Balloch is an enchanting village on the south-western shores of Loch Lomond and easily accessible from Glasgow. Balloch is often regarded as the gateway to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The town has excellent road and rail links from Glasgow, making it a popular place to visit for a day trip or longer break and a good place to start exploring the National Park. Find out what to do in Balloch, Scotland.
Balloch is derived from the Gaelic ‘bealach’ which translates as mountain pass: likely to be in reference to the River Leven providing a pass between Loch Lomond and the sea.
Other references say that Balloch comes from the Gaelic word bal meaning village or hamlet, so Balloch translates as village on the lake (Loch Lomond is nearby).
Balloch’s main street runs through the village and there is a supermarket, gift shops, post office, pharmacy, hotels, B&Bs and many cafes, bars and restaurants. For inspiration and sightseeing ideas, enter the VisitScotland iCentre (opposite the station) where you can find out what to do in Balloch below!
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What to do in Balloch
Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park: Loch Lomond is a must for your visit to Balloch. There are plenty of activities for young and old to enjoy, including hiking, kayaking, tree climbing and cycling. You can also explore the lake on a cruise (see below). For activities in the park, I invite you to read my article on Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park was Scotland’s first designated national park in 2002. Loch Lomond itself is Britain’s largest inland water body by area, and the park contains a diverse geography that includes 21 munros (Scottish mountains), two forest parks, 22 lakes and more than 50 designated nature conservation sites that are home to an extraordinary variety of wildlife.
Loch Lomond Cruise:
Balloch is historically famous for being an important gateway for boats entering Loch Lomond in the 1800s. This is where the River Leven leaves the lake before taking its short journey to the River Clyde at Dumbarton. On the pontoons at Balloch you will find many boats for a relaxing cruise on Loch Lomond, such as Sweeney’s Cruises, which has been operating on Loch Lomond for over 120 years. You will also find an 80 year old paddle steamer, the Maid of the Loch, which was the last of its kind to be built in Britain and is listed as a British ship of historical significance and regional and local importance.
If a walk along the loch is more your thing, there is a path near Balloch House next to the bridge along the river and in the Country Park. This path runs along the shore of the loch and offers great views of the loch, hills and mountains.
Balloch Castle Country Park at the eastern end of the village is steeped in history and was the stronghold of one of Scotland’s most powerful medieval families, the Earls of Lennox. Situated close to the riverbank, the old castle was built around 1238 and was occupied until 1390, with only the mound on which the castle once stood and the remains of the moat remaining. The present-day castle, more of a Gothic manor house, was built in 1808, and is situated in a dominant position overlooking the lake. It is surrounded by landscapes designed in the 18th and 19th centuries to impress visitors: ornamental woods, open parks, walled gardens, avenues of trees. In the early 1900s, Glasgow Corporation bought the Balloch property and created Loch Lomond Park. In 1980 it became Balloch Castle Country Park.
Loch Lomond Shores:
The Loch Lomond Shores shopping complex is a must visit with many attractions to suit all tastes, including the famous Jenners shop, many good places to eat and many events for all, including a weekly farmers’ market. Loch Lomond Shores is one of Scotland’s most popular tourist destinations, combining beautiful surroundings with an exceptional mix of leisure and shopping experiences overlooking the majesty of Loch Lomond.
Loch Lomond Sea Life:
the centrepiece of Loch Lomond Shores is the Loch Lomond Sea Life Aquarium, which features the wildlife of Loch Lomond, an otter enclosure (housing Asian short-clawed otters, not Scottish), and a host of marine life exhibits ranging from sharks to rays to sea turtles. It’s cheaper if you book online. If not, look for discount vouchers in the Loch Lomond area guide, available in the visitor centre, before you go.