Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park was opened in the summer of 2002 by Princess Anne. The boundary of the national park extends from Balloch in the south to the Argyll Forest Park in the west and includes Tyndrum, Crianlarich and Killin in the north and Loch Earn, Callander, and the Lake of Menteith in the east.
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Encompassing 720 square miles (1865 sq km), the park contains forests and woodlands, untamed glens, mountains and lochs, all adding up to one of Scotland’s most scenic areas. In the south are rolling hills that contrast with the high mountains in the north. Scotland’s munros—Ben Lui, Ben Challum, Ben More and Ben Vorlich—are in the park.
Ancient woodland contains ash, oak, rowan, sycamore and beech, but the park is also home to plantation forests. South of Loch Ard is the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park with 32,000 acres (12,950ha) of plantations of a total of 41,973 acres. There’s a Forest Park Visitor Centre with an exhibition on the park. Trails in the forest include the Fairy Trail.
The seven-mile long Archray Forest Drive, part of the Queen Elizabeth Park, goes through the forest and offers an
all-encompassing hilltop view. Eagles, hawks and peregrine falcon search for prey while on the ground deer take advantage of the forest cover. Queen Victoria described Loch Ard as ‘a fine long loch’. Its wooded slopes are home to Loch Ard Forest.
The Trossachs, a famous beauty spot, bounded by Loch Achray in the east, the foot of Loch Katrine in the west, Ben An in the north and Ben Venue in the south, are part of the national park.
Loch Katrine, seven miles long and two wide, has a place in literature. Sir Walter Scott’s poem, The Lady of the Lake, written in 1810, popularized this loch in the heart of the Trossachs. The scenic beauty of wooded mountains and sparkling water assured its continuing attraction. The loch is a source of water for the city of Glasgow, 35 miles away.
The Loch derives its name from the Gaelic 'Cateran' meaning a Highland robber, which is quite appropriate considering that the infamous outlaw and livestock raider, Rob Roy MacGregor, was born at the head of the loch.
Scott’s book, Rob Roy, written in 1818, artfully intertwines his real life with fiction. A small island in the lake, Eilean Molach (called Ellen’s Isle by Scott) was used by Rob Roy to imprison one of his enemies. Today’s visitors can cruise the lake on the SS Sir Walter Scott, launched in 1899.
Loch Earn sits on the north-eastern edge of the park. To its west are Loch Voil and the settlement of Balquhidder, where Rob Roy is buried. The town of Callander by the river Teith is the site of the Rob Roy and Trossachs Visitor Centre for those who want to learn more.
In Lake Menteith is an island that served as home to a 13th century Augustinian monastery, Inchmahome Priory. A ferry takes visitors to the island. Mary Queen of Scots stayed here at the age of five in 1547.
Loch Lomond, the largest freshwater lake in Britain at 23 miles in length and five miles in width, is perhaps the best known of the lochs due to the song, ‘The bonnie banks of Loch Lomond’. The northern shore is mountainous in contrast to the wooded and lower south shore. On the loch’s eastern shore is Ben Lomond rising to 3192 feet and a popular mountain for climbers.
More than 20 species of fish inhabit Loch Lomond, brown trout, pike and salmon among them. A boat cruise leaves from the Balloch pier. On summer weekends it’s a very busy place, and the roads can become clogged with traffic. At the end of the eastern road is Rowardennan, site of a youth hostel and a water sport centre.
Sitting in the loch are 24 islands. In medieval times some of the islands were inhabited by saints who established churches and priories on them. Inchmurrin is the largest—1½ miles long and ¾ mile wide—and played host to Robert the Bruce, James VI and Mary Queen of Scots. The ruins of the castle of the earls of Lennox are here.
Other islands in Loch Lomond include Fraoch, where heather blooms. Inchconnachan is popular with boaters due to its secluded bays. Inchtavannach, once home to a monastery, is long, wooded and has a rocky summit. Between the islands of Inchconnachan and Inchtavannach is the Narrows. A boat trip through this section of water offers close-up views.
The island of Inchlonaig was occupied 7000 years ago. Yew trees planted in the 14th century for bows for King Robert’s archers still grow here today. Inchmoan is home to sandy beaches, Scot’s pines, birch and alder, bog myrtle and blueberry. Inchfad was only one of many islands that housed illegal whiskey distilleries until the 1850s when a revenue cutter put paid to the activity. Inchcaillach is the site of an old nunnery and the burial place of the MacGregors.
The park’s Gateway Centre contains a state-of-the-art exhibition detailing the history, wildlife and flora of the park. There are woodland trails throughout the park, and rangers are on hand to inform visitors.
The Lomond Shores at Balloch is an orientation centre at the southern gateway to the park. There’s a viewing gallery where a high glass wall provides panoramic loch views and displays on the cultural and natural heritage of the area.
Loch Lomond is located in both Strathclyde and Central and Fife on the A82; also off the B837 by unclassified road and hiking trail.
The Trossachs are on the A821/B829 and extending to the shore of Loch Lomond on the B837 and unclassified road.
The National Park Gateway Centre
Tel. 01389 722 199
Rob Roy and Trossachs Visitor Centre
In the local TIC at Callander, Central, on the A84
Tel. 01877 330 342
Loch Lomond Shores Visitor Centre
Tel. 01389 721 500
Café, film, shopping
Website: Loch Lomond shores
Port of Menteith by Aberfoyle
SS Sir Walter Scott
Trossachs Pier Complex
Car and coach parking, cycle hire, cafe, shop. Disabled facilities.
The Loch Lomond Steamship Co.
Balloch, G83 8QX
Tel. 01389 711865
Fax. 01389 711958
Tourist Information Centres in the area:
Aberfoyle Tourist Information Centre
Trossachs Discovery Centre
Open April to Oct and weekends only Nov-March
Balloch Tourist Information Centre
Tel. 01389 753533
Open April to Oct
Drymen Tourist Information Centre
Tel. 01360 660068
Open May to Sep
Tarbet Tourist Information Centre
Tel. 01301 702260
Open April to Oct
Photos courtesy Mad about Mountains and by Barbara Ballard