national park in Scotland
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Europe > Britain and Ireland > United Kingdom > Scotland > Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park straddles between Argyll and Bute to the west and Stirlingshire to the east. It's highland in nature and very scenic, though being on the doorstep of Glasgow it can feel busy and touristy.

Understand

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Ben Lomond rising behind Loch Lomond
"But me and my true love shall never meet again, by the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond"
- lament of a Jacobite awaiting execution after the failed rebellion of 1745

Until the 19th century the Highlands were perceived as dark boggy wastelands, the abode of murderous bandits and rebels. Then they were re-defined as romantic vistas where stags roamed and eagles soared, and Highlanders untainted by southern decadence struck heroic poses while wearing the correct tartan. Better transport and more leisure time enabled tourists to flock here to admire, and to complain how tourism was wrecking the place. The great Highland geological fault line nowadays only experiences minor tremors, but for 200 years this landscape has been roiled by tensions between development and modernisation, housing and other facilities for its residents, and preservation - and preservation of what, exactly? The bonnie banks of Loch Lomond are all in a sense man-made, from its lowland cattle farms to its commercial forestry slopes and high sub-arctic moors.

From 1945 there were calls to protect this and similar areas in Scotland, but there was no political will in the London parliament, and control was fragmented between several local authorities. But in 1999 a devolved Scottish parliament was established, which in 2002 designated Loch Lomond and the Trossachs as the country's first national park, with a unified planning body. This was followed in 2003 by Cairngorms National Park, and some fifty smaller areas have broadly similar arrangements. The park has four areas:

  • Loch Lomond is a fjord, carved out by a glacier in the later stages of the last Ice Age 10-20,000 years ago. In the upper north part this carved through hard schist to create a deep lake in a narrow valley hemmed in by mountains. Near the south end, the glacier crossed the Highland fault line to encounter softer lowland sandstone, so it became broad and shallow. These southern reaches are dotted with islands, notably along the fault line. The fjord was connected to the sea but became blocked by glacial debris, so it backed up as a freshwater lake 22½ miles long. The west shore of the loch has long been a transport route, the east bank is steep and has no through road. The river valley south of the loch is residential and industrial so it's not within the park.
  • The Trossachs are the glens and bens around Loch Katrine and Loch Achray. These have classic Highland scenery yet are easily reached from lowland cities, so from the 19th century they were acclaimed by poets, graced by Queen Victoria and mobbed by tourists. In 1859 Loch Katrine became the water reservoir for Glasgow, so development in its catchment was prohibited.
  • Argyll Forest and the Arrochar Alps are a series of forested mountains (including five Munros) west of Loch Lomond and Loch Long, extending into Cowal peninsula. The Gare Loch shores and Rosneath peninsula are residential and industrial, with the towns of Helensburgh, Rhu and Garelochhead, and the navy base of Faslane, so these are excluded from the park.
  • Breadalbane is the northern area around Crianlarich, Killin and Lochearnhead. It has the headwaters of the Tay valley, several Munros, and the Braes of Balquidder associated with Rob Roy.

The park thus has a range of climate and terrain from woods and fields much like those on the outskirts of Glasgow, to alpine tundra. The upper reaches are above the tree line but have no permanent snow or permafrost layer. Beavers, which were already thriving in the Tay valley, were re-introduced to Loch Lomond in 2023. A surprising beast inhabits the lake island of Inchconnachan: red-necked wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus) have bounced around its thickets since 1940. In 2020 the island was sold to the owner of an upmarket restaurant chain, who must surely be tempted to put the little blighters to culinary use.

There are no gates, permits or fees to enter the park. Permits are required for fishing, and for power-boats and jet skis on Loch Lomond. And of course you pay for various activities and parking.

Visitor information

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Towns

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Map of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

  • 1 Balloch is at the foot of Loch Lomond: loch ferries and cruises sail from here.
  • 2 Luss is the first village up the west bank of Loch Lomond, very tourist-trappy.
  • 3 Tarbet (note the spelling) and Arrochar are midway along the west bank.
  • 4 Ardlui at the head of the loch has water sports.
  • 5 Drymen is the turn-off to reach the east shore of Loch Lomond.
  • 6 Balmaha is on the east loch shore.
  • 7 Rowardennan is the end of the road up the east shore, and the start of the climb up Ben Lomond.
  • 8 Callander is a market town, a good base for exploring the Trossachs.
  • 9 Lochearnhead is near the Park's east glens such as Balquidder.
  • 10 Killin is a small village at the head of Loch Tay, itself beyond the park but equally scenic.
  • 11 Crianlarich is where routes divide for Oban, Glencoe and Ben Nevis.
  • 12 Dunoon is south of the park, but the obvious base for that area and the Cowal peninsula.

Get in

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By train

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Trains run from Glasgow Queen Street (low level) via Dumbarton to Balloch. They're every 30 min and take 50 min.

Trains on the West Highland Line run four times a day from Glasgow Queen Street (upper level) via Dumbarton and Helensburgh to Tarbet & Arrochar, Ardlui and Crainlarich. Here they divide, with one portion for Oban and the other for Fort William and Mallaig.

The Caledonian Highland Sleeper from London Euston joins the West Highland Line approaching Dumbarton (bypassing Glasgow) and follows it to Crainlarich and Fort William.

Trains run every 30 min from Glasgow Central to Gourock, which has a foot-passenger ferry and a car ferry to Dunoon. You need your own wheels to travel further, a bicycle would do.

By bus

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Citylink buses from Glasgow Buchanan Station follow A82 up the west bank of Loch Lomond via Luss to Tarbet. Some continue north to Ardlui, Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Glencoe, Fort William, Kyle of Lochalsh, Portree and Uig on the Isle of Skye. The rest head west to Arrochar and Inveraray, where some branch for Oban while others continue to Lochgilphead, Tarbert on Loch Fyne and Campbeltown. Buses from Edinburgh run via Stirling to Callander, Crianlarich and Oban. These destinations are ferry ports, serving all the Hebridean islands, so buses get booked out.

Buses run frequently from Glasgow to Balloch but take twice as long as the train.

Local buses run from Balloch to Drymen and Balmaha, and from Stirling to Callander.

By road

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South end of Loch Lomond is lowland

From Glasgow follow M8 west then cross the Clyde by Erskine Bridge to avoid dragging through the suburbs. Head north for Balloch then take the east or west shore as preferred. However for Argyll Forest you could stay on M8 to Gourock then take the ferry to Dunoon.

From Edinburgh likewise follow M8 west to reach Gourock and Dunoon. But for the main body of the park, head for Stirling to avoid Glasgow, then branch for Callander and Crianlarich, or Drymen / Balmaha or through Balloch to reach the west bank.

Get around

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"We were desirous to have crossed the mountains above Glengyle to Glenfalloch, at the head of Loch Lomond,
but it rained so heavily that it was impossible . . . "
- Dorothy Wordsworth described a trip in 1803 with William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge.

You need your own wheels, distances are considerable and buses are sparse. A bike will do if you're fit.

Ferries on Loch Lomond serve Balloch, Luss, Balmaha, Tarbet, Rowardennan and Inversnaid, with one across the top of the loch between Ardlui and Ardleish. They're summer only and infrequent, see individual towns for timings.

The ferry on Loch Katrine plies between Trossachs pier and Rowardennan.

 
Inchmahome Priory
“Had Loch Lomond been in a happier climate, it would have been the boast of wealth and vanity, but there is only uncultivated ruggedness.”
- Samuel Johnson and James Boswell passed by the loch on their tour of 1773.
  • Inchcailloch is the only island in Loch Lomond that you can visit, by boat from Balmaha. It's wooded with a ruined church, and you can camp here.
  • 1 The Trossachs is a scenic area at the foot of Loch Katrine, which a steamer traverses to Stronachlachar amidst Alpine views. Take a cycle across or hike the ten mile lane around the head of the loch and north bank back to Trossachs pier (the lane is paved but closed to visitor traffic) or follow the public road west to Inversnaid.
  • Falls of Dochart are rapids, not too difficult for kayakers, at Killin village. Here River Dochart combines with River Lochy and enters Loch Tay. The imposing mountain on its north bank is Ben Lawers.
  • 2 Inchmahome Priory is a ruined monastery on an island in Lake of Menteith, where the future Mary Queen of Scots was hidden from powerful enemies.
  • 3 Falls of Falloch are a 30 ft / 9 m drop on A82 towards Crianlarich. The West Highland Way passes here.
  • 4 Benmore Botanic Gardens near Dunoon display Chinese and Himalayan species, including rhododendrons (a riot of colour May-June) without which no Highland estate is complete.
  • Kilmun Arboretum a few miles south specialises in non-native woodland such as sequoia, redwoods, Oregon maple and eucalyptus.
  • Autumn colours come early to the park with the first cold nights of Sept / Oct. They're glorious in the sunshine but by mid-afternoon the sun drops behind mountains and the show's over.
 
Rhododendrons at Benmore Botanic Garden
  • The West Highland Way is a long-distance hiking trail from Milngavie northeast of Glasgow to Fort William. It reaches Drymen and enters the park after 12 miles through lowland woods and fields. The route then crosses Conic Hill to Balmaha (with a bad weather alternate route near the road) then along the east shore of Loch Lomond to Rowardennan, Inversnaid and Ardleish, and onward to Crianlarich and Tyndrum where it leaves the park. The Inversnaid-Ardleish section is the hardest, scrambling over a jumble of boulders on the steep loch banks.
  • 1 Ben Lomond at 974 m / 3196 ft is a "Munro", usually climbed by the obvious trail from Rowardennan. Reckon 3 hours up and two hours down, compatible with a day trip on the water bus from Tarbet, but most visitors drive to the foot of the trail.
  • 2 Ben Ledi at 879 m (2884 feet) is a "Corbett". The steep but obvious trail starts from A84 north of Callander.
  • 3 Ben More at 1174 m / 3842 ft is the tallest and usual target of seven Munros near Crianlarich. Common approaches are from Benmore Farm off A85 and straight up the steep ridge; or follow the burn of Allt Coire Chaorach then head for the ridge of Sròn nam Fòirsairean once clear of the forest. The other six are Stob Binnein (1165 m), Cruach Ardrain (1046 m), Beinn Tulaichean (946 m), An Casteal (996 m), Beinn a' Chroin (941 m) and Beinn Chabhair (932 m).
  • West Loch Lomond Cycle Path is a 17 mile trail from Balloch via Luss to Tarbet. It's on the track bed of a disused railway so you stay clear of the busy A82.
  • National Cycle Route 7 runs the length of Great Britain. The local section is from Glasgow via Dumbarton, Balloch, Drymen, Aberfoyle, Trossachs, Callander, Lochearnhead, Killin, Aberfeldy and Pitlochry, where it joins the A9 north. It's mostly on the main road.
  • Water sports: the main centres are Balloch and Ardlui.
  • Fishing is by permit for salmon, trout and coarse fish. Your accommodation may be able to arrange permits.
  • Highland Gatherings and Games are held at various villages during summer weekends. Pipe bands, caber-tossing, field & track events and so on; sometimes combined with Agricultural Shows.
 
Sir Walter Scott the Loch Katrine steamer

All the villages have a convenience store for basics, but only Balloch has a shopping centre, Lomond Shores on the lochside open daily 10:00-17:30.

  • All the villages serve fish & chips, pizza and the like to weary hikers returning from the hills.
  • Inishmurrin island off Balloch has an upscale restaurant - you need to book or they won't send the boat for you.

Drink

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  • There are pubs in all the villages, which may be your best bet for a meal.
  • Whisky distilleries just outside the park are Glengoyne south of Drymen and Deanston at Doune. The big one south of Balloch sells all its product into blends.

Sleep

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Ben Ledi

Wild camping is generally a legal right in Scotland, but it's prohibited along both banks of Loch Lomond and in the Trossachs because of unacceptable trash and noise by inconsiderate campers.

See individual towns for B&Bs.

Stay safe

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Most risks are the same as in the lowlands. Beware traffic – drowsy homebound hill-walkers, winding roads with few overtaking opportunities, and shunts into standing traffic, are recurrent causes of accidents. Take usual care of valuables.

The mountains are of no great altitude but are on the same latitude as Labrador. Loss of direction in mist, and falls on ice or slippery scree, in cold wet winds can escalate into tragedy.

The mountain weather forecast is relevant to all outdoor activities in the park, including on the lochs, which can get rough.

In an emergency, dial 999 or 112 and ask for police. But can you get a mobile signal?

Go next

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  • Doune southeast of Callander has a sturdy 14th-century castle. Stay on that road for Blair Drummond Safari Park and Stirling.
  • Dumbarton south of Balloch has a castle perched on a crag to guard the road out of the Highlands.
  • Inveraray west of Tarbet is an 18th century planned town. Its castle is for luxury not defence.



This park travel guide to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.