Ah, the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. This magnificent freshwater loch in Scotland stretches for a stunning 24 miles (39 km).
There are so many banks to explore, but I’m taking you to the east side of the loch where eventually the road goes no further! This side of the loch also forms part of the magnificent West Highland Way which is on my ‘challenge list’ once I get a bit fitter!
We’ve visited the Loch Lomond area as a couple and a family a few times over the last nine years and we like to take our tent and camping gear.
Here’s a snapshot of our visits there!
Camping for two
Alan and I visited Cashel campsite for the first time in September 2006. We bought a two person tent and stayed for two nights. We were lucky to get a pitch right beside the loch.
Sorry some of the photos are not clear, it was the camera of that time.
The campsite was just lovely sitting on the loch with mountain views and amazing colourful changing skies. The cloud formations changed so quickly and performed an amazing sunset.
The next morning it was a bit cloudier. The weather comes and goes so quickly here!
A walk was on our agenda so off we went …
Ardess hidden history trail
The Ardess Hidden History Trail starts at the foot of Ben Lomond and is looked after by the National Trust for Scotland.
It’s a short walk of about 1.5km. The trail takes you through some beautiful woodland and you can looked for hidden histories along the way.
You can download the walk on the Trust’s website where it will give you wooden post numbers to look out for on your adventure. It’s a great for the kids too, a bit like a treasure hunt!
It was a great wee walk and I vowed I would come back with my children next time. Looking for the numbered posts would be fun for them and the distance wasn’t too far.
I always call this the Stargate, just my words. It’s the Ben Lomond War Memorial. What a beautiful place to be remembered and reflect.
Camping for four
It was August 2007 when we returned with my children. My son was seven and my daughter three. This was their first time camping. They’d never slept in a tent before and it was getting dark when we arrived, so putting up the tent was a challenge.
It was dry when we arrived but it had been raining the previous few days so the ground was damp.
We’d bought a new family tent and this was the first time we’d used it.
I took my children down to the loch for a paddle to keep them occupied whilst Alan put the tent up.
I wanted to help with the tent, I usually do, but my children were keen to go down to the loch. I was too worried to let them go alone, even though it was only about one minute away.
I remember my daughter saying: “look at the pink water mummy”.
The Cashel burn ran right through the campsite into the loch. It’s usually nice to hear the running water whilst lying in the tent, but that night it wasn’t a burn, it looked more like a river and sounded like a huge waterfall!
We eventually settled down for the night but I couldn’t sleep. I thought our tent was going to be washed away in the night and we’d all end up in the loch!
My son and daughter kept falling off their airbeds and lying on the cold ground so I kept lifting them back up in fear of them getting damp and cold. I remember it being quite stressful. I was so glad when morning came and the rain had eased off.
The next day was still wet and cloudy so we couldn’t take my children on the Hidden History Trail. Instead we visited Lomond Shores in Balloch where we explored the Sea Life Aquarium. It was a great wee day out and my children loved all the weird and wonderful sea creatures. It kept us warm and dry too!
Later that day back at the campsite we went out for a walk along the loch in the rain. We all seemed to walk separately in these photos!
My children found a tree swing and they seemed to enjoy it. I wasn’t sure if camping was going to be something they would take to.
It was a shame the weather was so bad for their first camping trip experience. I suppose the best was yet to come!
Camping for two and a hike up Ben Lomond
It was April 2011 the next time we visited Cashel campsite on Loch Lomond. This was my challenge camping trip, to hike up Ben Lomond, my first Munro (a mountain over 3000 feet). I was really excited.
It was a crisp spring day and the sun was shining. Don’t let it fool you though.
We’d upgraded our tent to a Vango Orchy 500. This was so much better as it had a fitted groundsheet with netted windows and doors. This helped keep the Scottish midges out!
We’d seen a couple with this tent when we camped at Camusdarach in Arisaig (my next post, you’ll love it!). Every time we go camping we always find better tents, furniture and gadgets to add to our camping gear collection!
It was chicken curry with rice for dinner (from a tin). It might not look that nice, but it was actually very tasty!
It was a lovely night and Ben Lomond was in view from the shore of the loch. “Hello Mr Lomond, I’ll see you tomorrow!”
Well, our tent was great for space and all that, but it was so cold on our airbed at night we couldn’t sleep. Does this sound familiar?
We had a super deep airbed, thick sleeping bag with extra covers but it was still so cold. Even a space blanket on the airbed didn’t help. Brrr! We think that having a high airbed with lots of air in it made it so cold to lie on.
Another lesson learnt, use a narrower airbed and bring a heater the next time.
It was a lovely crisp morning when we woke (wait did I sleep?). Alan popped down to the loch to take some morning photos.
After breakfast, it was time to get started on our hike. The first part of the walk was very challenging. There were lots of rocks and a step like paths for a while.
As we got further up, the path got better, but my lack of fitness was starting to show that day.
We walked about a third of the way and stopped to make a hot drink. Alan was carrying his Jetboil Camping Stove which is a brilliant wee cooker!
Then the pain began … cramping in my toes, painful feet, I could hardly walk. My breathing wasn’t very good and the summit was starting to disappear into cloud. I knew I wouldn’t see the views at the top or get decent photos.
We were both struggling a bit and decided to turn back. It was a failed Munro expedition for me and I was so disappointed with myself. I had already hiked up Goatfell in Arran, why couldn’t I do the same for Ben Lomond?
Maybe that little bit of weight I’d put on didn’t help but deep down I knew I wasn’t fit. So that’s when I decided I needed to do something about it. Oh and also try and find better hiking boots suitable for my type of feet (wide and high instep).
The next Munro I attempt will be a successful story!
Just thought I’d pop this in here. To this day, I’m generally a bit fitter. My daughter joined the local athletics club and I did too. We’ve both been running with the Harriers for over three years now.
I’m a slow runner and it’s difficult sometimes for me but what a great way to get outdoors and go anywhere you want. I couldn’t run 100m when I started, now the furthest distance I’ve run ‘without stopping’ is 12km. That’s progress!
I’ve been injured since October last year though and not been running much since then. I need to build this back up for my many running challenges in 2016.
If I can do it, anyone can do it!
Camping for two with a woodland and island walk
So … the next visit was September 2012. I didn’t realise how many times we’d been here until I started this post.
We booked a lochside pitch for a change with electricity so that we could plug in our new heater!
It was a hard standing pitch and not good for our tent’s groundsheet or our feet. The view out to the loch was a bonus though, and the heater!
We managed to catch the sunset, stars and moon that night. Simply wonderful.
Guess what? I managed to get a good night’s sleep. At last! We woke up to a beautiful morning.
The first day we went to Balmaha to check out the visitor centre to find out what other walks there were around the area.
It’s a lovely wee village and has a shop where we could stock up on food if we needed to. The campsite does have a shop too but sometimes the morning breakfast goes quick if the campsite is busy.
We found out about a walk near the visitor centre so we ventured off to explore.
Balmaha millennium forest path
The Balmaha Millennium Forest Path is a short circular walk around one mile long. We seen many people of all ages and abilities walking this route. I remember a very elderly gentleman climbing steps with a huge ‘army like’ backpack on his back! He must have been training for some kind of fitness challenge or walking the West Highland Way.
Loved that wee walk and we had great weather for a change! The next day we wanted to go to Inchcailloch island. Exciting!
Inchcailloch is one of the remote islands on the loch and also a national nature reserve.
It’s only a five minute boat ride from Balmaha Boat Yard but you can also sail from Luss on the west side of the loch. You have to pay to cross to the island, but it isn’t that expensive.
The lovely captain of the boat dropped us off and arranged a mutual time to pick us up. We gave ourselves just over three hours to explore which was more than enough time for us.
When we landed on the island it was so silent, I couldn’t even hear any birds that day. It felt like being in a movie, stranded on an island not knowing who you would bump in to!
I loved it and was so excited to visit somewhere new. The paths were really good on the island with the choice of an easy flat route or a walk to the summit of the island. The summit it was for us!
We met a small group of pensioners on the island who also climbed up to the summit. They all looked so fit and healthy which was great to see. I keep saying to Alan I hope we’re still exploring when we’re older.
It was a short hike and not too strenuous.
When we reached the other side of the island Port Bawn was so picturesque! There were picnic tables all around and a little beach with a jetty and our friend the sun doing a grand job!
Heading back we also visited a burial ground on the island. Sounds a bit creepy I know, but it’s interesting to learn more about the area and the people who lived there and still do.
It wasn’t far now to get back to the jetty for the boat. As we waited I took some photos of the view.
So it was farewell to Inchcailloch island as we boarded the boat. We would come back with my children as I think they would love it. It’s on my list to come back here in May when the bluebells are in full bloom.
I can honestly say whilst I’ve been writing this I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the adventure!
I love camping. It’s hard work getting organised and setting up the tent, but it’s worth it, especially if you have a heater!
I really liked Cashel campsite. It’s a great location to access all of these walks but there are other great campsites in the Loch Lomond National Park to check out too. If you don’t fancy camping you can find plenty of other places to stay in Loch Lomond.
Phew! This is the longest post I’ve written so far. I hope you’ve found it interesting and enjoyed looking at my photos. Make sure and visit the beautiful Loch Lomond and the Trossachs!
Thanks for reading.
Love, Dawn-Marie x