We usually head south to our happy place in Cornwall for our family holidays. At the start of June we headed north instead, on a week-long mini Scottish road trip of two halves: first to explore the beautiful city of Edinburgh for four days; then on to Loch Lomond for the final three days. It ended up being two completely different experiences and we loved both of them – the busy city full of stunning architecture vs. the quiet countryside & nature. The energy of each place complemented the other, giving all of us the perfect balance of what we individually want and need from a trip.
We’ve done a half-and-half trip before (when we visited Boston and then Cape Cod in May 2019) and it actually works really well for us as a family so it might end up becoming something that we do more regularly in the future.
Half Term Adventures at Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond is on the western side of Scotland in the middle of Loch Lomond And The Trossachs National Park. It’s only an hour and forty minutes drive away from Edinburgh and just 45 mins from Glasgow but it felt like a whole other world from where we’d just been in the city. The landscape changed and even the atmosphere shifted as we got closer to our destination after leaving Edinburgh – I pressed my face up against the car window to make sure I took it all in.
Loch Lomond is a freshwater loch and it’s the largest inland stretch of water in the UK. The National Park sits right on the Highland Boundary Faultline (which is the geographical marker that separates the Scottish Highlands from the Lowlands). It’s a peaceful place full of stunning scenery and abundant wildlife. There are also plenty of adventures to be found if you know where to look for them.
Where We Stayed At Loch Lomond: Cameron Lodges
Loch Lomond was such a contrast from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh. We stayed at Cameron Lodges on the south western tip of the loch and it was the ideal location for us – close enough to civilisation that we could get everything we needed and had plenty of activities to do if we wanted to, whilst being far enough away that it felt like we could properly switch off and relax. We tried to get a good mixture of the two during our stay.
The three days we spent staying at Cameron Lodges – a luxurious and tranquil haven nestled in lush green countryside on the shores of the Loch – were exactly what we all needed. The perfect end to our half term mini road trip.
Loch Lomond Travel Diaries
The midweek point of half term was a travel day for us. We checked out of our Edinburgh Airbnb at about 9.30am, eager to start the next part of our mini Scottish road trip. We knew we couldn’t check into our accommodation at Loch Lomond – Cameron Lodges – until 5pm (an hour later than the usual check-in time to allow extra time for cleaning during the pandemic). I’d done some research (of course – it’s what I do best!) and we decided to spend the day at Loch Lomond Shores in Balloch, about a ten minute drive from where we would be staying.
I wasn’t sure whether there would be enough to keep us occupied for all that time but actually, there was plenty to see and do there. We arrived just after 11am – it was gloriously sunny and relatively quiet, though it did get busier as time went on – and headed straight to the wide boardwalk promenade where we were treated to our very first (very impressive!) view of Loch Lomond.
The boardwalk is lined with souvenir shops and a department store selling clothes and shoes. There were several empty units as well which was a little sad to see. I’m not sure whether this is Covid-related and places have closed down, or if they simply haven’t been filled yet. We had a slow mooch about, bought some postcards to send home to both sets of grandparents and then snagged a table at Caffe By The Shore for lunch.
The food was good – decent portions of excellent homemade food such as toasted sandwiches, baps, wraps, jacket potatoes and salads plus there were cakes, crisps and drinks on offer too.
Bellies comfortably full, we headed around the southern tip of Loch Lomond and made our way to the little beach where you could hire kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. We walked all the way around the headland and came across the Maid Of The Loch – the last ever paddle steamer to be built in Britain. She’s currently closed to visitors so we admired her from afar as we took in the views of the Trossachs in the distance and spent some time recharging ourselves in the surprisingly warm sunshine whilst the waves gently lapped by our feet.
Loch Lomond Shores is also home to the Dragons Den play park which has a wooden obstacle course, a fab slide, a toddler section and plenty of other fun things to play on – it’s completely free and brilliant for children up to the age of about 10/11 years old. My teens were unimpressed but my tween was more than happy to spend a bit of time there. For really wee ones there is the Loch Lomond Shores Express – a mini land train that trundles around the site.
Other attractions at Loch Lomond Shores include a Sea Life Aquarium, TreeZone and a Bird Of Prey Centre. We didn’t visit any of these as when we were there everything had to be booked in advance, but if we were to make a return visit we would 100% do them all. I’ve heard that the views from the top of the Sea Life Centre are spectacular.
One activity we can never resist, though, is an Adventure Golf course. When we spotted one near the entrance to Loch Lomond Shores we knew there would be an epic family tournament later that afternoon. It was only 12 holes but it was surprisingly challenging considering it was such a compact space – they fitted a lot in! It was really good fun (and the competitiveness didn’t get too out of hand) – definitely worth the £16.95 ticket price for a family of four (I didn’t play so I could document it instead). There were a couple of snack stops nearby – a churros stall and an ice cream stall for satisfying the appetite you work up on the golf course.
We needed to pick up some food supplies for our stay at Cameron Lodges so we made the quick drive to Balloch where there was an excellent Co-Op which had everything we needed and more. You could easily walk there from Loch Lomond Shores. The town itself looked really pretty and I would have liked to have had a little wander around but the girls were tired so we gave it a miss. From there we headed to our accommodation, checked in and settled down for the evening, ready for whatever adventures the next day would bring.
We awoke to a gloomy, grey morning made infinitely more cheerful by the birds singing right outside our lodge windows. It’s one of my favourite sounds to wake up to, second only to the sound of the ocean. We didn’t mind the weather too much though as we’d booked to go swimming later on in the morning at Cameron Spa, just a five minute walk away. We had a quiet couple of hours of reading – the girls always bring copious numbers of books with them in their backpacks when we travel – and I dived into my trusty Lonely Planet Guide to Scotland to see what other adventures we could squeeze in during our time here at Loch Lomond.
Unfortunately when we arrived for our timeslot we discovered that there had been a mix-up with our reservation and there wasn’t space for us in the pool (Covid rules on numbers still applied at the time of our visit to Scotland). The girls were disappointed of course and the very helpful and apologetic staff did their very best to find us another session but all the swimming slots were fully booked for the rest of our stay. So we did what we always do when something doesn’t quite go as planned, and did something else instead!
We returned our swimming gear to the lodge and headed out on foot to find the Auchentullich Farm Shop instead, just over the road from the Cameron Club Lodges main entrance. It’s only small but it’s absolutely crammed with fresh local produce and yummy treats. We bought some cakes (lemon and cherry) and some Scottish honey to bring home. It’s definitely well worth a visit.
After a quick bite to eat for lunch at our lodge, we jumped in the car and headed a few miles further north along the shore of Loch Lomond to Luss, a picturesque little village. I’d heard about a Faerie Trail there and thought it might be a fun thing to do. I’d imagined it to just be a walk through the woods – it turned out that it’s a proper tourist attraction. It was £5 per child and £4 per adult, which gets each person a map, a pencil, a wristband, a sticker and the chance to enter a prize draw. At first I thought that paying £23 to walk a self guided trial was a little expensive. I soon changed my mind though – the Loch Lomond Faerie Trail was definitely worth the fee.
The whole trail was so well thought out – it was beautifully designed and even kept the attention of the teenagers the whole way round, which really is saying something! There were excellent clues to follow, tricky puzzles to work out, handmade carvings and models to admire and fun adventures to be had the whole way round. It took us about two hours in total I think and we enjoyed every minute of it. The trail takes you through mostly woodland areas and as a result it’s not particularly buggy or wheelchair friendly – that would be my only suggestion for how it could be improved. Even though we were there in early June, there were bluebells still carpeting the hillsides and forest floors, along with lush ferns and wildflowers.
A quick change back at the lodge and we were off out again, this time heading to the other Cameron Lodges site three miles away, to go out for dinner at The Boat House Restaurant. It was a really relaxed atmosphere in there, the staff were very attentive and the food was good. I had mushroom pappardelle pasta (delicious), Neil chose fillet steak (slightly overcooked from the medium/rare he’d ordered, but still very tender and tasty), Ella and Mimi both opted for fish & chips (huge portions!) and Lola went for her favourite of margherita pizza. Somehow we found room for dessert as well – melt-in-the-middle chocolate sponges, ice cream and sundaes all got devoured pretty quickly.
There was a little beach just outside where we were sitting, along with a giant chess set, so after we’d finished our meals we spent ages playing there as the sun started to dip in the sky. We had a little wander around the Marina and admired the boats before we chased the sunset back to our lodge, stopping only for an enormous hare who bounded across the road in front of us and a handsome pheasant strutting his stuff by our front door as we pulled up and parked.
After such a busy day yesterday, the girls wanted a lazy-ish morning so we stayed on the Cameron Lodges site and had a further exploration of the grounds to find out what else there was to see. We found Cameron Lodges’ own Fairy Woods, which was a lovely little trail that had clearly been really lovingly created. The attention to detail was impressive and Lola in particular was quite delighted by it.
We also discovered the Jetty and spent ages on the small beach right next to it, skimming stones across the glass-smooth water of Loch Lomond.
There are so many tiny, hidden beaches along the shores of Loch Lomond – we stumbled across a few of them but I’m sure there are many more that we didn’t find. Each one was almost like having your own private, secluded beach – we didn’t see anyone else on them at all during our stay. It was so peaceful.
We wanted one final adventure before the end of our trip arrived and we had to head home, so we hired bikes from the Cameron Lodges activity centre for the afternoon and set off to explore. This was one of my favourite things we did, which, considering I hadn’t ridden a bike for about 25 years was really saying something (and I fell off twice because I was trying to film/take photos at the same time as riding!).
We rode through some woodland trails to Loch Lomond Shores (which we’d visited on the day we arrived) and then rode on into Balloch itself and headed down the cycle path that runs alongside the River Leven. It was a really pretty trail with some cool things to see along the way and I think if we hadn’t been driving home the next day we’d have gone even further than we did.
We had one final ice cream of the holiday (Scottish tablet flavour which none of us had heard of before and it turned out to be utterly delicious) before sadly returning to our lodge to pack up all our stuff in readiness for the long drive home in the morning.
As usual, we made a pre-dawn early start to beat the traffic and we were all sad to leave Cameron Lodges, Loch Lomond and Scotland as a whole. We had a wonderful trip and I’m pretty sure we all left a little piece of our hearts there. The journey home was quiet – we were all lost in our thoughts, processing our trip and thinking about all the things we’d done during our time across the border.
More Loch Lomond Adventures
I had so many more things planned that we wanted to do during our stay at Loch Lomond. In addition to the bike hire we took advantage of, Cameron Lodges also offered activities such as pony trekking, stand up paddle-boarding, segway safaris, 4×4 adventures, cruises and kayaking on the loch (to name just a few things!).
In the surrounding area I’d mapped out a walk to Conic Hill where there were supposed to be spectacular views across Loch Lomond; a wander around Balloch Castle and Country Park; and a forest trail at Balmaha to try and squeeze in. We were never going to be able to do it all in just three days though…I guess we’ll just have to return to Loch Lomond for more adventures sometime in the not too distant future!