24 Hours at Loch Lomond
A Weekend in Glasgow & Loch Lomond: Part Two
Did you know that you can take in some of the best bits of Glasgow and Loch Lomond in just one weekend?
I put that to the test, when I was invited to experience the best of both worlds as part of the #PackMoreIn campaign, the product of a creative collaboration between People Make Glasgow, Love Loch Lomond, ScotRail and Visit Scotland.
The adventure started in Glasgow, which you can read about in my Short Visit Guide to Glasgow.
This is Part Two: 24 Hours at Loch Lomond. It involves a lot of food & adventure!
“O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road, and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye”.
I don’t drive, so I took neither of those roads.
See, me and my true love, instead we took the train, towards the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.
See what I did there? 😉
Balloch is a friendly wee tourist town which touches the tip toes of the ever-famous loch. Loch Lomond is said to be the ‘Gateway to the Highlands’, and Balloch is the southernmost gateway to the loch.
The train station is slap bang in the middle of town, delivering you right into the heart of the outdoor action. Door-to-door, from city to scenery. Perfect.
This direct service means a day trip to Balloch from Glasgow – or even Edinburgh via Glasgow – is doable. Luckily we were staying overnight, but still didn’t have any time to waste.
Here’s what we got up to in our 24 hours at Loch Lomond.
SEE & DO
Take to the water with Sweeney’s Cruises.
Stepping on to any kind of boat immediately instills me with a childlike sense of adventure. Both water and sky are the epitome of simplistic beauty, so any voyage is almost inevitably easy of the eye.
Throw in a vast surround of scenic delights, colourful history, and a nudist colony, and you’re really laughing.
Sweeney’s Cruises depart from the centre of Balloch, conveniently close to the train station. If you so desired, you could step off the platform at Buchanan Street Station, and onto the deck of one the attractive vessels in little more than an hour.
Life on board is pretty sweet. Absorb the views with a cheeky beverage or hot drink in hand out in the fresh open air, or retreat downstairs to get cozy if the biting breeze gets a bit too much. Guilty!
Relax into the gentle hum of the engine, the splash of the swell, and the voice of Neil Oliver, providing a guided commentary whilst highlighting points of interest in and around the loch.
Many an interesting character has frequented the loch’s shores and islands, from the celebs at Cameron House to Robert the Bruce at Inchmurrin, and let’s not forget the resident WALLABIES on Inchconnachan. Yes, I said wallabies.
Hop aboard and find out for yourself.
Experience the outdoors with Scotland’s Wild.
All I knew of our plans for this Sunday morning mini-adventure, was that it involved a hill, some walking of said hill, and a guide called John from Scotland’s Wild.
Within five minutes of meeting John, I knew some more:
a) John was around our age (there goes my tour-guide stereotype of a maturing silver fox with free refills of Dad jokes)
b) He was down-to-earth and eager to show us around
c) We were off to Conic Hill
What’s cool about Conic Hill?
Conic Hill is just a baby compared to the nearby Munros, by its lack of height does not equate to an absence of views. In fact, John believes the vistas are some of the best in the land. Even half way into the walk you’re rewarded with unrivalled side-on views of the loch.
We encountered two devilishly handsome hairy coos, positioned so perfectly on the hillside you would almost think Love Loch Lomond had plonked them there to maximize visitor satisfaction through heightened levels of perfect Scottish-ness.
In the background, the loch’s almost straight row of islands denotes the Highland Boundary Fault Line, which runs from the Isle of Arran, through Loch Lomond, and onto Stonehaven on the east coast.
From the top of Conic Hill you can truly appreciate the evidence of this geological activity; the landscape to the left is almost completely flat, contrasted by the mountainous scenes on the right.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more quintessentially Scottish, John whapped out some shortbread and a couple of drams at the top.
My post-incline heartbeat was pumping tartan blood round my veins, I tell ye.
What to expect from a Scotland’s Wild Tour
John is a natural storyteller and avid lover of the outdoors, who also happens to work as a ranger in the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park. With his wealth of local knowledge, and a refreshing enthusiasm for promoting Scottish tourism, starting his own tour company (only earlier this year) was a fab career move.
John takes small, intimate groups on big adventures around the National Park, creating personable, memorable experiences for all those who grace the seats of his touring vehicle; he has even customised the interior with woodland animal themed fabric and a Scotland flag.
You’ll learn about the flora, the fauna, and a history which is so eventful it sounds like the product of someone’s imagination, rather than legitimate fact.
Tales of Rob Roy MacGregor, the Colquhoun Clan, and Robert the Bruce’s tree planting escapades really define the culture and character of the area.
Our guided walk up Conic Hill was only a bite-sized chunk of tour’s full day itinerary, which you can read about here. When time is more in our favour, we will definitely be returning to see more, and hopefully with John as our guide.
This tour catered perfectly for myself and my other half. We love history and the outdoors, and have no intentions of learning to drive in the near future.
Why drive when you can experience Scotland’s Wild from the comfort of someone else’s vehicle?
Afterthoughts: I wonder when we can squeeze in our return trip… ?
Enjoy the home comforts
of Dumbain Farm.
If I had an auntie in the countryside, whose home was my escape from the city, I’m sure her homely retreat would look a lot like Dumbain Farm.
The long driveway leads to an inviting little abode, where our lovely host Sheila was waiting. I couldn’t wait to get in, kick off my shoes, and have a cup of tea. Remind me how old I am?!
Despite being just a ten-minute walk into town, Dumbain Farm has a much appreciated middle-of-nowhere feel to it, given its elevated position and surrounding fields. Rural relaxation ahoy.
Sheila welcomed us warmly into her beautiful home, showing us our bright and comfortable room, with a separate shower room and toilet. The interior was immaculate and decorated in country-chic style.
“How does bacon and eggs sound for breakfast?”, asked Sheila.
That alone sounded wonderful, however what she really meant was;
Porridge with jam THEN bacon, eggs, tattie scone, tomato, mushrooms and toast. OH and it didn’t stop there…
Did someone say homemade scones?
Just as well we were heading up Conic Hill to burn off some of that feast!
If I did in fact have a super-chatty, scone-making auntie like Sheila in the countryside with home comforts like Dumbain Farm, I’m sure she’d be sick of the sight of me by now.
Afterthoughts: Do we have to go back to the city?
Try the Macaroni Cheese at the Woodbank Inn.
My stomach is always crying for attention after an abundance of fresh air and a good stretching of the legs. It was a crisp, fresh day and after our Conic Hill exertion, I had comfort food on my mind.
The Woodbank Inn is in a prime location within short walking distance of the train station and Sweeney’s Cruises. The attractive eatery wears Laura Ashley-look wallpaper, pendant lights, and a Grandfather Clock which is used to secretly stash the condiments.
The food is served by a friendly, efficient team.
I made no hesitation in ordering the macaroni and garlic ciabatta – it was the Isle of Mull cheddar which sealed the deal. Mmmm. The dish arrived hot, and the sauce was perfectly cheesy and creamy, with a wee hint of mustard (I’m not a mustard fan, but I enjoyed the subtle kick).
I mopped up every morsel with my garlic bread, and left for the train feeling thoroughly satisfied.
Afterthoughts: The cheeseburger with black pudding wasn’t restaurant quality – poor choice by my other half. Macaroni all the way!
Have a casual dinner at The Boathouse.
The Boathouse is brought to you by the luxurious Cameron House Hotel. Its service offering is more relaxed and less formal however, providing hotel guests, locals and visitors with an alternative food and service offering from what the hotel is traditionally known.
The loch-view restaurant sits at the Cameron House Marina within the hotel grounds, and the bright, nautical themed décor complements the location perfectly.
The decking outside would be stunning for an alfresco meal during the summer, however the inside was equally as appealing on a dark autumn evening with a crackling open fire.
The Crab Cakes to start were so good, I later regretted not opting for the main course option. Served with a tomato and spring onion salsa and creole mayonnaise, it was a lovely and light, yet full of flavour.
I chose a meaty main; glazed ribs with corn, coleslaw and fries. It was nicely presented, plentiful and tasty.
My other half opted for the pizza, which was cooked in a huge stone oven visible in the open kitchen; it was average.
We shared the Eton Mess dessert, which was a generous size, and enough to prevent any heated scuffles over the last pieces of meringue. I would’ve won anyway!
The restaurant and separate bar area was very busy, however the service was quick and friendly. There’s a nice atmosphere throughout, and had we not been so tired from our adventures we would have lounged in the bar with a wee dram before returning to Balloch.
Afterthoughts: The price of the food is reflective of the key location and the hotel’s 5* reputation. While the dishes didn’t match the 5* standard or price, the overall experience was very good.
I was invited to visit Loch Lomond to promote the #PackMoreIn campaign.
The activities were chosen by me and organised by Love Loch Lomond. Thank you so much!
All opinions – as always – are my own.
How would you like to spend 24 hours at Loch Lomond?