Status: West Dunbartonshire, Town, Scotland
Travel: Virgin Trains (Carlisle – Glasgow Central), Scotrail (Glasgow Queen Street – Balloch), Sweeney’s Cruises (Loch Lomond)
Eating & Sleeping: Cafe Zest
Attractions: Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Loch Lomond, Loch Lomond Aquarium, Maid of the Loch, River Leven etc
The train station in Balloch is sat about a minutes walk away from the small port where the boats for cruises around the loch leave, and the visitor centre for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, which the loch marks the start of, is directly across the road from the station.
We had a few hours before our mini cruise left, so we walked along the river Leven which flows from the loch into the firth of the river Clyde, and found our way to the edge of the loch, where you will find the Loch Lomond Aquarium, which is part of a small complex that includes some shops and a few cafes. We stopped for lunch in one of the cafes (chips!) and sat looking out across the loch.
Just outside the Aquarium is this charming statue of a little Otter, twisting happily in the water. It’s a nice little touch, next to one of the most atmospheric lochs in Scotland.
This is the view we got from the cafe, looking out to Loch Lomond. It was a perfect day to sail the loch, not sunny, but cloudy and mysterious. The clouds had descended around the mountain peaks and created a fantastic atmosphere for our trip.
Moving back to the small docking area as it was time for our cruise (we had pre-booked tickets that you can get on their website here. The boat above, the Astina, was our boat for the tour and we got in line ahead of everyone else to get the best seat when we were allowed to board, right at the front on the outside deck. We had booked the 13:30 tour, so we were treated to a full hour out on the loch.
Our cruise took us up to the lower part of Inchmurrin Island, out in the Loch and then round in a circle back to Balloch. A commentary was provided for the trip, pointing out interesting houses and towers along the edge of the loch and giving a history of the area.
It was very eery out on the loch, and as we got closer to those misty mountains in the distance, it felt like we were heading into the unknown, and what a perfect location it was to take in the beautiful landscapes of Scotland.
All along the shores of the loch, there are beautiful houses, towers and old buildings, built by wealth families a few hundred years ago after they bought land around the loch.
The loch has a long and varied history, and many inhabitants, with one of the most famous being Rob Roy MacGregor (1671 – 1734, Scottish Outlaw).
Loch Lomond also happens to be the largest inland stretch of water on the whole island of Great Britain, and it stretches for a mammoth 24 miles, and it’s widest it is 5 miles across. It contains over 30 islands in total, but only went around one of them.
This is the aforementioned island of Inchmurrin, and it lies on the Highland Boundary Fault, which marks the boundary between the Scottish Highlands, and the Scottish Lowlands, and is the point where the fault lines change and the vast mountains of the Highlands begin. We just made it over the fault, so officially made it to the Highlands for our first time on our travels. Scotland is split into 32 Council Areas which are like counties, and there is one that covers most of the Highlands, called simply Highland, however the Highlands area geographically stretches into many other surrounding Council Areas.
On the way back down the loch we got a great view at the Aquarium and the Maid of the Loch, the old steamer visible on the left of the picture. It was the last Paddle Steamer built in Britain, and launched in 1953 for 29 years service and originally took passengers from Balloch to Ardlui at the other end of the loch. The route was then changed and it travelled between Balloch and Inversnaid, just before you get to Ardlui. It was the last of the Loch Lomond Steamers that started in 1816.
At the end of service in 1981, the boat was sadly left to deteriorate at the edge of the loch as the required funding to keep it running couldn’t be found. Happily, in 1992 the local council bought the steamer and began a restoration project on it.
Loch Lomond is a great place to visit, and there are a number of tours available by boat, from an hourly cruise that takes in one section of the loch to a cruise that runs most of the way up the loch.
Balloch is easy to get to from the main central belt in Scotland, as it is the terminus of one of the lines running from Glasgow Queen Street and it doesn’t take long to get back into the city. By road the A82 runs around this part of the loch, up the western shore (from the M8 around Glasgow where it meets up with the A739 off the motorway), with the A811 heading the other way up the eastern shore.
We made our way back to the station after a very memorable trip, and we still had one more quick stop on the way back to Glasgow, in the town of Dumbarton…