Episode 7 – Aberfoyle

In this episode we will be telling you all about Aberfoyle, which is situated north west of Glasgow on the River Forth. We’ll hear from Paul who runs the website seelochlomond.com who will tell us all about what Aberfoyle and the surrounding area has to offer visitors, as well as from Beth from Bike Trossachs who will tell us all about Gravelfoyle and the Dukes Weekender, which is an event that takes place every year, and in 2023 will take place on the 9th and 10th of September.

Scottish Digest Podcast is a production of cluarantonn.com

Hosted by Dawn

Written and Produced by Dawn Young

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Epidemic by ES_The Celtic Flavour – Alysha Sheldon

Production Company Name by Granny Robertson

Hosted by Dawn Young

Welcome to Episode 7 of Scottish Digest, where we will be telling you all about Aberfoyle.


In today’s episode we will be hearing from Paul, who runs the website seelochlomond.com, who will tell us all about what Aberfoyle has to offer visitors, as well as some of his favourite eateries, and we’ll also hear from Beth from Bike Trossachs, a community interests company, who will tell us all about Gravelfoyle, one of the UK’s finest gravel and road cycling waymarked routes that start from Aberfoyle and weave around Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, as well as tell us about the Dukes Weekender which is an event that takes place every year, and in 2023 will take place on the 9th and 10th of September. Aberfoyle is a place I’ve never visited or even passed through, so it was interesting finding out about it and what there is to do and see there. But first, where is Aberfoyle. The picturesque Village of Aberfoyle is about 26 miles or 42 kilometres northwest of Glasgow and, according to Wikipedia, is situated on the River Forth, which is a 29 mile or 47 kilometre major river in central Scotland which drains into the North Sea on the east coast of Scotland, at the foot of Craigmore which is a 378 metre or 1,207 foot high hill, is part of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, and is known as the southern Gateway to the Trossachs. So this wee village with a population, according to Wikipedia in 2011 of 1,065, certainly packs a punch. And I’ve only just scratched the surface of what there is to do in and around Aberfoyle, and with the Trossachs National Park, Loch Lomond and Loch Ard being nearby where, according to lochlomond-trossachs.org, you can enjoy magnificent scenery and see some amazing wildlife, enjoy cycling, walking, water activities, golf, loch cruises and hike or climb up a Munro Mountain, Aberfoyle is a perfect place to base yourself. And while that all does sound absolutely amazing and a lot of fun, there was something else I found that I personally would love to try first, as I do love a bit of adrenaline sometimes, and it’s called Go Ape, which is located about 0.8 miles or 1.3 kilometres outside of Aberfoyle.  If you guessed that this would include zipping along over trees and waterfalls while being afforded some amazing views of the Scottish Highlands, then you’d be right. According to goape.co.uk Go Ape Aberfoyle is home to two of the longest zips in the UK. And so you can expect to experience some fantastic views, as well as be absolutely exhilarated, as you fly along either a 323 metre zip or a 45 metre high 426 metre long zip. My only bit of advice would be don’t look down. Okay, so if zip lining is not your thing and you prefer something a wee bit more sedate, never fear, Aberfoyle has something for everyone. Located just off Main Street is the Scottish Wool Centre, and it is well signposted. According to Visit Scotland, the Scottish Wool Centre aims to tell the story of wool, from sheep to shops, by putting on daily live shows during the season, such as the dog and duck show which features Collie dogs herding Indian ducks through an obstacle course, as well as demonstrations of spinning. Now, no place in Scotland is complete without a fairy lore story and Aberfoyle is no different. According to atlasobscura.com, Doon Hill and Fairy Knowle, located a mile or 1.6 kilometres from Aberfoyle, held a particular fascination for a Reverend Robert Kirk, who in 1961 published his book called The Secret Commonwealth of Elves and Fairies. A year later his body was mysteriously found on Doon Hill. Many believed they knew what had happened to Reverend Robert Kirk, but I’ll let Paul from See Loch Lomond tell you what the belief was, as well as tell you more about Aberfoyle and the surrounding area, as well as some of his favourite places to eat and what activities he likes to do in the area.


Paul – Aberfoyle is Gateway to the Trossachs, with lochs, forests and beautiful villages like this one. You can explore this part of Scotland’s first National Park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, by bike, boat and boot. But before you set off on your adventures take a stroll up Aberfoyle’s Main Street, it’s bright and colourful with lots of hand-painted signs on the interesting shops and cafes. I highly recommend the Station Coffee Shop with locally roasted coffee and an amazing haggis toasty. And next door is Maggie’s which is full of treats. On my See Loch Lomond website we have a stack of guides to help you explore Aberfoyle and the area around it. And Visit Scotland has an information centre just opposite the Station Coffee Shop. Pick up in there a leaflet for the Trossachs trail, which will give you a map and guide to help you navigate the area, and there is also a website for what was Scotland’s first geographical trail. With the Gravelfoyle tracks and NCN7 there are excellent cycling routes, plus a stack of walking trails. And keep going straight on through the village to get to Loch Ard, and then Loch Chon, which are ideal for stand-up paddle boards, kayaking and canoeing. It’s my favourite place in the National Park to do this. Altskeith House on Loch Ard does amazing food for B&B guests, and it is also a popular wedding venue. Back to Aberfoyle and you must take a two hour circular walk, sign for the large free car park in the village. And you’ll be following the footsteps of former Minister for Aberfoyle the Reverend Robert Kirk. Hopefully you’ll get on better than he did because in 1692 he was doing this walk, but was punished at Doon Hill for revealing the secrets of the fairies in a book that he published. And they are said to have taken his spirit and placed it in a pine tree at the top of the hill. And by that tree you’ll find lots of charms, ribbons and other items placed around it. Moving on from the village go across the steep climb of Duke’s pass to get to Loch Katrine, home of the 123 year old steamship Sir Walter Scott, which has recently completed a £750,000 restoration and is back sailing. It was the public reaction to Sir Walter Scott’s 1810 poem Lady of the Lake, a blockbuster publication in the day, that brought visitors to the area, and they wanted to see the landscapes described so vividly by Scott for themselves. And this resulted in the Trossachs being considered as the birthplace of Scottish tourism. Now, the steamship Sir Walter Scott sails three times a day, and there is a new exhibition about the history of steamships at Loch Katrine on the pier. The steamship is wheelchair friendly.  And, alternatively, if you want to take a climb to get a good view of Loch Katrine go up Ben A’an, which is one of Scotland’s most popular hill climbs. There is so much to do in and around Aberfoyle, and just enjoy the amazing scenery on two wheels, on foot or by water. And if you follow any of the guides on the See Loch Lomond website, which is seelochlomond.co.uk, do leave me a message letting me know about how you got on, what you saw and what you enjoyed.

Dawn – So, what did you think about the Doon Hill mystery, and of the reason many people believed Robert, Reverend Kirk, had died? According to lochlomond-trossachs.org Doon Hill is thought to be a doorway to an underground fairy queen palace, and that this is where Robert Kirk’s soul is still being held captive. An interesting story for sure. Now, like Paul said, you can find so much more about Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and the villages, lochs, islands and activities within, by visiting his website seelochlomond.co.uk.


I mentioned earlier that one of the many activities that can be enjoyed in and around Aberfoyle was cycling, and that Gravelfoyle had the UK’s finest gravel and road cycling waymarked routes, with many of the routes starting from Aberfoyle and taking you deep into the National Park. Well, here’s Beth to tell you more about that, as well as tell you so much more about the Dukes Weekender, which takes place every year in Aberfoyle.


Hello. I’m Beth from Bike Trossachs, a local community interest company based in Aberfoyle. We’re the people behind the newly established waymarked cycle trails which start in the village, and our annual gravel racing event the Dukes Weekender. This year on Saturday the 9th and Sunday the 10th of September Aberfoyle will come alive for the Dukes Weekender. This is a family-orientated off-road cycling festival set in the heart of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The cycling festival has a kids gravel enduro, a gravel hill climb and a signature gravel enduro event which takes place over the two days. Saturday morning sees the event village open in the heart of Aberfoyle, the vibrant race village will be hosting a fully sized, free to use pump track, demo bikes, brands and local community enterprises, and entertainment open to all. Our first event on Saturday morning is the children’s mini enduro. This is a hugely popular part of the Dukes Weekender, and a great chance for kids to sample the gravel enduro racing and get in amongst the action. It’s aimed at children aged 8 to 14 years old but they have to be accompanied by an adult. We have prioritised the tickets for this as pre-entries and we have a few left on the website, so please check it out for details. Saturday afternoon comes alive with cowbells and crowds as competitors take on the gravel hill climb. If you want to visit as a spectator only, Saturday from 2pm you want to be at the waterfall by the David Marshall Lodge above Aberfoyle. The gravel hill climb is stage one of the full Dukes Weekender, but it’s also available as a standalone event too. This is a unique opportunity for riders to ride up the gravel trails beside the Dukes pass in a vibrant and fun atmosphere. The climb itself is 1.3 kilometres, climbing up to 150 meters in height, and is achievable for both occasional riders through to the pros. So you can take in the scenery or chew on the bars, it’s up to you. The route is lined with people, local schools, we have live Taiko drumming, a wee bar and ice creams for sale. It’s an incredible experience for all competitors and we can’t wait for it. Back in the village that evening we’re hoping to run our adventure film night as well. Sunday sees our 75 kilometre gravel enduro. This is a social format of an event where riders can ride in groups at a relaxed pace for most of the route. This is with the exception of six short timed stages where they race individually against the clock. The incredible route weaves around the stunning lochs and glens of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The format of the race allows competitors to stop for lunch, coffee and snacks in Aberfoyle and Stronachlachar in the selection of local businesses. The Dukes adaptive riders also ride on Sunday, and the village festivities and event village entertainment continue throughout. The competitors are supported by marshals and full signposting along the route. Our competitors come from a fully diverse range, with some people participating in their first ever cycling event alongside world and Olympic level champions. Inclusivity is really important to us at Bike Trossachs. Last year we had a 25% female representation which was nearly double that of the previous year, and we’re currently sitting at a 30% female sign up for 2023, so our best representation ever. We’re also one of the first gravel events in the country to include an adaptive and recumbent cycle category. Last year saw the event handed over to Bike Trossachs CIC, which means all profits now go directly back into the local community. The gravel enduro-only tickets are sold out, with entries filling fast for the kids and adaptive cycle categories. We have very limited full weekend tickets left so please go to dukesweekender.com to find out more. It’s worth making the trip to visit Gravelfoyle at any time of the year though. Whether on our waymarked routes or exploring further, Aberfoyle village and the surrounding area offers one of the UK’s most extensive arrays of gravel trails and roads. Within just a 12 kilometre radius of the village there are over 200 kilometres of gravel roads, trails and paths to explore, taking you deep into the National Park and exploring incredible scenery from lochsides to mountain tops. In addition to this there is our three waymarked routes of 10 kilometres, 20 kilometres and 30 kilometres that give riders of all abilities the opportunity to take part and explore the beautiful surroundings of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. If you want to find out more about gravel riding in the Trossachs, please go to gravelfoyle.com or search for Gravelfoyle on the socials. We’re looking forward to welcoming you to Gravelfoyle.

Dawn – Gravelfoyle and the Dukes Weekender sound like such fantastic experiences. Let me know if you plan to attend, or do attend, and what you loved about the Dukes Weekender or Gravelfoyle the most. If you’d like more information or to register for an event you can visit dukesweekender.com or gravelfoyle.com. All links mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes and on our website cluarantonn.com/scottishdigest. That’s c-l-u-a-r-a-n-t-o-n-n.com/scottishdigest.

So, that’s the end of today’s episode, we hope you have enjoyed finding out about Aberfoyle and just what it has to offer as much as I did. Join us next time for another wee slice of Bonnie Scotland.


Scottish Digest is a production of Cluarantonn.