Outdoorsy guide to Loch Lomond

Outdoorsy guide to Loch Lomond

Welcome to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs…

Covering 720 stunning square miles, with two forest parks, 22 large lochs, 40 hills over 2000ft, and one of the UK’s largest nature reserves (phew!) your visit to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park should be much more than a day trip. Here’s my guide to getting outside and exploring the lochs, glens, and Munros around Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond Things to do

Search for things to do in Scotland and you’ll find visiting Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park high up on every list – and with some of the best scenery the whole country has to offer – it is easy to see just why it receives over 4 million visitors a year.

However, just limiting your visit to a stroll along Loch Lomond, a wander around the pretty village of Luss or shopping at Loch Lomond Shores means you will miss out on so much of the park’s true splendour. The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park is so much more than the UK’s largest loch! 

From the mountains above Loch Lomond to the remote Cowal Peninsula, the wooded valleys of the Trossachs, to the rolling highland hills of the Breadalbane, your visit to the national park should be more than just a day trip – you can spend a lifetime here and not uncover all of the park’s secrets. So let’s plan your trip!

Where to stay at Loch Lomond

Wild Camping / Van Sites

Informal lightweight ‘wild camping’ is legal in Scotland, however, because of the sheer demand for camping in the national park in summer, wild camping is restricted from March to September. You can still ‘wild’ camp but only in designated spaces and you need a permit.

Permits are £3 per tent or campervan per night and you can book a camping permit for up to three nights in one area. The rest of the year (October to February) you are allowed to wild camp – as long as you comply with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code

Camping and Glamping 

If you need a few more creature comforts, then there are lots of formal (paid) camping and glamping sites at Loch Lomond – try Beinglas Farm Campsite at Inverarnan (popular with West Highland Way walkers and close to the Drovers Inn), the glamping huts at the stunning Loch Katrine Eco Camp at the Trossachs Pier, and Sallochy Campsite at Rowardennan. Further afield Comrie Croft is great for exploring the Breadalbane. 

Loch Lomond Things to do

Hotels at Loch Lomond (and lodges) 

If you prefer a bed to camping stay at: 

  • Fancy a luxury lodge? Loch Lomond Waterfront has eight five-star luxury lodges and three lochside grass-roofed chalets. Whether you are looking for a romantic break or a family group trip to Loch Lomond, each lodge sleeps between two and six people, most are dog-friendly, and all have stunning views over the loch.
  • The budget-friendly Inn on Loch Lomond* at Inverbeg is really well located for exploring the park with rooms as little as £50 a night. There is a bar and restaurant on site which serves up great value chippy teas at Mr C’s fish and whisky bar. Need space? Chose a larger executive Ben Lomond room for a view of the loch, or check into the Inn’s Beach house for roll-top baths and views looking out to the loch and mountains.
  • You can’t get any closer to Loch Lomond than the Lodge on the Loch Lomond by the village of Luss. This beautiful American / Scottish lodge-style hotel offers up comfortable and stylish rooms, some have their own saunas and pine balconies right on the loch. There is also a fine dining restaurant, bar and a spa. Fancy a bit of luxury? Check into the Travis Suite for the ultimate in comfort with a four-poster bed. Book: Lodge on the Loch Lomond*
  • Over in the Trossachs Mhor 84 at Balquhidder is refurbished roadside inn and is a very popular stop for foodies – the cakes are Michelin recommended and evening meals are served in their lovely candlelit dining room. Rooms upstairs and out the back are stylishly decorated in a retro style and are good value too.

More hotels in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs*

Eating & Drinking (you will need the energy!)

.. a few of my recommended spots for lunch, dinner & drinks around Loch Lomond. 

  • Cafes – Broch Cafe, Strathyre – for butties, coffee & cake for exploring the Trossachs
  • The Oak Tree Inn, Balmaha – breakfast rolls & lunch after Conic Hill
  • Venachar Lochside – amazing scones and lovely lunches for filling up after Ben A’an & Ben Venue
  • Mhor 84, Balquhidder – Michelin recommended cakes
  • Mhor Fish (fish & chips) and Mhor Bread (for pies) in Callander. 
  • The Green Welly Stop, Tyndrum – a Scottish classic stopping point, try the hot beef sandwich.
  • The Village Inn, Arrochar – real ales, real fires and steaks
  • Falls of Dochart Inn, Killin – grab a pint and watch the waterfalls
  • The Drovers Inn, Inverarnan – quirky and unique pub

Getting to Loch Lomond

The edge of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is only 30 minutes north of Glasgow and an hour and 20 minutes from Edinburgh and it is easy to explore the park’s four regions by car. However, with a little planning you can also get around a lot of the park by train, bus, and even explore by water bus.

  • By train – from Glasgow, you can catch the train direct to Balloch, and via the West Highland Route with stops at Arrochar and Tarbet, Ardlui and Crianlarich.  
  • By bus – intercity buses running from Glasgow to Fort William (914) and Portree on Skye (915) stop at Balloch, Duck Bay, Luss, Inverbeg and Tarbet. To get to the Cowal Peninsula, Citylink buses to Oban (976) and Campbeltown (926) stop at Arrochar, Ardgartan, and the Rest & Be Thankful. The 926 bus will also take you further onto the Cowal Peninsula including stopping at Benmore Botanic Gardens.
  • To get around the park, First Bus run services from Stirling to Callander (C59) and onwards to Strathyre (160) for Balquhidder and Lochearnhead and McGill’s buses run from Balloch to Luss (305), Helensburgh (306) and Gartocharn, Drymen and Balmaha (309)
  • By water bus – In summer water buses run on Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine connecting the villages, bus routes and long distance trails together. The buses only run in summer, but you can see the routes and rough time table in the waterbus guide (PDF download)

Things to do at Loch Lomond & the Trossachs

From hiking to biking, here are my favourite ways to get outside and explore the national park.

Loch Lomond Things to do

Get a great view of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs

Want to find the best views in Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park? You won’t get them from whizzing by on the A82. Instead, take the slow road and follow the Scenic Route route to discover a series of ‘view sculptures’ – Woven Sound at Falls of Falloch, the Lookout at Loch Voil, Faerie Hollow at Loch Lubnaig, and An Ceann Mor at Inveruglas. It is also worth finding the National Park’s war memorial at Rowardennan with its stunning view over the Arrochar Alps.

Now whilst the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond are spectacular, to see its true beauty you need to also get up high. With 41 mountains over 2000 ft to climb, the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is a hill walkers paradise. Here are my favourite Loch Lomond and the Trossachs walks with the best views.

  • Bag a mountain in miniature – described by many hill walkers as the perfect hill, Ben A’an is a ‘mountain in miniature’. Climbing it you’ll get all the practice in for future Munro bagging – the long slog up, the steep huffing and puffing bits, a wee bit of scrambling around on rocks – plus the amazing views over Loch Katrine – and you only have to climb 454m (1500ft) to do it. To climb Ben A’An, park at the Ben A’An Car Park.
  • Climb Beinn Dubh above the village of Luss – Climb up the slopes of Beinn Dubh (The Black Mountain) above the Luss to spot the islands of Inchlonaig, with its yew trees planted by Robert the Bruce, Inchconnachan, home to wallabies, and once home to many illicit whisky stills and Inchtavanach, the Monk’s Island, steeped in religious history. You don’t need to climb high up Beinn Dubh for the view, but if you have more time and energy the Glen Striddle Horseshoe is a fine walk. To climb Beinn Dubh walk, park at Luss Car Park.
  • Hike Conic hill for coos and sunset viewsa popular Sunday stroll (with pretty much everyone) Conic Hill is one of Loch Lomond’s iconic viewpoints. The hill sits on the Highland Boundary Fault which marks the boundary between the lowlands and the mountainous highlands of Scotland. The climb will take you about an hour on part of the West Highland Way, past a herd of docile Highland Coos, for an incredible view back over the loch to Luss. To climb Conic Hill, park at Balmaha Car Park.

Tip – Try hiking Conic Hill at sunset for a truly incredible view across the loch…

Loch Lomond Things to do

If you have some hillwalking experience…

Note – If you haven’t hill walked before, or if you are visiting the national park in winter, please consider whether you have the correct gear and you are walking in weather conditions you can handle. Check MWIS for the latest forecasts – Loch Lomond is the West Highland forecast. Hillwalking in snow is only for the prepared. Please also read this post on Hillwalking in Scotland first before heading out into the hills.

Brilliant views from Ben Venue – Whilst Ben A’an might be the most popular of all the Trossachs hills, the view from Ben Venue is actually even better.  The walk starts just along from the Ben A’an car park and will take you around 4 hours. It is a bit of a slog up through the woods but the view across Loch Katrine, Loch Achray and Loch Venachar is so worth it. To climb Ben Venue walk, park at the Ben Venue Car Park.

Thread the Needle at The Cobbler – On a sunny day, the path up the Cobbler might feel like a mountaineering superhighway, but that is because The Cobbler is one of Scotland’s most famous hill walks. The Cobbler is famous mostly for its distinctive shape and rocky crags – and the challenge of ‘threading the needle’ – jumping across and then scrambling up the pinnacle to stand on the rocky peak which is actually the very top of the hill. To climb the Cobbler, park at the Cobbler car park – warning parking is £8 a day!)

More Loch Lomond Walks with a great view

Hike a great trail beside Loch Lomond

Like a long walk? Six of Scotland’s long distance walks – the “Great Trails” pass through the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park. Here is how to hike them:

  • The West Highland Way – arguably the most famous of all Scotland’s Great Trails, the 96-mile West Highland Way takes you from Glasgow north to Fort William right through the heart of the National Park. Not got a week to walk the full route? Instead, walk from Drymen to Inverarnan, along the length of Loch Lomond. Its 14 miles one way but you can do as little or as much as you like. 
  • The Great Trossachs Path – hike 30-mile from Inversaig on the banks of Loch Lomond to Callander via the stunning Loch Katrine underneath Ben Venue and Ben A’an – you’ll be hiking through some of my favourite parts of the whole of Scotland! To get to the start you will need to either hike from the car park at Rowardennan or catch the Loch Lomond waterbus in summer. Return by bus from Callander. Walk The Great Trossachs Path.
  • The Rob Roy Way – hike the 43-miles of the 79-mile Rob Roy Way from Drymen to Killin in Highland Perthshire through Aberfoyle and Callander with stunning views of Loch Venachar, Loch Lubnaig, and Loch Earn along the way.
  • The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way – stretching the length of the Cowal Peninsula, the 57-mile Loch Lomond and Cowal Way takes you from Portavadie on Loch Fyne to Inveruglas on the banks of Loch Lomond. The final 5-mile section of the Cowal Way takes you past the foot of the stunning Arrochar Alps.
  • The Three Lochs Way – the 34-mile Three Lochs Way takes you from Loch Long to Gare Loch and on to Loch Lomond crossing much of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park via military roads.
  • The John Muir Way – the coast to coast 134 mile John Muir Way starts at Helensburgh on its way to Loch Lomond Shores and Balloch, and onwards to Drymen where the route crosses the West Highland Way. The John Muir Way will take you all the way to Edinburgh and then finally on to Dunbar, the birthplace of conservationist John Muir.

Loch Lomond Things to do

Explore the national park by bike

Whether you like to cycle up mountains or prefer things a wee bit more leisurely, here is how to see the best of the park by bike:

  • West Loch Lomond Cycle Path –  running along the west side of Loch Lomond is the 17-mile path suitable for bikers of all ages. Visit Balloch, Duck Bay, Luss, Inverbeg and Tarbet as you cycle along the loch. Download the route car
  • National Cycle Route 7 – the Lochs & Glens North section of NCR 7 takes you from Balloch to Lochearnhead along an almost entirely traffic free tarmac path.
  • Three Lochs Forest Drive – closed to cars over winter, but open to cyclists all year round, the beautiful 7-mile Three Lochs Forest Drive visits Lochan Reòidhte, Loch Drunkie and Loch Achray and takes you over the beautiful Dukes Pass. I suggest going north to south – unless you are a glutton for Duke’s Pass punishment.
  • Aberfoyle Bike Park – for beginner mountain bikers the purpose-built Aberfoyle Bike Park is perfect for honing your skills before heading out on the off-road trails, then try the…  
  • Ardgartan Cycle Routes – close to Arrochar on Loch Long is Argyll Forest Park where the Forestry Commission has installed a series of cycle trails suitable for all abilities. Explore the woodlands and waterfalls along with lochside views.

Want more ideas for mountain biking in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs?  If you fancy hiring a bike there are lots of options on the National Park website

Loch Lomond Things to do

Go Munro bagging

Ben Lomond is one of the most popular hill walks in Scotland, with over 30,00ft people climbing to the top each year. The route is a fairly simple one in spring, summer and autumn with a path to follow to the top. Depending on your fitness the climb will take 4 – 6 hours. To make the route a circular one, follow the Ptarmigan ridge back to the car park. Warning – Ben Lomond can get extremely busy in summer – the Rowardennan car park can be full from 9am. You will also need £3 to pay for a full day’s car parking.   

Bagged Ben Lomond? there are lots more hills to climb around the loch, here are three more Loch Lomond Munro bagging adventures:

  • The Arrochar Alps – Beinn Narnain and Ben Ime – The ‘Arrochar Alps’ loom over Loch Long and the Alps most famous peak, The Cobbler is one of Scotland’s most popular short hill walks. The Munros are another story altogether. Despite its lack of height, Beinn Narnain is a tough little hill and Ben Ime is a boggy slog, but boy, are the views of the surrounding hills, including the Cobbler are worth it. To climb Beinn Narnain and Ben Ime park at Arrochar – £7-8.
  • At the head of the loch – Ben Vorlich Standing tall above the north end of Loch Lomond is the mighty Ben Vorlich (‘Hill of the Bay’). Climbed from the hydroelectric dam at Loch Sloy, be warned, the hike up Ben Vorlich is very steep and leads you up a series of false summits. However, all that effort is seriously worth it – the view across Loch Lomond, to Ben Lomond and to the rest of the Arrochar Alps is simply stunning. To climb Ben Vorlich, Loch Sloy parking is at Inveruglas, paid.
  • The not quite big ben – Ben More & Stob Binnein Ben More is one of Scotland’s toughest hills – and the biggest hill in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. From the roadside (and from every other hill around) Ben More is a huge cone rising above Crianlarich. The climb up the front of the Munro is relentlessly steep, but from the top there is an incredible view. Stob Binnein is Ben More’s shapely neighbour. To climb Ben More and Stob Binnein parking on A82 by Ben More Farm.

Loch Lomond Things to do

Explore a nature reserve or forest park

If you prefer your walking a little more sedate, the national park has two forests, two nature reserves and a Botanic Garden to explore.

  • Queen Elizabeth Forest Park – the 20,000 hectare Queen Elizabeth Forest covers the east side of Loch Lomond and stretches up to Strathyre, making up most of the Trossachs (the wooded valleys) region. Start at The Lodge visitor centre, explore the footpaths around pretty Loch Ard, walk the Millennium Forest Path, or visit Aberfoyle.  Read more: Queen Elizabeth Forest Park Guide
  • Argyll Forest Park – to the east and north of Loch Lomond and stretching to the Firth of Clyde is the huge Argyll Forest, Britain’s oldest Forest Park established in 1935. The park contains the fabulous Benmore Botanic Garden. Read more: Argyll Forest Park Guide.
  • Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve – covering much of the south of Loch Lomond, the Loch Lomond NNR contains the RSPB Loch Lomond Reserve which is home to ospreys and Inchcailloch Island (Island of the old or cowled woman) home to a 13th-century church. To get to Inchcailloch catch the Loch Lomond Water Bus.
  • The Great Trossachs Forest National Nature Reserve – aiming to create around 4,400 hectares of new native woodland – basically a forest the size of Glasgow, the Great Trossachs Forest NNR is a plan for the next 200 years! Explore by walking the Great Trossachs Path, follow the Literature Trail, or explore the woodlands.

Loch Lomond Things to do

Visit Inchcailloch Island

Otherwise known as ‘island of the old women’ referring to the nunnery founded here by St Kentigerna, Inchcailloch was once the burial ground for the MacGregor clan. Now part of the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve (managed b y Scottish Natural Heritage), the island is accessible by water bus from Luss and Balmaha, plus an on-demand service running from Balmaha boat-yard. A circular route takes you around the island, and to the highest point for a beautiful view of the loch. You can camp on the island with a permit, and the campsite is open 1st March – 30th September.

Get out on the water

You can’t visit the UK’s largest loch without getting out on the water – and in summer the loch is busy with activity.  Adventurous? You can Hire a Kayak, a jet ski, a speedboat, wakeboard, kneeboard, Ringo ride, and a banana boat. Try Loch Lomond Leisure at Luss and Rowardennan or In Your Element at Balloch. Like things a little more leisurely? Head out on a boat trip with Cruise Loch Lomond at Luss, Sweeney’s Cruises at Balloch and on steamship Sir Walter Scott and cruiser, the Lady of the Lake from the Trossachs pier on Loch Katrine, or just jump on the water bus for a more informal trip

Loch Lomond Things to do

Find Loch Lomond & the Trossachs’ famous spots

From our eyrie on the MacGregor shore we feel as free as Rob himself, wage slaves no longer, but with hearts light as the blue sky as we set off on the high contouring path in a scent of bluebells and rowan blossom.’”

Scottish climber and writer Tom Weir of “Weir’s Way” fame was a huge fan of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park – and it was his home for 17 years. A statue of Tom can be found at Balmaha – often with a jaunty new hat and scarf. You can read Tom’s 1976 portrait of Loch Lomond in the Scots Magazine, thankfully little has changed at the loch since then.

Looking for outlaws? The ‘Rob’ Tom is referring to in the quote above is Rob Roy MacGregor – the Scottish folk hero who was born at the head of Loch Katrine. You can visit Rob Roy’s grave at Balquhidder and climb to Creag an Tuirc – the lookout/ rallying point for the clan in the fight against the MacGregors. The view across Loch Voil is simply stunning.

Bringing things a little more up to date, the pretty village of Luss on the western bank of Loch Lomond was used as the setting for the TV series Take The High Road.

Loch Lomond Things to do

… and finally, 3 Things to do at Loch Lomond in the rain (and it will rain!) 

  • The Lodge Visitor Centre, Aberfoyle – with a red squirrel hide, woodland walks and GoApe, and a cafe with a great view, the Lodge is a great introduction to the Trossachs.
  • Loch Lomond Shores, Balloch – visit the Sealife Centre for a look at the fish and animals in the loch, do a wee bit of shopping, and visit the cafes. There is also a bird of prey centre and mini golf.
  • Glengoyne Distillery – like whisky? The Glengoyne distillery produces a highland style malt whisky in the lowlands – and it’s a pretty unique dram. Tours run every hour (The Glengoyne tour, Wee Tasting tour, Tasting tour and Whisky and Chocolate Matching) and if you are in a group of less than 10 there is no need to book.

Things to do Loch Lomond and the Trossachs Map

Download the National Park Map
Like guidebooks? Try my favourite: walks at Loch Lomond

More outdoor guides to Scotland

The ultimate guide to getting outside and exploring Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

3 Comments

  • Angela H 06/02/2019 at 10:26 pm

    An excellent blog re Loch Lomond and surrounds.
    It would obviously be easy to fill a week’s holiday with all there is to see and do.
    Also loved your stunning photos!

  • Mary Mayfield 08/02/2019 at 7:47 pm

    Loch Lomond – or more accurately Luss – tends to be a stopping off point for us when heading further north and west, but it looks like there’s much more to do in the area than I thought.

  • David Cameron 26/04/2019 at 12:24 pm

    Wow, great article! I personally love the water sports which the Loch has to offer and the scenic beauty surrounding it.

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