Loch Lomond may have been immortalised in song, but it is also the largest freshwater lake in Britain (by surface area) and a popular tourist destination. It occupies a surface area of 71 square kilometres between the Western Lowlands and the Southern Highlands. It is 39 kilometres long and between 1.2 and 8 kilometres wide. You will find the loch in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, in the council areas of Stirling, Argyll and Bute, and West Dumbartonshire. It southern shores lie 23 kilometres north of Glasgow, making it a perfect day trip location for anyone visiting the country’s largest city.
Its eastern shores are dominated by the impressive Ben Lomond, a 974 metre peak of the Munro Mountains. A 2005 poll named Loch Lomond as the 6th greatest natural wonder of Great Britain. The only drawback with this beauty is that the A82 road, which runs the length of the western shore, is often choked with tourists during the summer months.
Around 60 islands dot the surface of the loch, the largest being Inchmurrin, which is also the largest island in loch or lake in the British Isles. Several of the islands are ‘Cranmogs’, artificially created and dating back to prehistoric times. English travel writer H.V. Morton wrote, ‘What a large part of Loch Lomond’s beauty is due to its islands, those beautiful green tangled islands, that lie like jewels upon its surface’. Strangely, one of the islands, Inchconnachan, is home to a colony of Wallabies.
In 2002, the ‘Loch Lomond Shores’ leisure and shopping complex opened, providing a home for major retailers, and the Drumkinnon Tower building has been redeployed as an aquarium. Large events are advertised on the Loch Lomond Shores website, but on a lesser scale, there is a popular Farmers’ Market every second Sunday on the promenade. If it’s Golf you’re looking for, what better place to tee off from, than the Loch Lomond Golf Club, which lies on the south western shore. This club has hosted major tournaments, including the Scottish Open. The Carrick Golf Club is situated adjacent to the Loch Lomond club. A 28 kilometre cycle track runs from Arrochar and Tarbet railway station at the north end of the loch, to Balloch railway station in the south. On the eastern bank, you’ll find the West Highland Way. The National Park Authority are trying to achieve a balance between tourists and loch users, and have imposed a 10 kph speed limit in environmentally sensitive areas.
As you would expect, the dramatic scenery draws boating and water sports enthusiasts from far and wide. All types of craft can be found on the loch, including canoes, wind-surfers, speedboats, and jetskis. The Loch Lomond Rescue Boat is on call 24 hours a day. A cruise can be taken from the town of Balloch. The last paddle steamer to be built in Britain, The Maid of the Loch, has been restored and is open to the public as a restaurant and bar, providing a totally unique venue for events and functions. She is open every day 11am – 4pm Easter to October; and on Saturdays and Sundays during winter. There is plenty of car parking adjacent, but limited access for the less able bodied. Admission is free.
It’s difficult to mention Loch Lomond without bringing to mind the well known song that bears the same name. The chorus is;
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 never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.
The song, first published around 1841 has unclear origins. It is believed that the author may have been a Scottish soldier who penned the lyric in a letter home, as he awaited death in enemy captivity. Another theory is that a soldier on his way home wrote the song, the low road being a reference to the Celtic belief that after death, the soul would be transported away by fairies. Whatever the truth, we remain thankful for the song that compliments Scotch whisky so well. In 1957, to some people’s dismay, Bill Haley recorded a popular rock and roll version of the song which carried the title ‘Rock Lomond’.