Oh! ye'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road, And I'll be in Scotland afore ye; But me and my true love will ne'er meet again On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond
Lyrics from the traditional song of Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond is a loch in Scotland and is located within Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Whilst the National Park is 720 square miles and will take a holiday in itself to cover, - this post focusses on the actual loch and the places to visit and the walks and hikes to complete.
Loch Lomond has been a tourist destination for over two centuries, and even today you will see as many locals as you will fellow visitors. More than half of Scotland’s population lives within an hour’s drive- that is one reason why it is popular with locals, but the other reason being- it is so stunning and so diverse. Loch Lomond is a freshwater loch and the UK’s largest loch by surface area at 22.6 miles (36.4km) long and between 0.62 miles and 4.97 miles (1 and 8km) wide, with a surface area of 27.5sq. miles (71km2) and as mentioned above it is located within the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The loch is set on the Highland Boundary Fault, which is often considered the boundary between the lowlands of Central Scotland and the Highlands.
There is no circular route as such- unless you keep on driving through stunning scenery and Parklands for a good 2 hours out of your way, so we would suggest splitting the loch into two. The first route you can easily do in a day but if you are here on holiday, we would recommend taking your time. The second route can also be completed in a day trip, but we suggest stopping somewhere along the way for the night- especially if you plan to go hiking.
We will say for location purposes that the starting point is Dumbarton, which if you are coming from Glasgow (30-minute drive) you will pass by Dumbarton first before heading up the A82... (More travel information below…)
Clockwise from Dumbarton on A82
Located on the north bank of the River Clyde, this was the capital of an ancient Kingdom and later the county town of Dunbartonshire. Be sure to visit Dumbarton Castle, also known as Dumbarton Rock, there has been a castle atop of a 350-million-year-old volcano for over 1500 years. The climb and the views from the top are very rewarding. The town itself has several churches, including the Episcopal Church where renounced Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was once married. There are plenty of shops, pubs and you can take a pathed walk from the town, following the River Leven to the large park and botanic gardens of Levengrove Park
Things not to miss: Dumbarton Castle, Castle Rd, Dumbarton G82 1JJ £6 adult. Part of Historic Scotland. The Scottish Pipeband Championships held each July
How to get there: 30 minutes’ drive from Glasgow (21 miles/ 34km)
Leaving Dumbarton you will see signs for Balloch, take a right at the large roundabout with the bird sculptures. Balloch is a lovely village, here you will want to visit Balloch Castle Country Park (which is at the end of the village) There is only a small hill at the shorefront where the old castle once stood, but there is a gothic-style mansion which was built in the 1800’s and has a commanding view of the park and loch. The park is a gorgeous setting for a stroll- there is woodlands and walled gardens (with plenty of free parking on site). You can walk down to the shorefront and enjoy the loch up close.
If you wish to make it out on the loch, then in the village centre, near to the train station, by the bridge over the River Leven, there are loch cruises, and water busses which take you to other areas of the loch including Luss or Balmaha.
Loch Lomond Shores
In Balloch look out for signs for Loch Lomond Shores, one of Scotland’s most popular visitor destinations, where alongside upmarket shops you will find fun and adventurous activities like- Loch Lomond Bird of Prey centre, TreeZone Loch Lomond and Loch Lomond Sea Life Aquarium, all set overlooking Loch Lomond. To the right you will find Balloch Pier where The Maid of the Loch is berthed, although currently out of action whilst restoration work is completed on the last of her kind steamship to be built in Britain
Things not to miss: Balloch Country Park. Have coffee and cake at the café atop of the Sea Life centre for spectacular views across the loch.
How to get there: 10 minutes’ drive on A82 (5 miles / 8km), or you can ride a bike on the West Loch Lomond Cycle Path (regional route 40) which follows the western shores of Loch Lomond for 17 miles.
Duck Bay / Bobby's Bar
The Duck Bay is a lovely restaurant with amazing views over Loch Lomond with large windows capturing the scenery. There is a vast menu choice here. Also, within the restaurant is Bobby’s Bar where you can also enjoy the views and have cakes and hot drinks, we would definitely recommend the meringues.
Things not to miss: Get a window seat and try spot the seaplane and also Ben Lomond!
How to get there: From Balloch head back to the bird roundabout and head north for around 7 minutes (6 miles/ 10km)- on the right-hand side of the road you will see a side road, head to the left for the Duck Bay
Cameron House / The Boat House
On the same turn off from the A82 turn right instead, as you drive past the banks of Loch Lomond- you may well spot the sea plane which departs from here, or the cruise boats sailing past. The Cameron House Hotel is 5* luxury- here you can stay the night or enjoy fine dining. Further down the road you with find the Boat House, which is as the name suggests- right on the water with boats moored up alongside you, here you have the options of a quick bite to eat, 3 course meal or just sit with a drink and admire the views- there is both inside seating and outside seating on the wooden decks.
Things not to miss: Nothing beats a cold drink, on a sunny day overlooking the loch
How to get there: Turning right instead of left on the side road you will arrive at Cameron House and further down the drive you will find the Boat House
The Hill House - Helensburgh - Detour
This restored mansion with bespoke interiors was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It is said to be his second most famous work after the Glasgow School of Art building.
Things not to miss: This detour from the loch is worth it if you are into design and architecture, Helensburgh is also a lovely town which overlooks the Clyde.
How to get there: Drive on the A82 and take a left at the roundabout now on the A818 for 10 minutes. (6 miles/ 10km) Sat Nav- Upper Colquhoun St, Helensburgh G84 9AJ
Luss is a very picturesque conservation village with rows of cute cottages which were built in the 18th and 19th centuries to house workers from the nearby quarry.
Things not to miss: Be sure to walk out to the pier and take in the views! Don’t miss Luss from your itinerary!
How to get there: From Balloch it is a 15-minute drive (9 miles/ 15km) and from The Duck Bay/ Cameron House it is 10 minutes (7 miles/ 12km) there is a large car park and parking is chargeable at £1.10 per hour
Apart from taking the water busses or guided cruises, you can also take to the water yourself, we have a 3-man kayak and take to the water, visiting many of the islands on the loch. One of favourite islands is Inchconnachan, a now abandoned island, it has the derelict remains of a 1920’s wooden bungalow which was the holiday home of the family of Lady Arran Colquhoun. You can walk around the hilly island which is home to Wallabies- yes that is right- the Australian marsupial was first introduced to Inchconnachan and indeed Scotland in the 1940’s and still roam freely- although they are elusive to spot
Things not to miss: Choose any of the 27 islands and islets to visit (but only one has Wallabies!)
How to get there: Depart from Luss and follow the loch side road for 1 mile (2km) for 1 minute to near Aldochlay Boat Club- parking is along the nearby layby. (There is limited spaces, get here early if possible) from here you can take to the water, Inchconnachan is the island behind the first island (Inchtavannach) you will come to.
Leaving Luss head on the A82 towards the hamlet of Inverbeg which is another pretty area and has a holiday park should you wish to break up your journey and stay here
Things not to miss: More loch views along the way
How to get there: 4 minutes (3 miles / 5km) north of Luss
Tarbet is a little village that separates Loch Lomond from Loch Long. Taking a right turn at Tarbet you will follow tight and twisting roads close to the water as you continue on the banks of Loch Lomond towards Inveruglas. Taking a left turn at Tarbet will take you to Loch Long. The area around Tarbet is fairly low lying and has been used as portage route for boats for centuries including in 1263 when Viking raiders are said to have pulled their boats out of Loch Long and across to Loch Lomond.
Things not to miss: Pull into the carpark near to The Tarbet Hotel for unrivalled views across the loch
How to get there: From Luss it will take you 10 minutes (8 miles/ 13km) on the A82. There is also a train station in Tarbet which is a 10-minute walk to the loch, the cycle path continues and from Luss you can climb the easy Luss Hills towards the Arrochar Alps
Arrochar - Detour
Taking the left at Tarbet and joining the A83 you will drive through Arrochar, a lovely little village with a carpark and views across the head of Loch Long, from here you can climb The Cobbler (around 5 hours return) in the Arrochar Alps or carry on to the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint, which offers stunning views across the valley and is the gateway to the Argyll Forest Park, from here your choices are endless, a favoured route of ours is to Inveraray then Oban- also from there you can travel north to the Isle of Skye and beyond…
Here you will find a visitor centre and you can depart on day trips by boat. Climb the An Ceann Mòr which is viewpoint with spectacular views across the loch and mountains.
Things not to miss: The views!
How to get there: 8 minutes (4 miles/ 6 km) around the tight and twisting roads (note the speed limit varies up to the national speed limit of 60 mph but do take care on this stretch of road and drive at a slower speed if necessary)
A small hamlet near the northern tip of the loch, best known for its marina, hotel and train station
Things not to miss: A drive through is pleasant enough
How to get there: a further 8 minutes (4 miles/ 6km) from Inveruglas
If you want an experience like no other then pop into The Drovers Inn in Inverarnan, the Drovers was established in 1705 and is well known for being haunted. Food is served throughout the day, but even just pop in for a drink- this place has to be seen to be understood.
Things not to miss: Take a look at the photographs and the stories of this haunted inn. At this point you are at the very top of Loch Lomond
How to get there: From Ardlui it is just a 3-minute drive and under 2 miles away (3.5km) There is also a free car park on site.
Falls of Falloch
Also located near The Drovers Inn is a beautiful waterfall and popular beauty spot, the falls are 30 feet high and is located in an enchanting glen.
Things not to miss: The falls and surrounding landscape
How to get there: It is a 3-minute drive to the Falls of Falloch car park from The Drover Inn. It is then a short half mile walk from the car park to the falls
You have now reached the top of Loch Lomond, driving straight from Balloch without stopping would have taken 50 minutes and around 30 miles (48km) from here you can make your way back down the loch or explore more of Scotland, one route is heading north past Crainlarich, passing by Tyndrum and driving through Glen Coe (55 minutes 40 miles/ 65km) Heading east you can explore more of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and visit the popular area of Callander (50 minutes 34 miles/ 54km). From Callander you can drive through the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and reach Loch Lomond once more on the East side of the loch this time. The journey from Callander to the east shores of Loch Lomond will take around 45 minutes (25 miles/ 40km) You could stay the night in Balmaha or continue down the east side of the loch.
For purposes of splitting the loch into two sections though, we will start our journey on the east side of Loch Lomond from the starting point of Balloch again
Anti- clockwise from Balloch on B837
Additional things to do in Balloch include climbing Knockour Hill more commonly known as Mount Misery. This hill walk is easy, and you are rewarded with a stunning vista. The peak acquired its name from the women of Buchanan Clan who were in vigil on its summit while their men engaged in the battle of Glen Fruin- news of their massacre was signalled to them across the water. If food is on your mind (like it is ours) then we recommend The House of Darrach, which is situated just 9 minutes (4 miles/ 6.5km) outside of Balloch in Gartocharn, the restaurant has an extensive menu and there is a wonderful gift shop attached.
Things not to miss: The House of Darrach for food or coffee and cake.
How to get there: From Dumbarton it is a 10 minutes’ drive on A82 (5 miles / 8km)
As you leave West Dunbartonshire and head into Stirlingshire you will follow the Old Military Road and reach Drymen, which is a pretty little village with a pub which serves food.
Things not to miss: Mainly a point of interest as you drive through
How to get there: From Balloch it is a 15-minute drive at 8 miles (13km)
Devils Pulpit/ Finnich Glen - Detour
An absolute stunning, surreal and mystical place to visit! Finnich Glen is a gorge which has a difficult descend but very rewarding at the bottom.
Things not to miss: Check out our blog post all about this awesome sight!
How to get there: Leaving the loch behind you can get here from Balloch (17 minutes 9 miles/ 14km) or backtrack from Drymen (7 minutes 3 miles/5km). Either way- at the crossroads of the A811 you want to head on the A809 for 4 minutes (2 miles/3km) past the settlement of Croftamie, it is rather difficult to find, but drive until you get to a triangle shaped junction and what appears to be a car park. From here it is just a few minutes’ walk to the start of the trail. Read our blog post for full maps and directions. Sat Nav is Stirling, Glasgow G63 9QJ
This beautiful village is the ultimate destination in Loch Lomond. Pop into the National Park Visitor Centre and learn about the lands, history and geology. This is an essential stop on the West Highland Way, and you can even visit the statue and gardens of ‘Scotland’s most popular mountain man’ – climber, naturalist, writer and broadcaster Tom Weir. Within Balmaha you can take several walks- including towards Balmaha Pier- where you can climb up a little hill in the forest to an amazing vantage point looking at the loch and its islands.
Before or after your walk- be sure to pop into the cosy Oak Tree Inn (named after the 500-year-old tree in the garden), here you can sample a wide range of food and try the local brewed beer or local ice-cream shakes or even Bal-Moo-Ha ice-cream. You can stay overnight at The Oak Tree Inn- in the hotel or chalets. If you are just after cake and coffee, then we also suggest St Mocha coffee shop which has gorgeous stone walled interior and great coffee.
Things not to miss: Balmaha- do not skip this lovely place! When the Northern Lights come to Scotland...
How to get there: Taking the road from Drymen to Balmaha will take around 10 minutes (4 miles/ 6.5km). There is a free cark park in the village but be forewarned that it can and will get very busy- everyone loves Balmaha- so arrive as early as possible. There is also a stop for the water busses here.
Nearby is Ben Lomond, however if you want incredible views of the loch and a shorter and easier climb then we suggest Conic Hill.
Things not to miss: The views!
How to get there: Parking at the free Balmaha car park it is a short walk to the start of the climb, with the route taking 2-3 return- if you don’t keep stopping for photos!
This is a large beach area you can relax with a picnic and also a great spot if you wish to take a boat out into the loch
Things not to miss: Stop here for views, a splash in the water or a picnic
How to get there: From Balmaha car park it is a 5-minute drive at just over a mile, the roads here are narrow so be careful and considerate to oncoming traffic. There is free parking at Milarrochy Bay
One of the many islands situated on the loch, Inchcailloch is a popular island for day cruises as it is a National Nature Reserve and is associated with the local Saint Kentigern. (Its name means ‘island of the old woman’ or ‘cowled woman’ ie nun.)
A small picturesque village which is an ideal bade for those that wish to climb one of Scotland’s most popular mountains- Ben Lomond. You can stay in Rowardennan by camping, in a hotel or even hostel. The road around the loch unofficially ends here.
Things not to miss: Base for Ben Lomond
How to get there: From Balmaha car park to Rowardennan it will take around 20 minutes (7 miles/ 11km) on winding, country roads.
At 974 m (3,193ft) Ben Lomond is not the tallest mountain in Scotland but it is one of the most famous, with views at the summit all across Loch Lomond and far into the hills to the north and the Trossachs to the east. the return journey is 7.5 miles/ 12 km and will take around 5 and half hours to complete
Things not to miss: A mountain (at 914.4 m / 3,000 ft and over) in Scotland is also called a Munro, and once you complete one you can say you’ve gone ‘Munro Bagging’ as in counting up how many you have completed.
How to get there: Park at the Rowardennan car park which is £3 per car for the day
You have now completed the eastern shores of Loch Lomond, driving straight from Balloch without stopping would have taken 45 minutes and around 19 miles (30km) from here you can make your way back down the loch or explore more of Scotland.
Books on Scotland to read-
The Rough Guide To Scotland