‘Twas then that we parted, in yon shady glen
On the steep, steep side of Ben Lomond
Where in purple hue
The highland hills we view
An’ the moon comin’ out in the gloaming
So runs the song of Loch Lomond, a traditional Scottish melody whose namesake is often synonymous with Scotland itself. Only fifteen miles north of Glasgow, this crystalline lake is the largest inland body of water in the United Kingdom and marks Scotland’s most significant geological and cultural divide.
Loch Lomond is both an anchor and a crossroads of identities and historical forces. Its still waters reflect stories of feuding clans and herds of swimming cattle; of islands where ancient monks studied and worshipped in seclusion; of still older, artificial islands that may be some of the oldest land reclamation works in the world; and of course, of that perpetual struggle with Scotland’s foil of a thousand years, the English.
|Ben Lomond (974m), the most prominent mountain overlooking the loch and southernmost of the Scottish munros.|
The Two Scotlands
Scotland’s two aspects, Highland and Lowland, are not entirely a human invention but rather date back over 450 million years.
In those distant days the north of Scotland was part of the great continent of Laurentia, along with much of what would become North America. Southern Scotland existed on a separate continent, Avalonia, with the rest of today’s Britain and much of Europe. These two continents collided during the Silurian period, crushing the earth of the two parts of Scotland together and raising mountains which, though now much eroded, once rose high as the Himalayas.