The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park is home to iconic long-distance walk such as the West Highland Way and the Rob Roy Trail. If you are looking for something a little shorter, try these five easy walks in Loch Lomond:
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Balloch Castle and Country Park
We spent a misty afternoon enjoying an easy family walk through the charming Balloch Castle and Country Park, located just north of Bolloch on the east shore of the River Levin.
We began our walk at the trailhead along the shores of the River Levin. We were immediately greeted by a group of ducks (who are obviously accustomed to being fed), who proceeded to follow us down river towards Loch Lomond. There is a small, yet charismatic marina near the lake with many nice boats, and many that were not so nice; either sunk or taken over by the ducks.
The trail soon enters a forest with majestic, ancient trees looming overhead. Our kids had fun racing ahead and hiding behind the massive tree trunks.
The trees clear a bit when you reach the shores of Lake Lomond, allowing views of the hills surrounding the lake. It was a dreary day when we visited, so we didn’t get clear views, but the hills had a multi-layered, shadowy effect which was pretty cool.
We walked the shores of the lake for a bit before turning inland towards Balloch Castle. Built in 1809 by Glasgow merchant John Buchanan, this Tudor-Gothic castle is unoccupied today, with its windows boarded shut. It’s still an impressive structure on a large hill, powerfully overlooking Loch Lomond below. Our kids decided that’s where Merida, from the Disney movie Brave, lived.
We walked a different path through a forest on the way back to town. There are many interesting ornamental and imported plants and trees along this stretch, also thanks to John Buchanan.
We spent approximately 2 hours having a very enjoyable, leisurely walk through the Balloch Castle and Country Park, walking a total of 2.2 miles / 3.6km.
West Highland Way – North of Balmaha
The West Highland Way is a world-famous footpath in Scotland, spanning 96 miles / 154km from the outskirts of Glasgow to Fort William. Most of the West Highland Way is strenuous as it goes up and over the mountainous Scottish landscape, but the section just north is Balmaha is an easy section of the West Highland Way. It’s mostly flat and walks through the forest, always with the beautiful shores of Loch Lomond on your left.
Starting at the Balmaha Visitor Centre, we walked westward towards the lakeshore. We entered a small, but charming park called Tom Wier’s Rest, complete with a statue of beloved Scottish broadcaster Tom Wier.
The park was followed by a small boat launch area, filled with ducks who are looking for an easy meal. It’s a good place for kids to get an up-close look at some of these beautiful waterfowl, but please don’t feed the ducks. On our way back we saw a couple of swans and their five baby swans (which are apparently called “cygnets” – who knew?).
Finally, after a short walk on a sidewalk, we entered a stretch of the famous West Highland Way, which runs from the outskirts of Glasgow to Fort William. The trail begins on a quiet paved road which runs parallel to the Loch. It appears to end when you arrive at a boat dock, but keep hugging the coast and you see the trail continues as a proper hiking trail.
The trail leads you through a forest while hugging the beautiful shoreline of Loch Lomond. You will cross a fun half-moon bridge, which may have local anglers trying their luck underneath.
Before long, you will see breaks in the trees leading down to small beaches along the shores. We passed several beaches before we decided to go down and let the kids play for a while. They didn’t care that it wasn’t really a sand beach (it’s mostly small pebbles); they just started to play as if it were any ol’ beach in the world. The scenery is pretty amazing, with some small islands just offshore and large hills looming in the background.
From the national park carpark, it takes about 0.6 miles / 1km to reach the beaches with negligible elevation gain. If you keep walking, you keep running into new beaches. We suggest that you keep walking until your kids need a break, then stop at the next beach for a well-deserved break and some fun on the sand.
We walked 2.8 miles / 4.6km north on this family-friendly section of the West Highland Way. There is a building with washrooms at the 1.9 mile / 3km mark. Beyond this building, the hike wasn’t that special – it passes a campground and follows the road for a while. Unless you plan on going much further than we did, we’d recommend turning around after the bathrooms.
You can download a map of this hike on our phone with the GAIA GPS App. In the Hikes section search for “Sallochy Campsite – Woodland Camping via Rowardennan”. This hiking map includes a section from Drumen to Balmaha which you can ignore.
The Devil’s Pulpit
The Devil’s Pulpit is a short easy hike off the tourist trail. It was recommended to us by a friendly Scot just as we were finishing up The Whangie hike down the road. The Devil’s Pulpit is a deep canyon where the shallow water runs red. There is a rock in the canyon which apparently looks like a pulpit, so combined with the red water, it naturally became the Devil’s Pulpit. It’s a very short walk to a set of stairs which take you down to the canyon floor below.
At the bottom of the canyon, you can simply stand on the red rocks and admire the beauty of the canyon and its moss-covered red rock walls or you can kick off your shoes and join the others wading in the shallow water up-and-down the canyon. There are also many large fallen trees for people to sit or kids to balance on.
The stairs can get very congested, so an alternative is to continue walking past the stairs a for a few minutes. The trail will descend to the bottom of the canyon, but it isn’t quite as showy here, but at least you will get a good taste of the canyon’s red water without the wait.
There is a tiny Devil’s Pulpit carpark, but chances are you will need to park somewhere along the side of the road at this busy local’s favorite. You need to walk south on Highway A809 to get to the Devil’s Pulpit trailhead.
Inchmahome Priory is the ruins of a monastery on the largest island in the Lake of Menteith. The priory was built in 1283 and considering much of the structure is over 700 years old, it’s in really good shape, giving you a great feel for what the buildings and church must have looked like.
Kids love running around and exploring ruins. I can just imagine the experience through their eyes – all these broken-down walls to run around, holes to crawl through, windows to poke your head through, etc. Every time we take our kids to ruins such as this, they have a great time.
Unfortunately, there are chain-link fences around some of the structures due to concerns about the stability of the upper mortar work. The fences arent’s the best for taking pictures, but they don’t ruin the experience. There is no timeline on when the repair work will be completed.
The ruins aren’t very big, so it doesn’t take long to see them all. Afterwards, take the time to wander the trails around the perimeter of the island. The forest is beautiful and there are plenty of big tree roots for kids to climb.
There are three red wooden squirrels tied to tree branches throughout the island. See if your kids can find them all… Also, keep one eye on the water for wild otters who call this lake home; We’ve never seen one in the wild, but would love to!
To get to Inchmahone Priory, park at the Port of Menteith and take a motor boat ride across to the island. Only 12 people are allowed per trip, so you may need to wait a while. On busy days they will have two boats in service, but on our rainy Tuesday in July, they only had one boat running. We ended up waiting about 40 minutes to get on the boat to get to the island.
You pay when you get on the island. Hold on to your receipt as it is your ticket back to the mainland. There are washrooms, a small gift shop and a few snacks available on the island.
Bring midge repellent – they were out in full force during our visit.
The Waterfall Trail
After Inchmahome Priory, we drove 10 minutes to The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. The Visitor Centre is the base for several easy walks through the forest. We chose to do the Waterfall Trail as it was the shortest choice available.
The Waterfall Trail is an incredibly fun, short walk for kids measuring only 1 mile / 1.8km. All along the length of the trail are interactive displays to teach kids more about Scotland and life in the forest. Our kids literally ran from display-to-display, laughing and giggling all the way.
Their favorite was a pair of little round houses dug into the side of a hill with red and blue circular doors. The windows in these doors look out at a giant rat head sticking out of its home in a dirt mound immediately opposite.
Parents will appreciate the beauty of the hike as well as the opportunity to teach kids about the forest in a fun setting. There is also a tall waterfall (thus the name), but chances are your kids will be too interested in the hammocks in front of the waterfall to even notice.
We have an entire post full of all our best tips for hiking with kids.
The parking lot costs £3 – the machine takes coins or credit cards. The Visitor Center has washrooms and a simple café, where we enjoyed some very good lattes (great for a dreary rainy day) and some cakes to share.
Other Loch Lomond Hikes
- Though not technically in the Loch Lomond National park, the Whangie walk with kids is the perfect day hike for the whole family.
- Don’t miss the incredible views hiking to the top of Ben A’an trail with kids.
- And add the popular Conic Hill walk to your Scotland itinerary. You won’t regret it!