The eastern shores of Loch Lomond are by and large a wildlife and walker’s paradise.From Gartocharn right the way up to Rowardennan, home to Ben Lomond, there are an array of trails and long distance paths to be enjoyed.
Starting at Gartocharn, the Airey woodland trails at RSPB Loch Lomond wind through woodland, passed ponds and through fields of orchids. The Viewpoint path gives fantastic views over the whole reserve as well as the mouth of the Endrick Water, Ben Lomond and the surrounding landscapes. The reserve is also home to a fantastic array of flora and fauna including bluebells in Spring, Ospreys and wildflowers in Summer, ducks and waders in Autumn and Greylag, Pink Footed and Green Fronted geese in Winter. Not just a place for quiet contemplation, fun family actives like den building, bug hunting and pond dipping are actively encourage at RSPB Loch Lomond.
Drymen is the starting point of the Rob Roy Way, a 79 miles long distance walk to Pitlochry opened in 2002, which takes its name from Rob Roy MacGregor, an 18th century Scottish hero and outlaw. Just north of Drymen, the Rob Roy Way meets the West Highland Way, another long distance walk of 96 miles running from Milngavie, just north of Glasgow, to Fort William. As a result of the village’s proximity to these walks, there are a number of good pubs and places to eat in Drymen. If you aren’t a lover of epic walks, shorter trails can be enjoyed in and around the village and the Devil’s Pulpit (or Finnich Glen) is an absolute must when holidaying in the area. The name originally referred to a mushroom-shaped rock which, depending on the water level, sometimes appears above water. Some say this rock is where the Devil stood to address his followers, a tale only heightened by the blood red colour of the water of the river itself (actually caused by underlying red sandstone.) Whether you believe this otherworldly gorge to be the location of the Devil’s personal alter, an execution site, illicit meeting place or simply a geological wonder, there’s no denying the eerie feel of the place.
There are a number of other forest trails dotted along the eastern shores of Loch Lomond, including Balmaha Millenium Forest Path, Cashel Forest and Sallochy Woods however, as the motorable road here ends in a large car park at Rowardennan, most people found in this area are here to scale Ben Lomond. At only 974m, Ben Lomond isn’t even in the top ten highest mountains of Scotland however, being the most southerly Munro and offering truly breathtaking views over Loch Lomond along the ascent, it is one of the most popular, with over 30’000 people a year making it to the summit. The usual route of ascent is via the ‘tourist path’, which is easy to follow and paved along the steeper sections, however for anyone who likes a challenge, there are two alternative routes, one following the steeper and rockier Ptmarigan Ridge, and the other on the approach from Gleann Dubh.
There are also a great many walking locations on the western shores of Loch Lomond. Starting at the southern end of the loch, at Loch Lomond Shores, a unique 5* visitor attraction and retail park, there are fabulous ‘on site’ woodland and shore side walks to be enjoyed by families with young children in tow. For something slightly more arduous, visitors can walk to nearby Balloch Castle Country Park, a 200 acre estate featuring walled gardens, nature trails and guided walks. Balloch also lies along the John Muir Way, a 134 mile walk from coast to coast, starting in Helensburgh and finishing at Dunbar.
Further north is the village of Luss, a picturesque conservation area where visitors can follow a heritage walk in and around the quaint sandstone cottages, pier, riverside and woodland areas. The Luss Hills are also a popular hill-walking destination, with Doune Hill (734m) being the highest point.
Beyond Luss is Tarbet. The area around Tarbet is dominated by the Arrochar Alps, a dramatic landscape of mountains, lochs and waterfalls, created when hard and soft rock from either side of the Highland Boundary Fault collided hundreds of millions of years ago, and was then further shaped by wind, rain and glaciers. Today, the area is a mecca for hikers looking to bag one of 4 Munros (summits over ) – Beinn Ime (1011m) Ben Vorlich (943m) Beinn Narnain (927) or Ben Vane (916m) or scale one of the smaller Corbetts (summits over ) The Cobbler (Ben Arthur, 884m) or Beinn Luibhean (674m). The Cobbler, featuring three jagged and rocky peaks, is also one of the most important and popular sites for rock climbing in the Southern Highlands.
There isn’t a huge amount of loch left beyond Tarbet however just a few miles up the road are the Falls of Falloch. This beautiful 30ft waterfall is a popular place for a picnic and a short walk, with the oldest and most southerly patch of Caledonian Pine forest located just a little further up Falloch Glen. Be sure to look out for golden eagles and red deer!
What is listed above is just a small fraction of the walks in and around the Loch Lomond area. The six long distance walks within the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park are the West Highland Way, the Three Lochs Way, the Great Trossachs Path, the Rob Roy Way, the John Muir Way and the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way, and there are 21 Munros in total, but for a more comprehensive guide to some of the shorter or less known walks, click here.
It’s worth mentioning that walking, especially hill-walking, should never be undertaken lightly. Forward planning and knowledge, including familiarising yourself with the route, transport and provisions, as well as ensuring you have the correct equipment for all outcomes, is essential. If you are in the area of Loch Lomond and should find yourself without the correct equipment, Hawkshead Outdoor Wear is located at Loch Lomond Shores, Balloch, otherwise Killin Outdoor Centre is about a 30 minute drive from Ardlui.