Loch Lomond and the Clyde Sea Lochs are conveniently situated on Glasgow’s doorstep, begging to be explored. We asked Lesley Judge, Digital Communications Manager for Love Loch Lomond and Co-host and Developer of Twitter chat #scotlandhour, to share some tips and highlights of this incredibly scenic playground. ‘It’s a great combination which offers the best of both worlds’, enthuses Lesley about the city’s close proximity to the national park. ‘In around 45 minutes you can be in a boat in the middle of Loch Lomond, in front of a roaring log fire or getting muddy boots, enjoying a beautiful sunrise on the loch, chatting to locals in a country pub, walking and wildlife spotting on The Three Lochs Way, or enjoying your lunch on a hilltop, feeling a million miles away.’
Sound idyllic? Read our interview with Lesley to find out more – and why not discover Loch Lomond and Clyde Sea Lochs during your next self-catering holiday in Glasgow?
What are your personal highlights of the Loch Lomond and the Clyde Sea Lochs area?
I grew up outside Glasgow so Loch Lomond and the Clyde Sea Lochs were our regular family haunts and my favourite place to escape to as a student in Glasgow. Walking in and above the village of Luss, and in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and Aberfoyle, coffee and cake in Drymen and Gartocharn, climbing Ben Lomond with friends, trips along the loch up to Ardlui and beyond, and not forgetting cruises on the loch from Balloch, Tarbet and Loch Katrine are all favourites – not enough room for all highlights here!
What is your favourite way to experience Loch Lomond?
Definitely on foot. A long or short walk at any time of the year, with great views and fresh air, followed by a trip to a good pub for good local food is hard to beat. My second favourite would be a loch cruise – they’re a great way to explore the area and I like to talk to the people running them to find out more about nature and wildlife. In Loch Lomond and The Trossachs there are loads of great options from Balloch, Luss, Tarbet, Rowardennan and more, and you can combine with a walk, hire a bike or take it on the Waterbus.
If visitors only have one day to explore the area what would you suggest they do?
Get out on Loch Lomond on a cruise or via a water-based activity to learn about the loch and its numerous islands, all of which have a history of their own such as Inchcailloch and Inchmurrin. It’s the best way to experience the beauty and diversity of the area, spot wildlife, learn about natural heritage and talk to locals. If you don’t have a car, take the train to Balloch and cruise or enjoy water-based activities from here. If you’re driving, you can do the same from Luss, Tarbet, or other points. Try a canoe safari or kayak lesson or take the new Two Lochs tour to experience Loch Katrine and Loch Lomond and combine a walk or cycle. Afterwards, enjoy some food and try some locally brewed beer or a whisky from distilleries local to the area.
Do you have any tips for visitors looking to step ‘off-the-beaten track’?
The Love Loch Lomond Twitter community is great at sharing tips on the area so it’s worth joining us and asking them if you have a question! Take a boat from MacFarlanes Boatyard in Balmaha – the family boatyard has been in operation since the 1860’s. Visit the island of Inchcailloch when it’s covered in bluebells. RSPB Scotland, the National Park and a local cruise company are running three special wildlife cruises to Inchcailloch with a guided walk on the island and the opportunity to spot birds and red deer – the first one is on Sunday 15th June and the last in August. You can also cruise to Inversnaid or island hop using the Waterbus.
Do you have a favourite viewpoint in the national park?
The views from the top of Ben Lomond, Conic Hill or the Cobbler (Ben Arthur) in Arrochar are all pretty spectacular. The view from Luss beach out on to Ben Lomond is a favourite as is the view from Loch Lomond Shores – it’s a familiar view to many but always different depending on the light. Another memorable viewpoint is from Ardoch, a beautiful venue in Gartocharn which has the most amazing views over Loch Lomond.
What activities would you recommend for families?
Families are spoilt for choice in and around Loch Lomond and Clyde Sea Lochs because of the quality and variety of the outdoors activities available. There are lots of great cycle paths and easy walks, not to mention water sports galore, from canoeing and kayaking to wakeboarding and waterskiing. Explore the Clyde Coast or try sailing lessons, visit Dumbarton Castle, the Rennie Mackintosh Hill House in Helensburgh, pony trekking in Gartocharn, zip sliding or wildlife watching in Aberfoyle. RSPB Loch Lomond and the National Park offer loads of activities and guided walks for kids and families. Loch Lomond Shores at Balloch is a hive of activity, with free activities for kids and families almost daily, an aquarium and community cinema, and a Farmer’s Market on the first and third Sunday of the month.
What tips do you have for visitors to Glasgow?
Take your time to walk around the city and talk to the friendly locals. Look at the buildings – the architecture is fabulous, from Victorian to Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Rennie Mackintosh, Greek Thompson. Enjoy the parks: Glasgow is the Dear Green Place for good reason – and the wonderful art galleries and museums, the majority of which are free – Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, The Riverside Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art are great examples. Take the subway – the Clockwork Orange – for the experience – and get off at Kelvinbridge or Byres Road then enjoy Glasgow’s West End. Visit the Glasgow School of Art – an architectural gem in need of everyone’s support since the recent fire. Its walking tours are running but guided building tours won’t resume until at least July. Visit the People’s Palace, walk on Glasgow Green, admire the Templeton Carpet Factory building and end with a snack and a drink at West Bier.
What other hidden gems have you discovered in the surrounding area or elsewhere in Scotland?
Not such a hidden gem perhaps, but Loch Earn, or “Rob Roy Country” in the Trossachs is also full of stunning lochs, hills and views, with some lovely accommodation and great tea and cake at Mhor 84. Loch Tay to Glen Lyon in Perthshire is a favourite. The East Neuk of Fife has loads of great walks and places to visit and the Isle of Bute has some lovely spots for picnics and walks.
We asked people to submit their images of ‘the real Scotland’ in our photo competition earlier this year – what does ‘the real Scotland’ mean to you?
You tend to see Scotland with different eyes when you have lived outside it and I’m interested in how visitors see it. I associate Scotland with the warmth and genuine nature of the people, our humour and the way we use language, which I came to be more aware of when living abroad. In addition the Scots’ approach to life and living, our vibrant culture, creativity and passion for our own country, and for the arts. The Twitter chat #scotlandhour is a great example of some of the best things about Scotland – the passion for what Scotland has to offer visitors, the generosity of spirit in sharing what we love about it and the quality of our welcome.