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Loch Lomond – Gateway to Scotland

The first destination in our Scottish road trip (In a converted T5 VW Van) was the Loch Lomond area, after an interesting first night in Keswick. We headed up in high spirits and I can vividly remember first catching a glimpse of the Loch and felt so excited and in awe of the majestic glens and expansive waters. Our actual campsite was Cashel Campsite which is on the east shore of the loch just up from Balmaha – It was a well-equipped site with great views of the Loch, clean toilet and shower facilities and extremely helpful staff.

Sailing on Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond is the largest in-land stretch of water in Great Britain and at its longest it reaches to 24 miles and is one of the main tourist attractions in Scotland. There are numerous villages and towns on the shores of the Loch, packed full with culture and activities – I would recommend the Loch Lomond area as a great introduction to Scotland and its beauty, plus it is a short way from Glasgow and also the Trossachs national parkland.

Our Campervan at Cashel Campsite

We stayed two nights total in Cashel and we could have definitely stopped more – Although we packed our days full with things to do, there were some other trips and sights I would have liked to have seen and done (Maybe next time!). I found the people to be very helpful and friendly, and the restaurants and shops we used were reasonably priced even in the tourist areas like Loch Lomond Shores. Below is a list of the different things we did in and around the Lochs, hopefully this will give you a good idea of what you can expect.

Loch Lomond

The village of Luss

We visited Luss after our day at Loch Lomond Shores and it is no more than a 10 minute drive from Balloch up the west coast of the Loch. The village has a quaint feel to it and is very picturesque – The cottages and buildings are painted In various colours and many have beautiful flower displays in their gardens.

Looking out to Loch Lomond from the Pier at Luss

If you are in the area it is definitely worth visiting; we went to a gift shop there and brought some shortbread and a tartan scarf, and enjoyed a walk to the pier to snap some photos of a stunning rainbow that loomed brightly over the loch.

The village of Balmaha

You can read fully about Balmaha here, so I will just give a short summary of the village – 10 minutes' drive from Cashel Campsite, has a great pub which serves top quality food (The Oak Tree Inn), has a free of charge public car park, has a small harbour to walk around with an array of fishing and sailing boats, you can do a boat tour to the island of Inchcailloch and also there are some leisurely forest walks - All in all a great place with lots of character and things to do.

Statue of Tom Weir at Balmaha Harbour

Loch Lomond Shores tourist area

Situated in Balloch which is on the southern shore of Loch Lomond, the Loch Lomond Shores area is a great place to visit with many different attractions. We spent the best part of a day here and loved every second of it. There is a large car park which is free, and a shopping centre with a variety of different stores plus a coffee shop and restaurant. We had lunch here (I had a jacket potato and Lauren had macaroni cheese), and also had a fun game of Crazy Golf (I won of course haha).

Hello there huge fish!

So there is Crazy Golf, shops, a nice walk by the waters and the town of Balloch, plus this is the starting area for some of the Loch Lomond boat cruises, and there is also the entertaining Sea Life Centre Aquarium. We brought tickets and enjoyed quite some time looking at the various displays of sea creatures and fish, we also got to see the Otters being fed! (Video below). There is some more info on attractions at Loch Lomond Shores below.

Sweeney's Boat Cruise – Loch Lomond Shores

One of the things I wanted to do the most was have a boat tour on Loch Lomond, I had a browse on the internet and found Sweeney's – Their tours looked reasonably priced and a decent length too. We opted for the "Experience" tour which lasted an hour and £10.20 each (Prices correct as of May 2016).

Having a warm on the bottom deck on Sweeney's boat cruise

The starting point for the cruise was in Balloch (G83 8SS) and was only a 5 minute walk from the sea-life centre and the Loch Lomond shores shopping area. We walked to it, brought our tickets from the kiosk and boarded the boat – The Experience tour is run every 30 minutes starting from 11:30, up until the last one at 16:30. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip – There was an informative commentary about the history and facts of the lock, and also an on board bar for drinks and snacks. One thing to remember if you go on the top deck – It's can get bloody cold! We sat up under the sheltered canopy but the wind can be quite bitter when you are fully out into the loch so make sure you wrap up! I got some great photos and it was a fun way to see the dramatic landscape of Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre - Loch Lomond Shores

Tucked away in a corner of the Loch Lomond Shores tourist area, the Bird of Prey Centre was a nice surprise and a great place to visit. An adult all-day pass was £ and with that you could re-enter the centre as many times as you wished. The centre itself was set in a woodland area and the enclosures were spacious and well organised. Each bird had several information boards stating facts about their rarity, feeding habits and dispersion across the globe, plus some fun facts about their naming and character. There were Kestrels, An enormous Golden Eagle, plus some beautiful varieties of Owl and Falcon, all of which looked well cared for. The Bird of prey Centre is not somewhere you could spend a whole morning/afternoon, but it is definitely worth a visit and I found it extremely interesting.

A beautiful Great Snowy Owl
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Loch Lomond had such a wide variety of things to do and see – I wasn't expecting it, from Sweeny's boat cruise, to the Bird of Prey Centre, to the quaint villages of Luss and Balmaha. We could have easily spent a few more days in the area exploring and relishing in the beautiful scenery and culture.

Dont miss out on

The village of Balmaha – We stayed at Cashel Campsite which is under a 10 minutes drive from this delightful village on the east shore of Loch Lomond. In the evening we visited Balmaha a couple of times – It has a few shops for supplies, the wonderful Oak Tree Inn and some beautiful forest walks, plus the cute harbour.

Forest walk at Balmaha

Forest walk at Balmaha

Information and resources for Loch Lomond - links will open in a new page

Loch Lomond Shores

Official site for the tourist area in Balloch known as Loch Lomond shores - Link

Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre

Wonderful Bird of Prey Centre with some stunning Eagles and Owls - Link

Sweeney's boat tours

A variety of different length boat cruises on Loch Lomond - Link

The Oak Tree Inn, Balmaha

Great restaurant/pub in Balmaha on the east shores of Loch Lomond - Link

Cashel Campsite

Great caravan site on the east shore of Loch Lomond, pitches look directly onto the loch - Link

Sea Life Centre

Interesting and well presented aquarium in Balloch - Link

Photos taken using a Canon EOS-M with 18-55mm Lens

Taking photos in the Loch Lomond area brought it's challenges, it was sometimes difficult to get the exposure right to account for the sky, water and the glens so I had to under expose in most cases. The weather was quite changeable – One day It was overcast and windy, whilst the other day we had clear skies and sunshine. Just remember to alter your camera settings to fit the weather to make sure you get the best results.

The shores of Loch Lomond The shores of Loch Lomond The shores of Loch Lomond Our campervan at Cashel Campsite The shores of Loch Lomond The shores of Loch Lomond Cashel Caravan site, Loch Lomond Cashel Caravan site, Loch Lomond Forest walk in Balmaha Forest walk in Balmaha Statue at Balmaha Harbour The Oak Tree Inn, Balmaha Mash tatties and mince at the Oak Tree Sheep and Lambs at Cashel Campsite Owl at the Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre A Great Snowy Owl A gigantic Golden Eagle Cruising on Loch Lomond with Sweeney's Cruising on Loch Lomond with Sweeney's Enjoying the view on Sweeney's boat cruise The amazing landscape of Loch Lomond The amazing landscape of Loch Lomond Coloured Coral at the Sea Life Centre Shaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrk! Crazy Golf action shot Cottages at Luss
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