Wild camping in Scotland is very much accepted. In fact, for many people it’s a way of life, a hobby or a favourite pastime. From Loch Lomond to Loch Eck, people have been making their way north for years in search of a quiet sport, excellent views, and total freedom. The reason it’s so popular north of the border is because there’s no law of trespass in Scotland. In effect you can camp (almost) anywhere that falls into the category of being wild. It’s actually quite a privilege, and one I tend to forget when I camp elsewhere (I once mistakenly camped on farmland on the wrong side of the English border. There weren’t any crops or livestock to disturb, but that didn’t stop me getting thrown off the hill at the barrel-end of a shotgun by an irate farmer. I always double check my bearings anytime I walk near the border now…..)
Loch Lomond is without doubt one of the most popular camping destinations for travellers heading to the west of Scotland. It’s scenic without being terribly remote, warmer than you’re likely to get in the true Highlands, and easy to access by public transport as well as car. And with plenty of quiet laybys and gravelly patches of beach, you don’t have to travel far to find somewhere that’s perfect for pitching a tent.
While camping on the west banks and on the islands in the heart of the Loch is unrestricted by legislation regarding location, heading to the east is a whole different story, with a camping ban that’s legally enforceable and regularly policed. Pitch a tent in the wrong place here and you’ll end up in trouble. The camping restrictions are clearly marked around the area of Balmaha and Rowardennan, and although the only camping allowed in this area is in designated sites that you need to pay for, you can camp further northwards along the West Highland Way without problem.
The camping ban has caused all sorts of outcry from hikers and campers heading here. It’s seen as a breach of people’s right to camp where they please. But people who find fault with this ban are missing one vital point – the right of access for wild campers, really means the spot you pick to knock in your tent pegs has got to be wild, right? The middle of sleepy Balmaha, or on someone’s doorstep in Rowardennan, doesn’t really fall into that category.
There have been attempts made to have the camping ban introduced in the village of Luss on the west of the loch, but so far the National Parks authority has resisted appealing for the change – and frankly, I can’t see why. The village doesn’t deserve to be descended upon in such boisterous fashion every summertime, particularly not where there’s a perfectly good purpose-built campsite right on its doorstep. The Luss Pools are the reason most people visit, that and the fact that they like to be within walking distance of a pub – but again, that sort of defeats the point of going wild.
To understand your rights when you go camping on Loch Lomond, make sure you’ve read the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. It’s a simple and easy-to-understand guide to what you can and can’t do, which land you can cross, and reasons you’re allowed to be there.
All of the above said, there are some fabulous places that I recommend for camping on Loch Lomond. The islands have some excellent spots to choose from, and there are nooks and crannies (that’s a good Scottish phrase by the way) the whole way up both shorelines. If you want some suggestions for places to pitch your tent in this part of Scotland, drop me and email and I’ll let you in on a few secrets….
Scotland is a land of adventure, full of inspiring scenery, imposing mountain ranges and endless lochs. It’s the perfect outdoor adventure playground whether you’re into mountain climbing or gentles strolls along flatter ground. The gateway to the mountains begins at Loch Lomond, a place that hill walkers call home and where Ben Lomond makes an appearance as one of the first Munro’s you’ll meet, but you don’t have to go trekking up a mountainside if you want to stretch your legs and enjoy the view, because Conic Hill is right next door, and it’s worth a climb as well.
Conic Hill sits on top of a fault line, and ancient one at that. It’s not very tall at only 1200ft, so it’s ideal for novice climbers as well (in fact, you get a lot of dog walkers up here on a gentle stroll). It forms part of the West Highland Way, although the route itself skirts the actual summit, and also forms an easy route from Drymen to Balmaha.
The shortest route is from Balmaha car park, where a forestry road takes you towards the bottom of the hill. It’s well signposted at the beginning, and if you do miss the route markers you could always follow the steady stream of walkers going the same way. This route is the steepest, offering sharp climbs and twisting turns but it’s still navigable by most people, regardless of fitness level.
The other popular route starts at Garadhban forest (pronounced Garavan) at the other side, just north of Drymen. It’s a longer walk in but because you’re starting above sea level the actual climb to the summit is nowhere near as steep. From car park to summit and back again, including a few moments at the top for photos, can take around three hours. Ideal for a long walk with the dog and great if you’re looking to get into hillwalking and want an easy place to start.
Things you’ll need to remember about climbing Conic are that the top is a series of three peaks with the actual summit located right in the middle. The climb to the summit from the main track is one of the steepest sections, covered in loose shale and slippery when wet. It’s fine for most walkers but if you need walking aid you’ll need to take care here. You should also be aware that the slopes of Conic are farming land. You have right of access, of course, but you need to take care not to disturb the flocks of sheep that live here, particularly if you’re walking with dogs.
Whether you choose to climb from the Balmaha or Drymen side (Drymen is my personal preference because there are fabulous views for nearly the entire route) you can return to respective villages to relax in their local cafes and restaurants, all of them very welcoming to walkers. This is a great walk for all seasons of the year, every bit as accessible in winter as it is without the snow!
There are a few days every year that are a little more special than most. There are birthdays, anniversaries, the occasional wedding, and of course every public holiday or festival that gives us all an extra day off work. And then there are every first and third Sundays of every month when the farmer’s market arrives at Loch Lomond Shores Shopping Galleries. And these are my favourite days of all.
I love fresh food, I adore organic and I take an enormous amount of pleasure in cooking, so getting all three combined – especially in an area where good quality local shops are almost non-existent – is great. The only downside is the market doesn’t come around often enough.
You need to arrive early on the Sunday as there aren’t a huge number of stalls at this farmer’s market and the produce can disappear quite quickly. Not to mention that there are often events happening at Loch Lomond Shores, so the place can get crowded fast. There are nearly always some fresh vegetable and fruit sellers, a couple of bakeries, and a few craft-type stalls occasionally make an appearance. The best ones though are the local fisheries and meat suppliers who sell everything from freshly made salmon pate to venison burgers to die for. They aren’t that cheap by comparison to some of the prepackaged food in the local supermarkets, but they taste so much better. And that’s the point, right?
If you manage to make it down to the farmer’s market on one of these Sundays, look out for Chrystal’s Shortbread, a locally produced biscuit made to a secret recipe. It’s the crumbliest, most delicious shortbread I’ve ever eaten, and we would happily buy it by the bucket load if we could. If you’re here on holiday and you’re looking for some traditional Scottish gifts to take back home, they sell some that are packaged in really nice travel-friendly tins that should manage the journey without much hassle.
Sometimes, especially throughout the summer (although we do get a winter one as well) a continental market comes to Loch Lomond Shores. It can be a little bit hit and miss depending upon which market sellers turn up, but it can also be an excellent place to pick up some exotic foods. My personal favourites are the sweet, nuts and meze stall, where a variety of continental snacks are sold on the same, very large, market stand. You can choose between beautifully sweet honey cashews, Turkish delight and pastries like baklava, to a selection of savory nuts and then a wide variety of roasted artichoke, sun dried tomatoes, roasted garlic and more. It’s a smorgasbord of culinary delights, most of them unheard of before in the west of Scotland.
Another favourite is the German hot food stall selling spicy potatoes, fried in what looks like an enormous paella pan. The aroma from these is inviting enough that eating fried potato chunks first thing in the morning suddenly seems acceptable. I first tried this German dish - Bratkartoffeln I think it’s called - at Teutschenthal motocross track back in 2010. They were good back then, and they’re still good now. Sometimes you find bacon in the mixture as well, which is just an added bonus – although vegetarians should probably check first to be on the safe side.
Next time you’re hanging around Loch Lomond on an early Sunday morning, and it’s the first or third sunday of the month, head down to Loch Lomond Shores Shopping Galleries to check out their popular farmer’s market. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. And while you’re here, don’t forget to take a look at SeaWorld, some of the shops, and the kid’s playpark as well. There’s plenty to do here for an enjoyable family day out in Scotland.
I spend so much time writing about and travelling to some of the world’s most exciting and interesting places, that it can be hard to remember I actually live near one of them. Almost on the banks, in fact. I’m talking about Loch Lomond, that icon of Scottish landscape, about which songs have been sung and stories told, and also about the National Park in which it sits. In all my years of travel writing I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve written about this part of the world, and I’m so annoyed at myself that I’ve decided to change all that. So here I am, re-visiting Loch Lomond and the Trossachs in Scotland.
Most of my family are native to Scotland, but my formative years were spent in England. Our annual holiday was a fairly consistent toss-up between Bournemouth in one direction, and Glasgow in the other, and whenever our travels took us north of the border, we used the city as a base to explore as much of our old homeland as possible. One of my lasting memories was a trip to Perth because it involved driving up the old A82 (it was known by a different name back then) along the west bank of Loch Lomond.
The old road – the ‘low’ one from the song – was a tortuous and interminable road that afforded you fabulous views over the water and the distant hills, but really didn’t get you anywhere very fast. Not that we were bothered back then – our inordinately small, bright red, fully-laden Fiat 126 was never in much of a hurry to get anywhere.
It tended to crawl at a sickeningly slow pace every where it went, much like a lethargic ladybird, only without the spots. And it’s because the road was so twisty that I remember it at all. It took over an hour, maybe nearer two, of twisting turns, rises and falls, of keeping my eyes on the horizon and challenging my sister for control of the ‘sick bowl’ before we made it out the other side of the gauntlet to the safety of Crianlarich.
These days, that old road is mostly gone and the part that’s left is only used as the south entrance to the village of Luss. In its place is the much faster A82, a modern thoroughfare featuring real tarmac and relatively straight lanes, sometimes even two in the same direction. There are occasional opportunities for overtaking, something our Fiat would have scoffed at the mere thought of.
What the new road also has, that the old one didn’t, is a view. Sure, the old road was slower and a whole lot closer to the edge of the loch, but there’s only so much admiring to be done when you’re spending most of the trip comparing your apathetic Italian car to a narrowboat navigating some rapids, and willing the morning’s hash browns to remain below your esophagus.
When I eventually returned to Scotland as an adult, my first trip back along that road was filled with a certain degree of trepidation. Is it, after all, even possible to drive a car whilst being sick? When I discovered the original snake-like route had been relegated to little more than a side road, I was overjoyed. Finally I could make a safe journey up the lochside without losing my breakfast, and enjoy the views as I went.
The A82 is the main trunk road for the west of Scotland, and despite my appreciation of its new, flatter self, I have to be honest and say that the section above Tarbet is still a hazardous journey – although, thankfully short by comparison to the length the old road used to be. It’s busy every day of the week with tourists visiting Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, not mention the crowd ‘just passing through’. Not crowded-like-Glasgow-on-a-Saturday-afternoon kind of busy, but busier than any country road has any reasonable right to be.
There are certain times of the year when it gets a whole lot worse; crawling traffic caused by the Garelochhead Marches, the returning revellers from Rock Ness and groups of cyclists who don’t seem to realize that riding four deep on a 60mph road is not all that polite. (And I’m not anti-cyclist by the way. Just anti-impolite ones).
The road passes all the main villages along the way, bringing plenty of traffic into the popular village of Luss and Tarbet. At its base, the village of Balloch hugs the edge of the A82 and provides an access route around the other side of the loch towards places like Rowardenan and Balmaha, as well as the towering form of Ben Lomond that dominates the landscape from every direction. In fact, the A82 is Loch Lomond and the Trossach’s arterial route, bringing tourists to this fabulous part of Scotland in their hundreds every week. If you plan on visiting Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, chances are this is the road you’ll use. I certainly hope I haven’t put you off?
Every year, millions of tourists make tracks to Scotland to see the many hugely impressive landmarks built here, and to soak up the unique culture of this beautiful region. If you’re planning a trip in the near future, here are six of the most impressive landmarks of all.
Old Course, St Andrews
The most famous golf course in the world and a magnet to golfers from all over the globe, the Old Course is located in the centre of this beautiful town. Familiar landmarks include the Swilken Bridge, the Road Hole and of course the iconic clubhouse. Whether you’re a fan of the sport or not, you’ll be blown away by the first sight of the spectacular undulating fairways and large intimidating greens.
A miracle of engineering that connects two canals, the Falkirk Wheel was officially opened in 2002. As well as providing an important waterway facility for boat users, the structure can also be used by tourists. The Falkirk Wheel Experience gives the general public a chance to enjoy a truly unique trip, and the photo opportunities from the wheel’s highest point are simply too good to miss.
Loch Lomond is, by surface area, the largest lake in the United Kingdom, and has remained a favourite with tourists for many decades. The loch is truly spectacular, and a boat ride on a summer’s afternoon is one of the most pleasant experiences to be had anywhere. Because of the stunning vistas to be enjoyed, a camera is an absolute must-have.
Mull of Kintyre
A location that was immortalised in song by Paul McCartney and Wings in the 1970s, the Mull of Kintyre is truly beautiful. Located on the south-western edge of the Kintyre Peninsula, it’s home to an iconic lighthouse and on a clear day visitors are able to see the stunning Ailsa Craig and the coast of Northern Ireland.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Glasgow has become well-known as a city of culture in recent years, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has served as a centre-piece that welcomes thousands of visitors every week. Home to a vast collection of local and international artworks, it benefitted from a major refurbishment project a few years ago.
Located on top of a hill close to Stirling, the monument commemorates the great Scottish hero William Wallace. The landmark is a poignant reminder of Scotland’s impressive heritage, and was completed in 1869. Wallace was brutally executed in 1305, and was the subject of the popular Mel Gibson movie Braveheart.
David Showell lives in England and is a big fan of all things Scottish. When he isn’t travelling, he’s working for http://www.carrentals.co.uk.
I don’t know how ‘Ape’ I went, when I visited the Aberfoyle location of this popular extreme activity company’s high rope courses last Friday, but swinging through trees on Tarzan ropes was probably pretty close to the real thing. The Aberfoyle course was the first to be built in Scotland, and you can find it in the beautiful Queen Elizabeth National Park. I turned up with a fellow writer in tow to check out it out.
The Go Ape! course is really easy to find, located at the popular David Marshall Lodge, and well signposted to get there, as well. We started by having a coffee in the Lodge coffee shop, waiting for our allocated time, before heading over to the wood-built office to sign in.
There were six adults in our group in total and after we’d got kitted out in our harnesses, one of the instructors, Greig, showed us the ropes…so to speak! The whole system is really straight forward. All the carabiners and pulleys are colour coded, there’s a practice area so you can have a go at clipping on before you head off on your own, and every obstacle you arrive at has a card with instructions, just in case you aren’t sure how to get across it. Although short, the briefing is comprehensive, and before you knew it, we were off.
I found myself flying through the air on one of the longest Zip wires in Britain, over 400ft long, and over 150ft in the air. It was a scream. Literally! I’d like to say I landed gracefully, but I ended up on my back, covered in bark, and looking like an ape in camouflage! Lovely.
There are six stages to this course, each culminating with a zip line, and each giving you the chance to tackle progressively harder challenges. The rope crossings became higher, the platforms became narrower, and as you headed off into the depths of the forest you wondered whether you’d make it across all 35 crossings. The whole course took us a just over an hour, and by the time I’d finished, I really had to admit that it was the most fun I’d had in ages.
Things We Liked:
Candidtraveller had a great day out at Go Ape!
A stunning Scottish island tour from the comfort of a seaplane.
My sister-in-law had been booked flights on a seaplane leaving from Loch Lomond, and with her partner suddenly unable to go along for the ride, she asked me to step in and hold her hand…quite literally, seeing as how she is terrified of flying. It crossed my mind to ask why she’d booked the flight in the first place, but her white face and terrified expression kept me from rubbing it in.
The seaplane is run by Loch Lomond Seaplanes and is kept overnight on the Loch, making its way to the shore at Cameron House in time for each tour. I didn’t even know where we were going to be taken when I turned up and waited on the grassy slopes for my sister-in-law to arrive.
The seaplane seated around 10 people, including the pilot, but there were just five passengers for our trip, which turned out to be around the islands. For me, that was great because there was none of the usual tousle for a window seat, although I think my companion may not have been as pleased as I was about that.
The take off was surprisingly smooth, despite the water being a little choppy, and before long we were circling the lower end of Loch Lomond, taking in the distant view of Ben Lomond to the north, and looking out towards the Clyde in the south. It was surprising to see just how close the different bodies of water, from the lochs, to the rivers, to the seas, all looked from our new perspective. Distances that would normally take us an hour to drive were suddenly closed in a matter of minutes as we headed off in an easterly direction to explore the closest islands.
We passed Arran, Rothesay and Bute, before heading over areas like Garelochhead, Arrochar and beyond. And when we circled Ben Lomond from beneath the height of the summit, frantically waving to the isolated walkers trudging up it’s barren upper slopes, we were given a real feeling of the sheer size of one Scotland’s most famous mountains.
The landing was impressive, and no more bumpy than an Easyjet flight coming in to Glasgow International (at least, the last Easyjet flight I was on anyway), and by the time we stepped off the plane and onto the floating pontoon at Cameron House, even my sister-in-law had a smile on her face.
Loch Lomond Seaplanes offer a glass of Champagne at the culmination of the flight which is a nice touch and certainly adds an element of luxury to the occasion – although I couldn’t help but think that perhaps it would have been better to offer it to all the nervous passengers prior to take off!
The tours take in various places in a certain radius, but it is also possible to book them to fly you to some of the more remote locations of Scotland rather than take the train or drive. It’s certainly a novel way to get around.
Loch Lomond Seaplanes gets a seal of approval from candidtraveller.