Loch Lomond may have been immortalized in song, but it’s also Britain’s largest freshwater loch (by area) and a popular tourist destination. It occupies an area of 71 square kilometers between the Western Lowlands and the Southern Highlands. It is 39 kilometers long and between 1.2 and 8 kilometers wide. You’ll find the loch in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, in the municipal areas of Stirling, Argyll and Bute and West Dumbartonshire. Its south coast lies 23 kilometers 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 meter peak of the Munro Mountains. A 2005 survey named Loch Lomond Britain’s sixth largest natural wonder. The only downside to this beauty is that the A82 road, which runs along the west coast, is often packed with tourists during the summer months.
Around 60 islands dot the surface of the loch, the largest being Inchmurrin, which is also the largest loch or loch island in the British Isles. Several of the islands are ‘Cranmogs’, artificially created and dating back to prehistoric times. The English travel writer HV Morton wrote: “Much of the beauty of Loch Lomond is due to its islands, those lovely green, tangled islands, which lie like jewels on its surface.” Interestingly, one of the islands, Inchconnachan, is home to a colony of kangaroos.
In 2002, the ‘Loch Lomond Shores’ shopping and entertainment complex opened, providing a home for major retailers, and the Drumkinnon Tower building has been relocated as an aquarium. Big events are advertised on the Loch Lomond Shores website, but on a smaller scale, there is a popular farmer’s market every other Sunday on the waterfront. If it’s golf you’re after, what better place to play than Loch Lomond Golf Club, which is located on the south-west coast. This club has hosted important tournaments, including the Scottish Open. The Carrick Golf Club is located next to the Loch Lomond club. A 28-kilometre cycle path runs from Arrochar y Tarbet railway station at the northern end of the lake to Balloch railway station in the south. On the east bank, you will find the West Highland Way. The National Park Authority is trying to strike a balance between tourists and lake users, and has imposed a 10 km/h speed limit in environmentally sensitive areas.
Unsurprisingly, the spectacular scenery attracts boating and water sports enthusiasts from far and wide. All kinds of boats can be found on the lake, including canoes, windsurfers, speedboats, and jet skis. The Loch Lomond Rescue Boat is available 24 hours a day. You can take a cruise from the town of Balloch. The last British-built steamboat, 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 daily 11 am – 4 pm Easter to October; and on Saturdays and Sundays during the winter. There are plenty of adjacent car parks, but access is limited for people with physical disabilities. Admission is free.
It’s hard to mention Loch Lomond without remembering the well-known song of the same name. The chorus is;
Oh, you’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland before you;
But my true love and I will never meet again
On the shores bonnie, bonnie 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 wrote the lyrics in a letter home, while awaiting 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 carried away by fairies. Whatever the truth, we remain grateful for the song that complements Scotch so well. In 1957, to the dismay of some people, Bill Haley recorded a popular rock and roll version of the song entitled ‘Rock Lomond’.