Callander is known as one of the gateways to the Highlands. On the edge of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park it's the ideal place for you to base yourself if you want to explore the park or further afield. You will find everything you need, including a supermarket so if your itinerary includes some more remote sights basing yourself here will ensure a lovely meal in one of the many restaurants and the ability to nip out and grab a bar of chocolate when you fancy. Id never visited Callander before but I'd heard many people talk of staying there so I was happy last week when I was finally able to see it for myself. Myself, Taylor and my wee pup stayed at Loch Earn Leisure Park, about half an hour further north, on the banks of Loch Earn but spent a lot of time in this lovely town as there is plenty to see. Overlooked by the Callander Crags, part of the Highland boundary fault, and the mighty Ben Ledi it has a stunning backdrop too.
Callander has an amazing range of small and quirky independent shops and cafes, all housed in beautiful historic buildings. I loved walking down the Main Street and felt the urge to explore inside almost every shop, the window displays certainly draw you in.
The Hamilton Toy Museum
Aw man, I loved this! Never before have I seen such a ramshackle and fantastic collection of childhood toys, ranging from Victorian times right up to the 1980's so not only will your kids love this but you will too. There is a huge selection of dolls, teddies and puppets that will bring the memories flooding back. Action men in battle (hundreds of them!), train sets, model cars and planes and vintage vinyl, posters and magazines, are all crammed into every available space in five rooms over two floors. The Hamilton family opened the museum in 1994 after Peter's fanatic collecting forced his wife Patsy to offer an ultimatum - Get rid of the toys or open a museum. Thank goodness he chose the latter as this gem is an amazing addition to Main Street.
After a morning shopping our stomachs were rumbling and the pup had to rest his weary legs so we asked around for a dog friendly restaurant and the Riverside Inn came highly recommended. Crusoe was welcomed with a big bowl of water and a bone before promptly falling asleep under the table leaving us to eat our lunch without scrounging eyes staring at us. Taylor had her staple Macaroni cheese and apple juice, which she tends to have everywhere we end up, and I tackled a Scotch beef burger, which was delicious. We skipped dessert in favour of a cake from a bakery I had spotted which we took to Loch Venacher. Having just got Crusoe this was the first dog friendly restaurant I had visited and loved that he was fussed over and made to feel comfortable.
Not all the shops on Main Street were dog friendly so while I browsed Taylor decided to take the dog down to the River Teith which lines the town on the south side. I met them afterwards for a walk around the river which seemed to be a popular spot with the locals. If you don't want to head further afield this is a lovely little area to relax in.
Ben Ledi/Ben Venue
If you want to stretch your legs with a mountain climb there are a few nearby to choose from. Ben Ledi is nearest and you get a really good view of this popular mountain from the town. At 760m it's classed as a Corbett and as it sits on the edge of Highlands you can imagine the views from the top. Ben Venue is smaller at 725m but is as pretty as a mountain can be, with Taylor declaring it her new favourite.
If you like unique finds, absurd antiques and vintage gems of every single description there is a pretty good chance you'll find what you are looking for at Lady Kentmore's. Run by quirky antique expert George Johnson this shop is an eclectic feast for the eyes that is pretty hard to describe. I spotted a decoupaged beano shop dummie, a Punch and Judy puppet theatre, a skeleton with a sombrero and the most beautiful collection of vintage jewellery. I could easily have spent a few hours in this small packed shop, and a small fortune.
Steamship Sir Walter Scott
"The wanderer's eye could barely view. The summer heaven's delicious blue; So wondrous wild, the whole might seem The scenery of a fairy dream."
The 1810 poem The Lady of the Lake was written by Sir Walter Scott after holidaying in the Trossachs, around Loch Katrine. Board the historic steamship and experience this atmospheric and magical Loch for yourself, seeing the scenery that inspired Scott's poems on a boat which has sailed this Loch since 1900.
Deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country is a unique art project linking the four villages of Balquhidder, St Fillans, Strathyre and Lochearnhead. Beautiful sculptures form a trail, encourages visitors to explore the villages and their stunning locations. We had an excellent few hours hunting them down and loved stopping and seeing more of the villages. We especially loved the multi coloured cow and the camouflaged mirrored box situated between Loch Voil and Loch Doine.
Thirty minutes north of Callander is Loch Earn with the villages of Lochearnhead to the west and St Fillans to the east. It flanks both the region of Stirling and Perth and Kinross and is a mecca for watersports. Pity it was so damn cold when I went or I would have loved to have hired a canoe. Next time.
Mohr Fish/Mohr Bread
I first discovered the food created by the Mhor team deep in the heart of the Galloway Forest Park in a converted lorry, transformed into a luxury restaurant and it was a truly amazing evening. When I found out they were based in the area I had to treat myself. In Callander there is Mhor Fish and Mhor Bread, where I bought myself the most amazing granary loaf. There is also the Monachyle Mohr Hotel in Balquhidder and the Mhor 84 Motel a little along the road if you fancy someone else preparing the food for you, both are getting really good reviews and from the look of the menus I'm not surprised.
Loch Lubnaig/Loch Venacher
As well as mountains there are loads of lochs and rivers which are perfect for a walk when the sun is out. We stopped on the banks of Loch Venacher and didn't see a single other person, it was a gorgeous day and we just sat on the rocks and listened to the water lapping onto the pebble beach - beautiful. Loch Libnaig is just as picturesque and as it (unusually) runs north to south it's more sheltered from the winds making it ideal for canoes and kayaks, it's also pretty popular with wild swimmers.