ASK folk to name a town on the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond and for many Balloch springs to mind.

The Vale of Leven settlement at the foot of the loch acts as the gateway to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, but with an array of family-friendly attractions, good shopping and restaurants, and a lovely marina, it is increasingly a year-round draw.

Historical highlights

People first settled around Loch Lomond around 5000 years ago in the Neolithic era and there is evidence that Viking raiders ransacked the islands.

The lands around Balloch – which means “village on the loch” in Gaelic - were granted to the Lennox family in 1072 by King Malcolm III, and the original Balloch Castle was built there in the 13th century.

Loch Lomond became an established destination for visitors in the 18th century and was already popular enough for James Boswell to remark on his return from the Western Isles with Dr Johnson in 1773 that he did not need to describe it in his journal.

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Balloch, which sits on the River Leven, grew up around the second Balloch Castle, the early 19th century country house built by aristocrat John Buchanan, bought by Glasgow City Corporation in 1915 and leased by West Dunbartonshire Council since 1975. The estate was designated a country park in 1980 and has been part of the National Park since 2002.

The town’s population of 5,000 rose by 80,000 when Oasis played in the park in 1996.

The Loch Lomond Shores leisure development opened in 2002 providing jobs for local people and a focal point for visitors.

Things to do

Whether you arrive in Balloch by car, train or boat, a walk around the marina is a must to get a feel for lochside life and admire the vast array of pleasure boats moored all year round.

A saunter along the boardwalk will put you in the mood for a boat trip, and you're spoiled for choice round these parts. In spring and summer, the lovingly restored art deco paddle steamer Maid of the Loch ( makes for a beautiful sight on the water.

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Sweeney Cruises (, meanwhile, sails all year round on a fleet of different-sized vessels, with daily hour-long trips taking in some of the loch’s 33 islands and recorded commentaries.

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Back on dry land but continuing the watery theme, the Sea Life Aquarium at Loch Lomond Shores ( is home to sharks, rays and seahorses. Predominantly aimed at children, the exhibits are fun and informative.

Beautiful Orla the golden eagle is the main attraction at the nearby Bird of Prey centre (

Balloch Country Park has 200 acres of woodland, meadow, formal gardens, playparks and shoreline to discover. Follow the Fairy Trail of tree stumps, enjoy a picnic and, if the wind is up, fly a kite. A circular walk takes around an hour and the paths are in good condition which makes it accessible for all. In July, the Loch Lomond highland games - which grew out of the Balloch Show - draws spectators from far and wide.

If it's a family-friendly forest adventure you're after, the zip wires, balance beams, tight-ropes and scramble nets of TreeZone ( are definitely worth a go. Open at weekends during winter.

Where to eat

Cucina in Balloch Galleries is a firm favourite with visitors and locals, serving up Italian classics such as pizza and pasta in a comfortable, informal setting. There’s a full selection of sandwiches and paninis at lunchtime and an attractive set-menu deal in the evening. You can also do take-out.

The Stables Restaurant on Carrochan Road gets rave reviews for the friendly service as well as the food. The piping hot pies are particularly tempting on a chilly autumn day, while the sticky toffee pudding is a must at any time of year.

The Balcony Bar and Grill at Loch Lomond Shores ( serves food all day, offering a delicious full Scottish breakfast as well lunch and dinner. The balcony has stunning views to Ben Lomond, perhaps best enjoyed with a glass of wine on a balmy summer’s evening.

As the name suggests, the Waterside Inn sits just a stone’s throw from the bonny banks and serves a full menu, including daily specials, washed down with a fine selection of ales, wines and spirits.

If it’s a hearty bowl of soup and a fluffy scone you’re looking for, meanwhile, you can’t beat the award-winning cafe at the Loch Lomond Homes and Garden Centre on Stirling Road.

Where to shop

Loch Lomond shores has an eclectic mix of independent and high street stores. Pavers Shoes, for example, focuses on comfort and quality, and offers a great selection of walking shoes and boots.

Hawkshead stocks outdoor clothing and accessories, while the Grape Seed specialises in nuts, seeds and dried food - exactly the sort of stuff that keeps you going on a hike.

There’s also a Jenners (run by House of Fraser) at the development, which has authentic Italian deli Valvona and Crolla in the foodhall and Café Zest, the ideal place to enjoy a glass of bubbly while you shop.

Loch Lomond Brewery, in Lomond Industrial Estate, showcases the award-winning local craft beer.

Where to stay

Comfortable: Just five minutes from the country park, the Balloch House Hotel ( has been providing hospitality for more than 100 years and mixes rustic charm with modern convenience. Rooms - many of which have lovely views over the river – start at £75 a night.

Family friendly: Lomond Woods Holiday Park has a wide range of lodges (some with hot tubs), glamping pods and caravans to suit every group and budget. From £45 a night.

Right on the water: Airbnb ( has a fully-equipped two-bedroom apartment overlooking the marina. Sleeps five, from £75 a night.

Famous faces

Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri grew up in the town, as did Olympic and Commonwealth swimmer Ross Murdoch.

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Much-admired writer Agnes Owens, who influenced the likes of James Kelman and Alasdair Gray, lived in Balloch for many years.

What to do nearby

Pretty Luss, which many still know as fictional Glendarroch from cult 1980s soap Take The High Road, is just nine miles north of Balloch. It’s usually pretty packed in summer, but a crisp autumn or winter day can make for the perfect visit, featuring a walk along the shore, followed by a cappuccino and muffin in the Coach House Coffee Shop.

It’s well worth the short boat trip to Inchmurrin, the biggest fresh water island in the UK, which even has its own 14th century castle. Both Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots are known to have visited the island, which has beautiful walks, beaches and the ruins of a 7th century monastery. You can even stay from Easter to October.

The stunning Falls of Falloch just outside Crianlarich are a 40 minute drive north. A spectacular backdrop for a picnic.

At 361m Conic Hill, which rises above nearby Balmaha, is the ideal “wee” hill for beginners and children. The views from the top, across Loch Lomond to Glasgow and beyond are awe-inspiring. The walk down is always sweetened by the thought of a well-earned lunch the Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha.