Guide to Loch Lomond and the Best Things to do
You know that feeling of contentment and excitement that you get when you realise the nights are getting longer, the temperature is edging up (from, like, 5 degrees to 8 but still) and you start to dust off the outdoor gear? Yes, spring is upon us and the Highlands beckon!
While I formulate all sorts of plans for the year, I always ease myself in with a visit to my home away from home, Loch Lomond. I spent so much of my childhood in this part of the world, it was in many ways my introduction to the proper outdoors. Endless walking opportunities, beautiful vistas and friendly locals abound. For many more than just this besotted Glaswegian, this is a part of the world that seems to relish creeping into the soul of its visitors and setting up camp for eternity.
Here’s my look at the best things to get up to around the loch and how you can make the most of your visit whether as a day trip, route breaker-upper or as part of an extended stay.
It’s a blog about Loch Lomond, I’m always going to find space for the star of the show and one of Scotland’s favourite Munros. And with close proximity to Glasgow, breath-taking views over one of our most attractive bodies of water plus the fact it’s a pretty straightforward hike, it’s of little wonder. Whether ascending beneath the sun’s glorious rays or grimly staring down the driving sideyways rain that the west of Scotland specialises in, the panorama from the summit is worth it all.
The Ben Lomond route starts at Rowardennan on the eastern shore and snakes its way steadily but consistently to the eventual summit, allow around 5 hours return. As you approach the summit you’ll also be drawn to the views north and east as the promise of the Trossachs and Argyll start to cry out. It’s another reason why Ben Lomond is such a great introduction to Munro-bagging – there’s no way you won’t want to do more after conquering this rock!
What an outstanding part of the world it is that, even if Ben Lomond’s not for you, you can skip over to its little brother and enjoy similarly awesome views with even less exertion. Starting from the car park in Balmaha it’s another on the east shore and is hugely popular with folk of all abilities and ages. I’ve been exploring this guy for longer than I can remember and after a woodland start you ascent shortly but steeply onto the spine of the climb. If anything I actually prefer the views over the loch itself from up here as the spattering of islets sets off a great image.
Much as with its big brother next door, you’ll do well to ever have Conic Hill to yourself but I’ve ascended in the early morning before and tucked into a lonely summit breakfast – not a memory fast forgotten.
Known affectionately as ‘The Dumpling’, this sturdy little mound just outside of Balloch offers a fabulous vantage point from the south of Loch Lomond. Granted, it’s an intense 15 knee-screaming minutes on the way up but it offers a unique perspective of the loch. Unlike Balloch itself, The Dumpling is also a lonely little place much of the time and a nice escape for a quiet picnic.
More from Loch Lomond…
It is also possible to cruise across the water and get up close to the numerous little islands that litter the loch. With around 60 of them, there’s the temptation to go exploring – although most are privately owned and inaccessible. Exceptions include Inchmurrin and Inchcailloch. There are numerous providers and cruises last 1-2 hours, departing from Balloch, Balmaha and Luss.
Speaking of which, Luss is the pick of the loch-side villages and is a favourite stop along the A82. It gets overrun on (luke) warm sunny days when Glasgow empties but visit off-season when snow still caps Ben Lomond across the water and bring your camera. There’s generally a friendly bunch of ducks waddling around on the mini-beach and plenty of accommodation for distance travellers.
Many of the other built up areas around Loch Lomond have taken on a tacky, commercial element but the road to Inveraray and into Argyll offers a more rustic experience. If this is your first trip, you’ll have caught the Highland bug by now for sure.
A Little Further Afield
Continuing north of the Loch the A82 will take you past another popular natural wonder, the powerful Falls of Falloch. Parking is limited but the waterfall is only a short walk from the available spaces and, particularly after heavy rainfall, this place holds yet more obvious appeal. Explore a bit though, it makes for an interesting little challenge to find the best photo angle.
This little, tucked away, secret west of the Loch is a long-term source of reflective amusement. I spent many a childhood outdoor experience in this neck of the woods. Both of my parents were raised nearby and I was that strange kid who was only too happy to leave the football pitch and the Playstation and embrace a visit to the grandparents. My grandpa also owned a sweetie shop but that’s by the by. What it was really all about was the outdoors – especially quiet nooks like this. The vista of green in every direction, the gently rolling peaks, the uncalculated risk of hypothermia with a dive into the blue water pools….worth it.
Go further still to Auchengaich Reservoir (give it a Google Maps) and you’ll find a gloriously remote stretch that is perfect for some low-level walking. About the only company you’re likely to find up here is of the cattle or flying variety!
So there you have it, my guide to the best of Loch Lomond. Where’s your favourite spot in these parts?
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