The largest stretch of fresh water in Britain (23 miles long and up to five miles wide), Loch Lomond is the epitome of Scottish scenic splendour, thanks in large part to the ballad that fondly recalls its “bonnie, bonnie banks”. In reality, however, the peerless scenery of the loch can be tainted by the sheer numbers of tourists and day-trippers.
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Designated Scotland’s first national park in 2002, the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park covers a large stretch of scenic territory from the lochs of the Clyde Estuary to Loch Tay in Perthshire, with the centrepiece being Loch Lomond. The most popular gateway into the park is the town of Balloch, nineteen miles from Glasgow city centre. Both Balloch and the western side of the loch around Luss are often packed with day-trippers and tour coaches, though the loch’s eastern side, abutting the Trossachs, is very different in tone, with wooden ferryboats puttering out to a scattering of tree-covered islands off the village of Balmaha.
The islands of Loch Lomond
Many of Loch Lomond’s 37 islands are privately owned, and, rather quaintly, an old wooden mail-boat still delivers post to four of them. It’s possible to join the mail-boat cruise, which is run by MacFarlane & Son from the jetty at Balmaha. In summer the timetable allows a one-hour stop on Inchmurrin Island, the largest and most southerly of the islands inhabited by just ten permanent residents; if you’re looking for an island to explore, however, a better bet is Inchailloch, the closest to Balmaha. Owned by Scottish Natural Heritage, it has a two-mile, signposted nature trail. You can row here yourself using a boat hired from MacFarlane & Son, or use their on-demand ferry service.