Scotland can be a noisy place with its bagpipes and highland games, but this northern British country is also full of vast landscapes of calm and solitude. One destination in particular provides travelers with a Scottish experience that’s both peaceful and energetic.
Loch Lomond, the largest inland body of water in Great Britain, offers an escape from the busy cities on tourists’ hit lists. Loch Lomond—loch being the Scottish word for lake—is a picturesque gateway to the less-inhabited highland. Amanda Fronk, who visited the lake as a college undergraduate, says all her constant traveling to and from Scotland’s more bustling cities wore her out. But she says, “Loch Lomond allowed me to slow down and take in the beauty.”
This beauty is also the reason Rick Duerden takes his study abroad students to enjoy the loch during the month of May. “The landscape there is beautiful in a kind of soothing way—that is, hillsides of bracken, and at that time of year, bluebells,” says Duerden. “What you’re seeing is ferns and this faint lavender-blue-purple hillside, so it’s just gorgeous.” Duerden says he takes the students to “see, talk, relax, and sort of spiritually let everything go for a while.”
Only a 30-minute drive from Glasgow, the lake has many trails winding through dense green forest. One such trail leads to Rowardennan Hostel, located on the east shore of Loch Lomond. “It’s a beautiful location,” says Duerden, who hiked for a couple of hours with his students to reach it. The hostel is isolated enough that you can drive only a small car to it—and it sits only 15 feet from the shore, an idyllic lodging for those seeking peace and relaxation.
Tranquility is only one side of Loch Lomond. “There really are two very different Loch Lomonds,” Duerden says. He explains that although the east side of the lake is peaceful and quiet, “the west side of Loch Lomond keeps up a constant hum of traffic because it’s the main artery from the highlands to the south.”
The west side is where excitement-seeking travelers usually venture. There, activities, restaurants, and festivals are generally located near the harbors, an area that’s more populated and accessible. The lake is a hotspot for activities where the Scottish mountainside juts straight out of the water. Although the water’s temperature is quite chilly even in the summer, you can canoe, water-ski, sail, and fish. Jade Thomson, from Dundee, Scotland, says, “You have to jump off the pier—if you don’t mind the cold, that is.” She also recommends using a paddleboat to enjoy the surroundings.
Being on the water isn’t the only way to actively interact with the lake. In the summer, Thomson plans to bike around its shoreline. One route takes cyclists along the west edge of the lake on a 15-mile path that passes through small villages, picnic areas, and national park information centers. You can also go shooting, golfing, or off-roading.
After all this physical activity, you can eat at a restaurant or visit the food vendors. Scottish vendors sell fruits, homemade cheeses, and crafts. “Scottish people are very vibrant,” says Fronk, “so they’re interactive. They want to come up and get to know you.” The lake also hosts many festivals, including the Lomond Folk Festival, which will be held July 26–28 this year. The festival features three days of live music and workshops that teach participants to whistle, hula hoop, or play the bodhrán—a handheld Irish drum.
Lodgings on the west side include the Cameron House, which is nothing short of a castle nestled in the woods next to a golf course. “If you’re up for splashing the cash, then Cameron House is the hotel to stay in,” says Thomson. “It’s a very traditional Scottish hotel right on the waterfront and is known to be the hotel of choice for the rich and famous visiting Scotland.”
Travelers looking to experience both the peace and the activity offered at the lake should visit Ben Lomond, a hike that Duerden takes his students on every time he visits Loch Lomond. He says that trekking the seven-mile roundtrip hike is the perfect mix of both sides of Loch Lomond: the tranquility and the adventure.
“It’s a cross between two very opposite things,” Duerden says. “One is the peace of just hiking away and finding yourself in a tangle of brush, with a few oak trees, and a stream. That’s sort of the leisurely peaceful moment.” The other side is the strenuous hiking up the peak and feeling quite tired. He says, “It’s that contrast of feelings that I really like—one’s peaceful, and one’s exhausting but exhilarating.”
“The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond”
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