At the southern end of the Loch, holidaymakers will find Loch Lomond Shores, a hub for leisure, hospitality and retail, situated within a beautiful setting on the shores of the loch itself. It’s most definitely a place for all the family. Whilst Dad tries his hand at water-skiing or paddle boarding, Mum browses the department stores, boutique shops and nationwide brands, the children can explore Treezone, an aerial adventure course featuring treetops and zip slides, before the whole family visit the SeaLife Aquarium, the Bird of Prey Centre or sit down to a good feed at one of the cafes, pubs or take always located on site. Loch Lomond Shores is also dog friendly, with fabulous ‘on site’ woodland and shoreside walks, in which to exercise your pet. For something slightly more arduous, visitors can walk or cycle to nearby Balloch Castle Country Park, a 200 acre estate featuring walled gardens, nature trails and guided walks. Balloch is also the starting point for the John Muir Way, a 134m walk from coast to coast, and the West Loch Lomond Cycle Path, a 17m route up the loch to Tarbet, via Luss.
On the western shore of Loch Lomond are the villages of Luss and Tarbet. Luss is a picturesque conservation village with a fascinating medieval history, evidence of which can still be found in the local Churchyard. The village features rows of quaint, identical sandstone cottages, with picket fencing and rambling roses, built in the 18th and 19th century to house slate quarry workers. The village is also home to Loch Lomond Faerie Trail, a great attraction for families, where children are encouraged to solve puzzles in order to find the fairies (and avoid the nasty trolls!) a kilt-maker, bagpipe works and any golf fans may recognize nearby Rossdhu House as being home of the Barclays Scottish Open each year. For those who feel that golf spoils a good walk, the Luss Hills are a popular hillwalking destination of which Doune Hill (734m) is the highest point.
10 miles north of Luss is the village of Tarbet and, although small, there is quite a lot to see and do locally. The pier is a boarding point for various loch cruises, taking passengers north to quieter waters or south to explore the islands of Loch Lomond. The Waterbus service, in operation since the Victorian period, crosses the loch to Inversnaid and Rowardennan, ferrying walkers across to Ben Lomond, sections of the West Highland Way and the RSPB Inversnaid Reserve.
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.
If you prefer a faster mode of transport than walking, Tarbet is served by the West Highland Railway Line which links Glasgow and Mallaig. The route is consistently voted one of the most scenic train journeys in the World, eventually crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which featured in the Harry Potter films.
Tarbet is also a good point at which to deviate slightly from the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, in favour of nearby Loch Long, a sea loch which extends some 20 miles inland from the Firth of Clyde. Famous for Vikings and the atmospheric woodland of the Argyll Forest Park (the starting point for walking The Cobbler, Beinn Narnain and Beinn Ime) the area around Loch Long is as dramatic and diverse as Loch Lomond but, perhaps, a little less popular with tourists and, thus, quieter.
In 1263 Viking raiders arrived at the lochside village of Arrochar before dragging their ships 2 miles inland to Tarbet and down Loch Lomond in order to attack the inland settlements around Loch Lomond. Not ones for taking things lying down, the local Scots are said to have fought back, killing some of the raiders. At a site close to Ballyhennan, between Arrochar and Tarbet, there is a mound of earth though to be the final resting place of a Viking leader, with all the hallmarks of a boat burial. Though clearly not an activity visitors can try out today, it is possible to get an idea of what it was like for the Vikings sailing up Loch Long on their longboats at nearby Ardentinny Outdoor Education Centre, located at Dunoon, where dragon boating is one of the most popular team-building exercises to try. The centre offer other group activities including abseiling, archery, climbing and gorge walking.
The northern end of Loch Lomond, often described as Ffjord-like due to its steep and narrow nature, is perhaps best taken in from a boat, allowing passengers to take in sites like Ben Lomond and Tarbet Island and hear about the Loch Lomond canyon, the deepest section of the loch at 190m, located near Inversnaid. There is still a great deal to do in this area however. One local highlight is the Drovers Inn, a unique establishment dating back three centuries, to 1705. Once frequented by Highland Drovers, who brought cattle to market via the banks of Loch Lomond, the decor remains authentic, with a fully grown stuffed Grizzly Bear awaiting you at Reception, and an assortment of other animals and trinkets located around the Inn. Unsurprisingly, with such a long history, the Drovers has been named Scotland’s most haunted pub, although these days it’s mainly exhausted West Highland Way walkers who lurk the hallways in search of roaring fire, good food and fine ale, all of which are on offer at the Drovers, as well as live music most weekends. Just a few miles up the road from the Drovers 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! Just four miles beyond the Falls of Falloch is Crianlarich, gateway to the Scottish Highlands.
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, including the Balmaha Millenium Forest Path and the Rob Roy and West Highland Way, to be enjoyed. For a more comprehensive list, take a look at our Walks Around Loch Lomond guide. The eastern side of Loch Lomond isn’t exactly an urbanite’s dream however, so it’s worth mentioning that the loch is well within an hour’s drive of the bright lights of Glasgow and Stirling. It’s also only 20 minutes from the Victorian holiday resort of Helensburgh, situated on the River Clyde. Named after the wife of Sir James Colquhoun, who founded it in the late 18th century, the town benefits from wide tree-lined streets, fine buildings, a long promenade and attractive parks.
As one would expect then, Helensburgh is home to many independent shops selling beautiful handmade jewellery and creative local arts and crafts, as well as award winning cafes and restaurants with local, seasonal produce at their core. If you’ve brought a picnic along then the gardens at Hermitage Park, situated close to the centre of town, are a great place to go, or slightly further afield, Geilston Gardens, where children can explore the floral mini-maze and Hobbit hole play area. Before leaving town in pursuit of the Great Outdoors, any holidaymaker passing through Helensburgh should visit the National Trust for Scotland’s Hill House. This beautiful house, along with a great number of the fixtures and furnishings, were designed by internationally acclaimed Scottish architect, Charles Rennie MacIntosh for publisher Walter Blackie in 1902-4, and are renowned as the finest examples of MacIntosh’s work. The building also has ties with John Logie Baird, inventor of the television and Henry Bell, the pioneer of the steamboat.
Unsurprisingly for it’s coastal location and proximity to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Helensburgh is also a gateway to many outdoor activities including the Wild About Argyll Cycling Trail, as well as the John Muir and Three Loch Way. The later connects Loch Lomond with the Gareloch and Loch Long. There is also the Argyll Kayak Trail, a 150km route around the sheltered coastal waters of Argyll and Bute, rich in wildlife, sandy beaches, islands and caves. Back on dry land, Helensburgh also sits on the Clyde Sea Lochs Trail, which explores coastal communities to the south west of the National Park like Dumbarton, Cardross, Gareloch and the Rosneath Peninsula.
It’s clear then that, as a holiday destination, Loch Lomond has something to offer everyone, which is why we’re certain that, whatever your reasons for choosing the area, whilst here, you’ll find endless reasons to return!