Places to Visit in Scotland
- Loch Lomond Shores, Balloch
"This noble lake, boasting innumerable beautiful islands...affords one of the most surprising, beautiful and sublime spectacles in nature".
Sir Walter Scott
The Loch Lomond Shores Visitor Centre
The wild beauty of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs has attracted poets, writers, sightseers and visitors for many generations - certainly back to the early 19th century when people began to travel here for a day out from the city, to enjoy its peace and tranquility and perhaps a paddle-steamer cruise around the loch.
It is now estimated that over 7 million people visit Loch Lomond every year, driving up the loch to admire the stunning beauty of the scenery, perhaps on a day out from Glasgow or visitors on holiday travelling north to the Highlands. However, very few would stop to explore the area or stay for a few days. But now the Loch is literally "opening its doors" with the creation of Loch Lomond Shores, a magnificent state-of-the-art purpose-built visitor centre which offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the natural environment. Through films, exhibits and boat trips, this is an entertaining way to hear about the fascinating history, legends and natural heritage of the loch and surrounding landscape. For a great day out for all the family there is a range of shops - including the famous Edinburgh stores, Jenners - cafes, restaurants as well as woodland walks and bicycle rides through the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park right beside the loch.
The idea behind a visitor centre here is not exactly new. The potential for such an attraction was mooted as far back as 1948 when Sir Patrick Abercrombie, Architect of the Clyde Valley Regional Plan commented:
"Here should be the great reception point for tourists. An area where they should be accommodated and suitably introduced to the attractions of the North".
Balloch has long been recognised as a gateway to the Highlands and a perfect location to entice visitors. It has taken fifty years for Abercrombie's far sighted, bold and imaginative vision to come to completion.
Loch Lomond Shores is situated at Balloch on the very southern bay of the loch using reclaimed land with a natural lagoon and features a complex of sensitively designed buildings to blend in within the surrounding woodland. There's a main visitor centre, shopping mall, bars and restaurants, an outdoor children's adventure playground, picnic area and pebble beach. There will be a programme of activities and events to suit children of all ages.
Here too is the National Park Centre, the gateway into the park, which offers attractive exhibits and information on woodland and hill walks. A new slipway beside Balloch Pier will encourage visitors to experience the loch fully with a range of boating and sports activities. Cruises up the loch may also be booked through established local companies. On the far side the famous Maid of the Loch is permanently moored and now features an exhibition about the old paddle-steaming days.
Drumkinnon Tower is the heart of Loch Lomond Shores and while of contemporary design is reminiscent of a medieval Scottish castle, a spectacular seven storey circular rough-stone building with fabulous viewing galleries at different levels to offer the best possible outlook right up the loch.
There is a small charge for entrance to the Tower itself with its own café, restaurant and shop with an additional charge to view the films. There are two separate film shows, which form the integral interpretative entertainment for visitors. "Beneath the Loch" is an animated ten-minute show for all the family, which takes you on an underwater journey in the company of a young otter to find out all about the wonderful history, myths and legends of the Loch.
Following this taster to introduce you to the world of Loch Lomond, you are then invited into the main auditorium - a truly beautiful theatre - where you will enjoy an epic adventure film entitled "Legend of Loch Lomond." This is based on the famous song, The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond and was filmed entirely around the beautiful setting of the loch, many scenes taken high up from a helicopter. It's Midsummer's night and romance is in the air in true Shakespearean fashion. The narrative focuses on two love stories, one set during the Jacobite Rebellion and the other taking place today. The 40-minute film captures the importance of our history, of battles fought and won, of love and romance, linking the past with the present. Through this magical time-travel journey it celebrates the landscape and heritage, which we can appreciate around Loch Lomond today.
The story is simply told for all ages with lots of action, songs and beautiful scenery. The dialogue is in English and a summary can be given in French, Italian, Spanish, German and Japanese for visitors.
In addition to the film shows, you can browse around the spacious shop, which sells quality souvenirs, toys, stationary, cards and gifts. There are ice-cream kiosks, coffee shop, café and a restaurant for lunch. Wherever you wander around the tower, with its amazing huge spiral ramped windowed staircase, there are superb views up the loch. For the best panoramic view towards Ben Lomond, climb up or take the lift to the viewing gallery on the 6th and 7th floor where there's a café and an outdoor terrace. This is a must-see if you come to Loch Lomond Shores - for a modest entrance fee (entry to the rest of Drumkinnon Tower is free). Opening hours in the summer months of July and August are 10am to 6pm; in the months of April, May, June and September, hours are 10am - 5pm on weekdays and 10am - 6pm at weekends. From April to September, the restaurant is open on Friday and Saturday evening. During the other months of the year (October - March) Drumkinnon Tower is open from 11am - 4pm each day.
The beauty of the design of this magnificent leisure and heritage centre is that Loch Lomond is a year round, all-weather experience providing indoor visitor facilities and entertainment as well as an outdoor playground where children can play, and all can sit admiring the scenery while enjoying a picnic. And if boating is not exactly your scene, then you can also indulge in a spot of retail therapy.
Jenners and the Shopping Experience
Behind the tower is an attractive Shopping Gallery, constructed of wood and slate - an entire crescent of stores, bars and bistros, sweeping down to the shoreline. In pride of place is Jenners, the first outlet to be opened outside Edinburgh. Jenners on the capital's Princes Street (pictured here) is the oldest independent department store in the world.
Renowned already for quality fashions, Scottish knitwear, food and gifts, the products for sale will specifically cater for the day visitor and holiday maker: casual clothes, designer brand names like Pringle and Timberland, cashmere sweaters and scarves, luggage and handbags, accessories and sunglasses, Molton Brown cosmetics and perfumerie. There`s an extensive Food Hall, featuring the very best of Scottish produce - smoked salmon, cheese, shortbread and perhaps even haggis. Within Jenners you`ll also find a welcome Conservatory Café for a pit-stop break over lunch or coffee - after you've shopped till you've dropped.
The Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
This is Scotland's first National Park. Following on from the tradition of England's Lake District, the area was the natural choice with a loch which is 24 miles long, 5 miles wide, featuring 38 islands. Loch Lomond has the greatest concentration of wildlife and has the largest expanse of fresh water in the UK. The National Park has been created to protect the environment and natural heritage of this magnificent unspoilt part of Scotland. Visitors are now welcome to walk through the woodland and forests, to take bicycle rides or a guided nature trail in order to understand more about the local flora and fauna. A team of park rangers will be on hand to offer information, orientation maps and to explain the importance of the Park and its aims and policies on conservation.
Also within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is Loch Katrine, only a few miles (as the eagle flies) from Loch Lomond. There you can sail on the ss Sir Walter Scott whose books on the "Lady of the Lake" and Rob Roy MacGregor first put the area on the tourist map.
This mountainous landscape all around here with its narrow glens and wide glacial straths, is where the gentle Lowlands of the south meet the rugged Highlands of the north. Arctic plants can be found at high altitude while lichen and moss clings to the trees in the warmer woodlands below. For the hill climber, the area has 21 Monroes and 20 Corbetts; in total the Park spans 720 square miles of beautiful dramatic scenery. This is of course a haven for a colourfully diverse bird life of around 200 species.
As the Gateway to the Park, the National Park Centre is of a beautiful contemporary design in keeping with the environment, constructed of glass, Caithness stone with a wooden platform jutting out over the water. Inside there will be a changing display of exhibits and advice on walks and hill climbing. The local tourist board can also be found here for all information on where to stay and what to do in the area.
At the opening ceremony in July 2002, a spokesman for VisitScotland remarked,"You only have to look at the success of National Parks in other countries to see the role they play in providing opportunities for recreational activities as well as protecting and enriching the wildlife and cultural heritage."
Loch Lomond Shores together with the nation's first National Park is a most exciting, imaginative and important leisure and heritage destination for everyone who lives in Scotland and all who visit our country. It is easily accessible by road and rail and is just 40 minutes drive from Glasgow city centre. There is ample parking space for cars and coaches.
The theme of Loch Lomond Shores is Wind, Fire and Water and there are plans for special events all year round for boating regattas, classic car rallies, street-theatre performances and hot air balloon festivals. The important emphasis is to celebrate and make full educational and imaginative use of the surrounding environment. This will allow each and every visitor, of all ages to enjoy the experience of the loch and its natural landscape.
There's a range of accommodation to suit all budgets nearby. For a personal recommendation have a look at the reviews for Cameron House and The Lodge on Loch Lomond on the Rampant Scotland Great Places to Stay pages.
So come to Loch Lomond - and stay awhile.
You can find out more about Loch Lomond Shores on their own Web Site.
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