Loch Lomond - the perfect escape from city stress
A quick guide to the towns around one of Scotland's most beautiful natural landscapes
This town, situated at the southern tip of Loch Lomond, is a 40-minute drive or train journey from Glasgow. On its doorstep is the glorious Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, which incorporates one of Scotland’s more famous stretches of water with the peaks and forested glens of the rugged Trossachs. An easy escape from the city, there are all sorts of opportunities for gentle shore-side walks, serious hill-walking, mountain-biking and watersports. Beyond the lovely array of cruise boats waiting to take you on a spin around the loch, attractions are plentiful in this bustling hub. Balloch Castle Country Park has regular one-off activities for all the family, especially during the summer months; alternatively visitors can simply enjoy its lochside walks, walled garden and shop and visitor centre. Welcoming, too, is Loch Lomond Shores, a little centre of shops, eateries and the home of Loch Lomond Aquarium and Sealife Centre, boasting the largest selection of sharks in Scotland and the first shark nursery in the country. The more active can walk or cycle to Balloch from Glasgow’s Bell Bridge, along the beautiful 20-mile Clyde and Loch Lomond cycleway. (AM)
Balmaha and Drymen
With its bluey hues, sandy bay and sheltered locale, Balmaha is a popular spot for watersports around the loch, while back on land golf fans can indulge in a round at the nearby Loch Lomond Golf Club. The eastern shore of the loch boasts impressive views of Ben Lomond, and the Ben Lomond Walkway, a jaunt on which offers you the chance to say you’ve walked a bit of the West Highland Way. Grab some lunch in Balmaha at the Oak Tree Inn pub. It has its own smokehouse and does a good pint of ale. Afterwards, head along the shore; there’s a well-marked footpath to the quiet village of Rowardennan and some great walks to be found at the heart of the Forest Park, north of Balmaha.
Just three miles down the road in the other direction, you’ll find Drymen, historically known as the collection point for Rob Roy McGregor’s ‘black mail’ and which today has a great selection of pubs, hotels and B&Bs, as well as a great pottery and craft shop. For tipples, The Winnock (great whiskies and ales and live music on the weekend) and the slightly bonkers Clachan Inn (the oldest registered pub in Scotland) come highly recommended. Just five miles to the west of Drymen is one of Loch Lomond’s many distilleries – and arguably Scotland’s prettiest – Glengoyne, a whitewashed beacon nestling under the Campsies, which, behind its main buildings, hides a 50ft waterfall. There’s a range of tours for different levels of interest and expertise – you can try making your own blend – and even the most basic is rounded off with a dram of the ten-year-old, whose delicate flavour, so it’s claimed, comes from water filtered through the rocks of nearby Dumgoyne Hill for up to 40 years. (AM)
Largely famed (in Scotland anyway) as the fictional home of soap opera High Road, the pretty town of Luss is a nice stop-off for a picnic and some stunning views across to Ben Lomond. The pier boasts a mighty fine ice-cream shop, while the nearby Lodge on Loch Lomond has some nice outdoor decking to enjoy the vista on a clear day. Watersports are big business around here, with many opportunities for beginners to try their sea legs at canoeing or speed-boating. Just ten minutes drive up the road back towards Balloch, foodies can enjoy Martin Wishart at Cameron House (their £25 lunch menu proving great value). Three miles north of Luss, the Inverbeg has a good selection of lodges, as well as a caravan park and the Inverbeg Inn, which sells some of the area’s finest fish and chips. Venture another mile and, on your right, Firkin Point is a lochside walk not to be missed. (AM)
There is a local bus that can take you from outside Balloch Railway Station to the small village of Luss – you can walk to the Lodge from there. It's best to check the bus timetable and train timetable before you go.
At the northern tip of Loch Lomond, there’s a small ferry that takes people from Ardlui to the bank on the other side, a few minutes across the water. The boat leaves on demand, so the ferryman waits in the bar at the Ardlui hotel, using a little pocket telescope to see if anyone’s waiting on the opposite side of the loch for a lift back. No need for timetables or mobile phones up here – when you want the boat to arrive, you pull a fluorescent buoy up a special pole, and the ferryman gets the message. The hotel is an excellent base for food or an overnight stay, particularly if you’re arriving by train. It’s a couple of minutes’ walk from the station, and the ferry gives the option to walk a few miles of the West Highland Way from Ardleish Farm, past waterfalls and 100 shades of green towards Beinglas. For a higher dose of adrenaline, canoeing, jetskiing and wakeboarding are on offer around Ardlui Marina, as well as cruise boats if you’d rather sip a beer while taking in the peaceful, pulse-slowing scenery. Beware the midgies though – and if you’ve forgotten your repellent, there’s bound to be a spare bottle of Skin So Soft behind the Ardlui hotel bar. (CS)
Trains run from Glasgow Queen Street to Ardlui station – the journey takes an hour and a half, and costs from £13.90 one way. The Ardlui-Ardleish Farm ferry runs from 9am-7pm during the summer, and costs £3 each way. Ardlui Hotel, Ardlui, Loch Lomond, 01301 704 243, hotel rooms from £60, six-person lodges from £648 per week. Campervan spots and camping are also available – see ardlui.com for details. During September Ardlui Hotel is offering List readers a ‘stay one night get the next half price’ offer. (Offer not valid on Sat 22 Sep). Please quote LIST-ARD0912 when booking.