by disappearing into the hills surrounding the loch.
Visitors will enjoy the spectacular views of Loch Katrine and its islands and surrounding mountains, which inspired Scott to write his epic poem The Lady of the Lake followed several years later by a novel on the exploits of Rob Roy Macgregor.
James Fraser, CEO of Steamship Sir Walter Scott Trust said: 'The recently completed path and the new scenic tower and lookouts will restore public access to this celebrated vista which has played such an important role in Scotland's rich history. In addition to Sir Walter Scott, other literary giants such as Coleridge and the Wordsworths visited wicker huts on the headland, made accessible by a road blasted out of rock in the 1790s and they were followed by many thousands of Victorian tourists that came to the site to enjoy the scenic wonders these famous writers so vividly described.
We have carefully constructed a short path on what was the former old road, which has been overgrown for many years, allowing today's visitors to enjoy classic views of Loch Katrine. The viewpoint is a short walk and is more accessible than the nearby peaks of Ben A’an and Ben Venue, and the new tower and lookouts will ensure many more people can safely visit this great vantage point above Trossachs Pier.’
Since 1859, Loch Katrine has supplied millions of gallons of water daily to Glasgow and much of west and central Scotland. The Loch Katrine site is part of the Great Trossachs Forest and is in the ownership of Scottish Water. Archie Macgregor, Land and Property Development Manager of Scottish Water has worked closely with the Steamship Sir Walter Scott Trust to enable this latest project to proceed.
He said: ‘As custodians of Loch Katrine and the surrounding catchment area I am pleased we were able to help the Steamship Trust to progress this latest heritage project above Trossachs Pier which follows on from other improvements in visitor facilities on our landholdings at this popular visitor location.
The Loch Katrine area has many special natural and cultural heritage qualities, and it is encouraging to see the Steamship Trust, working in close partnership with Scottish Water and others, delivering such high-quality improvements which will greatly enhance the visitor experience in safe and responsible ways.’
Simon Egan, Business Development Director of CAP.Co said: ‘We are excited to be taking this project forward through the build stage and are delighted that our initial designs, which blend sensitively into the stunning landscape at this iconic site, have been widely welcomed by many community groups and individuals who strongly supported this imaginative scheme at the planning stage.
We will be making use of a helicopter to transport materials to the site as part of our light-touch approach to building structures in this environmentally sensitive location, and visitors will then have the opportunity to enjoy the special views from 2024 onwards.’
Ahead of work on the new tower, Rob Dickson, VisitScotland’s Director of Industry and Destination Development, recently visited Loch Katrine to review the recent infrastructure improvements and to hear more about the historic viewpoint plans.
As he said, “It is fantastic to see the plans and site for the new scenic tower and lookouts, supported by the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund. They will elevate the experience of these wonderful surroundings for people to enjoy and allow visitors to view the landscape from what is a historic viewpoint. Delivering this new infrastructure without impacting on the local biodiversity is also important.
We know visitors are attracted to Scotland because of our stunning scenery and fascinating history, which this region has in abundance. You can really immerse in the local wildlife, enjoy panoramic views and imagine Rob Roy and his clans folk keeping a watchful eye on the countryside.
This project is another example of the Steamship Trust’s commitment to celebrate and showcase the special scenic and cultural heritage qualities of Loch Katrine and the Trossachs, which has included the return this spring of the much-loved Sir Walter Scott Steamship that first began sailing in 1900.