What to do in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Discover mountain scenery, watersports and thriving wildlife in this wild and wondrous Scottish national park.

The view over Loch Lomond, East Cambusmoon, Gartocharn.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Jo Fletcher-Cross
Published 14 Oct 2022, 11:19 BST

Why go
Natural drama runs deep in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. The loch itself straddles a geographical fault line, a natural split between central Scotland’s rolling Lowlands and the rugged mountains of the Highlands. And while the loch — Britain’s largest by surface area — is the centrepiece of the national park, the area offers far more for adventurous travellers, including 21 munros (mountains above 3,000ft), 19 corbetts (mountains between 2,500ft and 3,000ft) and scores of other lochs, rivers and burns (large streams).

If you want to get out into the wild, the options are plentiful, from traversing the wooded landscape of the Great Trossachs Forest National Nature Reserve — one of the largest in the country — to spotting the ospreys and golden eagles that swoop overhead. Hiking, biking, kayaking and mountain climbing are all on offer, too. But despite the park’s wild and rural feel, it’s incredibly easy to access: 50% of Scotland’s population lives within an hour’s drive of the park, and trains from Glasgow to Balloch (at the south of the loch) take just 50 minutes. The scenic West Highland Line also runs from Glasgow to stops in and around the National Park.

What to do
Indulge any Robinson Crusoe fantasies by taking a cruise out to a deserted island. Sailing from the pretty village of Luss, the Island Explorer passes through the narrows of Loch Lomond before arriving at the wooded isle of Inchcailloch. It’s small, but large enough for a few hours’ exploration, and its gentle paths make for an easy walk. There are also plenty of wildlife-spotting opportunities here, with otters, fallow deer, woodpeckers and ospreys all living on the island. On a warm day, head to the beach at Port Bawn and paddle in the cool, shallow water before admiring the ruined, 13th-century church and burial ground. Inchcailloch (‘island of the old woman’ in Gaelic) was named after an Irish missionary, St Caintigern, who settled here in the 8th century.

Where to eat
On the shores of the loch, Cameron House is a five-star resort just a short drive from Balloch. It has several restaurants, including the standout Cameron Grill. Its setting is grand, but the atmosphere is relaxed, with a menu of classics drawn from the local area, including Scottish grass-fed beef, dry-aged for a minimum of 21 days. Other choices include West Coast crab bisque, hand-dived Orkney scallops, whole grilled Scottish lobster and Highland roe deer, served with black pudding and pickled blackberries.

Where to stay
After a day exploring the hills and lochs, relax at East Cambusmoon in the village of Gartocharn. There are two self-catering cottages: the two-bedroom Old Dairy and four-bedroom Curlew Cottage, which can be rented separately or together. The former farm buildings are full of character and come decked out with luxurious contemporary interiors and even underfloor heating provided by a ground-source heat pump. Enjoy your morning coffee with views over the Campsie hills, where lambs frolic in the spring. From £330, for a two-night minimum stay.

We like
With its dramatic avenue of giant redwoods, Benmore Botanic Garden is an impressive sight. One highlight of the garden’s 120 acres is the display of rhododendrons, but the Fernery is particularly lovely, too, with bright-green fronds sprawling among rocks and stones in an old Victorian glass structure. Those with energy to spare can climb up to the viewpoint to look out over Holy Loch and the nearby mountains, while keeping their eyes peeled for red squirrels and sparrowhawks. Bring your binoculars and hole up in the wildlife hide to spot these animals and more.

Don’t miss
Portnellan is a small family farm on the south-east shore of Loch Lomond. Owners David and Freda Scott-Park, along with their son, Chris, offer standup paddleboarding and kayaking from the shore, as well as speedboat tours which can be customised to include a champagne cruise, a pub circuit or a barbecue on a nearby islet. For a fascinating insight into organic farming, take a tour of the grounds, where you can get a glimpse behind the scenes of life on a working farm. Meet the cows, find out how things have changed since the 1950s and enjoy a cup of tea and some home baking while enjoying the views.

Published in the October 2022 issue of  National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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