The bonny banks of Loch Lomond are made for family camping. In early spring and autumn especially, some of Britain's national parks in Scotland and the North can seem forbidding and arctic to leisure campers and younger family members. The lakeside areas of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, in contrast, are a sort of wilderness-lite.
Overlooked from the eastern side by Ben Lomond (3,200 feet) and hugged on both sides by national forests - Argyll Forest Park on the west side, Queen Elizabeth National Forest on the East, Loch Lomond is the biggest body of freshwater in the UK. It's dark, deep blue waters are surrounded dense woodlands and dotted with small islands.
Lots to Do With Children
It is easy to imagine, as you and your family, fish, canoe and go camera stalking for wildlife, that you are a million miles from civilization. Actually, though, this park and its pleasures are less than an hour from Glasgow. So finding something to do in rainy weather - often an issue when children are involved - is as easy as hopping into the car for a trip down the road to visit Glasgow's child-pleasing free museums. Or plying the lake in misty weather on a Loch Lomond Cruise. Several companies operate cruises, ferries and excursion boats between March and October from several departure points on the Loch.
And if you like boats better when they are in dry dock, you could visit the Maid of the Loch, the last and the largest of the Loch Lomond paddle steamers. She's restored, tied up at the Balloch Steamer Slipway and can be visited weekends for free.
More active pastimes include walking and cycling around Loch Lomond. Several long distanct national trails cross the park and are particularly gentle in this area - so suitable for families of mixed abilities. The same is true of the National Cycle Route 7 (NCR 7) that cuts through the east side of the park from Balloch, at the bottom of Loch Lomond, to Killin, near salmon rich Loch Tay. A good part of this trail by the Loch is purpose built, paved and relatively flat - suitable for all abilities and all kinds of bicycles. Information about trails and cycle paths can be picked up from park visitor information centers or stop off at the National Park Gateway Centre at Loch Lomond Shores in Balloch to pick up books and maps. But be warned, Loch Lomond Shores is a commercial shopping center with lots of opportunities to spend money on expensive Scottish products so you might want to wear blinders when you head there for your maps and books.
Family-Friendly Campsites on Loch Lomond
The bottom line is that Loch Lomond is a beautiful, easy to reach, serene place to camp with plenty of family distractions within easy reach if you need them. With that in mind, here are ten campsites that offer a range of accommodations, from tent, caravan and camping car pitches to rustic chalets and wigwams (also known as camping pods) - to suit beginner and experienced campers alike:
- Inchcailloch Island - Small tent campsite for up to 12 people, run by the National Park, on an island in the loch. There is ferry service in season.
- Strathfillan Wigwam Village - Camping pods, like rustic, one-room wooden shelters with foam mattresses and electricity for light and heating. Bring your own kit, though linens can be hired. Woodland walk to a waterfall.
- Beinglas Farm Camping Cabins - Sturdy wooden cabins that sleep four, equipped with mattresses, heating and lighting. The campsite is below Ben Glas and the Grey Mares Tail Waterfall, with good views of both from throughout the campsite.
- Milarrochy Bay - This is a Camping and Caravanning Club site, though non-members are welcome. 150 pitches for tents, caravans and camping cars.
- Ardlui Holiday Park - A self-contained village of caravans and lodges in a quiet part of the loch known for water sports. Several walkers' bothys - also known as wigwams and camping pods are available.
- Luss Campsite - Another Camping and Caravanning Club site on the shores of the Loch near the conservation village of Luss. There are 90 pitches but, because of licensing, caravan and motorhome owners must join the club 24 hours before their stay. Non-members are welcome to tent camp.
- Sallochy Bay An informal, tent campsite on the shores of the loch run by the Forestry Commission. There are 20 pitches and this campsite is intended for people who want a slightly more "wild camping" experience. But there is a toilet block and a sink for drinking water and washing up. Fires are only allowed in special mobile "fire pits" that can be rented from the warden.
- Ardgartam Campsite Argyll Forest Park - This is forest camping in the Argyll Forest Park, on the shores of Loch Long, about four miles from Loch Lomond at Tarbet. There are 100 pitches for tents, caravans and motorhomes in a beautiful setting. Modern menities include a toilet and shower block and a shop on site. Dogs are welcome too. Midges can be a big problem at this site so come prepared with good insect repellant and protective clothing.
- Cashel Campsite in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park 168 pitches for tents, touring caravans and motorhomes on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond, near some of the trains for exploring Ben Lomond. Boat launching facilities and nearby boat hire are available and there is a children's playground for younger campers. As above, be prepared for midges.