There is no doubting that Loch Lomond is a scenic wonder. It may already be popular amongst day tripping Glaswegians, but I think Scotland’s largest loch is actually seriously underrated. If you’ve never really spent time in this gorgeous corner of the country, or just not been for a while, join me now as I open up those bonnie, bonnie banks.
It’s no surprise that so many songs have been written about this special island-studded loch, which unfurls below the epic hulk of Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most southerly Munro. Although not in the Highlands in terms of regions the huge geological fault line that splits Scotland’s Lowlands from the Highlands – the Highland Boundary Fault - actually goes right through the loch. The northern portion of Loch Lomond rises in the Highlands, something which you can easily see as you work your way up its banks and the rugged mountains reach for the sky as you head north.
Robin Mckelvie on Ben Lomond
A good place to get a feel for Loch Lomond and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is at the visitor centre at Balmaha. This well-stocked gem on the east side of the loch stocks loads of information and lets you know more about the formation and history of Loch Lomond.
At the very foot of the loch meanwhile, Loch Lomond Shores offers shops, cafes, restaurants and attractions that easily fill half a day and are a great wet weather option. You will find the excellent Loch Lomond Sealife Aquarium here, with its 1,500 creatures, seven themed zones and the breathtaking Topical Ocean Tunnel. You can hire a bike here as well.
PS Maid of the Loch
Look out for the PS Maid of the Loch by Loch Lomond Shores. In March 2016 a massive multi-million project was announced that will see this graceful old lady refitted and fit again to sail across the loch’s waters. I cannot wait to see her easing her way across Loch Lomond. For now there are plenty of boats that tour the loch, as well as a handy water bus service.
Loch Lomond Water Bus
On board a cruise or water bus you can really get a better look at the 22 islands that dot the loch’s waters. Head to Balmaha and you can catch a wee ferry over to one of them, Inchcailloch. The walking trail here snakes across its wee hills and forests. It really feels a million miles from Glasgow and if you don’t ‘get’ what all the fuss is about Loch Lomond after five minutes here I assure you, you will be converted! When you head back to Balmaha make sure you don’t miss a pint at the Oak Tree Inn and a look at Tom Weir’s statue. Look out too in the all the pubs in the area for ales that spring from the Loch Lomond Brewery.
Loch Lomond Sea Plane
There are, of course, plenty of water-based activities to enjoy in the area including swimming, canoeing, paddleboarding, fishing, sailing, windsurfing, or water skiing. For a real treat you can even enjoy a sea plane ride! I took one of these and was blown away. The take-off is quite something, as you bounce across the loch like you’re on a speedboat, before the skilled pilot eases you off the water and high into the sky. The perspective from up here is a spectacular one, as even Ben Lomond is made to look deceptively small. After one of these flights you will never look at Loch Lomond in quite the same way again!
View from the Loch Lomond Sea Plane
A perfect base for a stay in the Loch Lomond is Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel. A great spot on the quieter eastern bank of the loch, it even comes with its own jetty! You can catch the ferry from here over to Luss or Tarbert. I like how family-friendly this oasis feels and also the views that are opened up from its windows. You can sit and take in the local birdlife from them too.
Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel
Rowardennan Lodge sits beneath the might of Ben Lomond. This is a relatively ‘easy’ Munro that most well-equipped and reasonably fit people can manage. I would recommend, if you are confident and know how to use a map and compass, that in decent weather you go up the more interesting Ptarmigan Ridge, which offers even better views as it winds it way to the summit. You will never forget the views of the loch from Ben Lomond’s summit. The West Highland Way also passes right next to the hostel, so you can combine a stay with walking or cycling a stretch of the Way as many people do.
Walking up Ben Lomond
Scotland’s largest loch overflows with plenty for everyone to enjoy, whether you’re seven or seventy. That is the beauty of this loch and the wider national park and it’s well worth taking a few days to explore.
Biography for Robin McKelvie
Robin McKelvie (www.robinmckelvie.com) is a Scottish travel writer, broadcaster and blogger who has been covering his native land since the 1990s. A member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Robin is the author of a number of guidebooks, including National Geographic’s Scotland guide. He regularly contributes to a variety of newspapers and magazines across five continents, such as the Times and the Scotsman, as well as doing travel slots for BBC radio. Robin can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robinmckelvie.