Saturday 10 May 2014

An Island Adventure... then off to Balmaha for tea & icecream

A suddenly recalled foot injury led to the announcement and it came an hour after I'd planned be heading up Ben Lomond. I'd delayed on the promise of company up a much smaller hill nearby. Then, from a distant room came a question, "Is there a hill in Glasgow?"... "Eh??"..."Well, I just want to practice walking downhill because I think I'll be alright going up but I'm not sure I'll be able to get back down again".

There were several possible reactions here but mostly a sense of couldn't you have perhaps mentioned this an hour ago sprang to mind. Then suddenly, like a subconscious reaction to cushion the shock, a memory of the wonderful Tom Weir's television programme box set flooded into my head. He was walking around an island near Balmaha talking about the Highland Boundary Fault whilst walking through abandoned graveyards. That man could have made a cow pat interesting.

Thanks to Google and a car within the hour we'd boarded the ferry to Inchcailloch and embarked on our adventure. The boat's a beauty built in the 1930s and we had it to ourselves on the way over, for the five minute journey.

The island's beautiful and in early Spring had a serene quality. Bluebells were bursting out and the woodland floor was hoaching with wild garlic. I picked a rucksack full.

There's a well marked path that takes in the highest point (85m), an old graveyard where the Macsomebody's of Macsomething are buried and a pile of stones that it's claimed was once a farmhouse.

More usefully at the far end of the island, looking out towards the National Park's inaugural shopping centre, there's a beautiful beach with picnic benches, 'barbecue facilities' and dread of dreads, a composting toilet.

At the ferry office they'd recommended spending two hours on Inchcailloch, frankly without a picnic that was pushing it, but there's no denying, medieval shit ditch aside, it's a beautiful place.

We returned ashore parched from our adventure and, after bidding our farewells to the ferryman, headed to the latest addition to the Balmaha complex- a cafe to compliment the shop and pub- and what an addition.

From the outside Cafe St Mocha is a bit bizarre. Mismatched furniture and occasional strips of AstroTurf... yes really. But don't be put off. The first sip of my Darjeeling made me sit up straight and start paying attention, it was outstanding.

I saved the tab from the teabag and later discovered 'Jenier' is a tea company based in Renfrewshire that does mail order. Their coffee's from Dear Green roasters in Glasgow, so it'll be good too.

Then came the ice-cream, wow, the pistachio was sublime, tasting of proper pistachio and with a butteryness that can surely only come from nuts. The cherry yogurt ice cream with it was the perfect foil, fruity, clean and refreshing. All served by a young woman who was enthusiastic and well informed. What on earth is happening to the Scottish tourism industry?

Click here for a link to Cafe St Mocha on Instagram.
It's to the left of the village shop by the Oak Tree Inn and opposite the main car park.

Click here for Jenier's World of Teas
And finally a real treat for fellow lovers of old TV programmes where men in bobble hats get to walk about talking shite for half an hour, here's Tom Weir visiting Inchcailloch:


  1. Thanks Jonathan, I really enjoyed that post.Takes me back to when my granny used to love that series .I didn't get it then , I do now ! Looks like a nice day out and I love the sound of Cafe St Mocha. Feeling all chilled out now!

    1. Many thanks Anon. You should go, it's a wonderful place. I've just added a few more photos that I thought were lost.