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How to plan a cycling tour around Loch Lomond, Scotland

It’s 20 years since Loch Lomond & The Trossachs was designated a national park and a cycle around the loch’s banks is the perfect way to find out why.

There are more than 31,000 freshwater lochs in Scotland, with five of them (Lomond, Ness, Awe, Shiel and Morar) combined accounting for a third of all the water held in lochs in Scotland.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Richard Franks
Published 10 Dec 2021, 06:05 GMT

Celebrating 20 years since its designation as a national park, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs is one of Britain’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. A cycle around the loch’s bonnie banks is the perfect way to explore, ticking off picturesque villages, waterfalls and mysterious isles shrouded by trees. Words: Richard Franks

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is almost Scotland in microcosm: covering 720sq miles, it’s a wilderness of soaring glens, bewitching forests and craggy hills. This year, the national park, which was Scotland’s first, celebrates two decades since its establishment, and an action-packed cycle around Loch Lomond is the perfect way to immerse yourself in this timeless landscape.

Following the shoreline, this is a moderately ride of around 50 miles and so can be done in a day, although you’d be missing out if you did it all in one go. Allow at least two full days to experience this awe-inspiring landscape in all its glory, breaking up the ride with island-hopping, paddling and even some munro-bagging (climbing mountains more than 3,000ft high).

Unless travelling from the Highlands, it’s recommended to tackle the route from south to north, starting at Balmaha Boatyard and ending at Ben More; consider wild camping on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond (permits required March-September) too, for a remote night under the stars.

1. Inchcailloch

Start your journey at Balmaha Boatyard for an island hop. Accessible year-round by a small wooden passenger boat, Inchcailloch is part of Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve, and its ancient oak woodland is home to ospreys, white fallow deer and, in winter, migrating Greenland white-fronted geese. Allow a couple of hours to explore the island with its abandoned farm, ruined church and graveyard, or take the short, steep climb to the 279ft highest point for one of Scotland’s finest panoramas.

2. Balloch Castle & Country Park

Once back on the mainland, head towards Balloch for Loch Lomond’s only country park. In the past, 80,000 music-lovers have packed out the park for concerts by big-name bands such as Oasis and REM, though today it’s the more peaceful attractions that tempt visitors. Pack a wetsuit and take a dip in the bracing waters or explore the gothic castle and walled gardens before joining the West Loch Lomond cycle path.

3. Luss Village

A gentle eight-mile cycle brings you to the charming conservation village of Luss, famous for its old stone cottages, woodland-backed beach and watersports. If you fancy swapping the bike for a boat, park up at the cycle rack, rent a kayak and paddle west for The Narrows: a sheltered, sun-trapped stretch of water that winds its way between a set of wooded isles. Head back to land and stay overnight in Luss.

4. An Ceann Mòr

In the morning, follow signs for Lodge on the Loch and cycle along the water’s edge towards An Ceann Mòr. One of four viewpoints commissioned by the national park, this pyramid-like vantage point was unveiled in 2015. It offers exemplary views towards Ben Lomond and the Arrochar Alps behind, with a telescope atop its 31 steps that’s ideal for spotting wildlife. Afterwards, fuel up on Tunnock’s tea cakes at the cafe before setting off again.

5. Falls of Falloch

Another eight-mile cycle north swings by Ben Vorlich at the northern tip of Loch Lomond, before a gentle ascent towards the Falls of Falloch. This mammoth waterfall and rockpool is best viewed from the Woven Sound installation on the left-hand side; its cage-like tunnel leads towards a viewing platform with a quote from 19th-century writer Dorothy Wordsworth etched into the weathered steel. Watch thrill-seekers jump into the pool from the ledges of overhanging rock, which double as natural diving platforms.

6. Ben More

Following a 30-minute descent via Crianlarich, the route finishes beside Ben More, the national park’s highest mountain at 3,852ft. Due to its conical shape, this munro offers a challenging climb and is often tackled along with its twin-peaked neighbour, Stob Binnein, as part of a four-to-five-hour round trip. Portnellan self-catering accommodation is near the start point, and there are bike racks if you decide to stay overnight.

Published in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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