Planning a trip to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park? This post contains all the practical information you might need to prepare your journey and make the most of your time in the park!
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The Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park is the oldest of two national parks in Scotland. Opened in 2002 and covering 720 square miles, it serves to protect the stunning mountains, lochs and glens of the southern highlands and provides an opportunity for people to enjoy Scotland’s natural heritage.
The park is located just north of the Central Belt and within easy reach from many of Scotland’s cities (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth and Dundee). As such, it is a popular getaway for day trips, weekend escapes or longer holidays.
There is a lot to do and see in the national park – make sure to check out this post with 40 ideas for things to do in the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park. Planning a trip to the park is not only about choosing where to go and what to do, though. It is also about knowing where to find key facilities and other practical information. That’s what this post is for!
This post is a handy practical guide for visiting the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park and contains:
- Transport information: Getting around the park, key roads and routes to know, using public transport, and taking waterbuses.
- Visitor information: What to expect from entrance fees, where to find visitor centres, and info about facilities.
- Travel information: How much time to spend in the park, where to stay, where to eat & drink, and how to fit the national park into your Scotland itinerary.
Transport Info for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Where is the National Park?
The Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park lies north of Glasgow and covers much of the south-western Highlands. It is split into four regions: Loch Lomond at the centre, the Trossachs east of Loch Lomond, Breadalbane in the north and north-west of the park, and Cowal in the west and south-west.
Each region offers very different landscapes, flora and fauna. It is well-worth exploring in all directions!
Getting around the National Park
You can get around the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park by car or by public transport. The former gives you more flexibility, especially if you spend a week or so in the park, but it is perfectly feasible to reach many locations suggested in this post by train or bus.
Driving in the National Park
There are several major roads running through the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park – but don’t forget that “major road” in Scotland rarely means that a road has more than one lane in each direction.
In the west, the A82 (connecting Glasgow with Inverness) runs through the national park and leads all along the western shore of Loch Lomond. The A83 branches off around half-way up Loch Lomond (Tarbet/Arrochar) and leads towards the Cowal peninsula (A815 and other smaller roads).
In the Breadalbane region, the A84 (connecting Stirling with Lochearnhead) and the A85 (Perth to Oban) connect key locations in the national park, like Callander, Loch Earn, Glen Ogle, Crianlarich and Tyndrum.
There are also many smaller roads, especially through the hills and glens of the Trossachs and the Cowal peninsula.
Public Transport in the National Park
The main option to get around the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park is by bus. Most villages are services by buses, but trailheads can be a little off the beaten track. Trails around Balmaha, Arrochar and Callander are all within walking distance from local bus stops though.
From Glasgow, you can also get the train to Balloch or the West Highland Line with stops in Arrochar, Ardlui, Crianlarich and Tyndrum.
Using public transport, it is important to choose a place to stay that is well connected with other parts of the park. Good hubs, depending on the regions you want to focus on, might be Stirling, Balloch, Arrochar or Dunoon.
Visit my Travel Resources page for information about buying bus and train tickets in Scotland.
Taking the Waterbus
Another way to get around the national park without a car is by utilising the waterbuses that criss-cross Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine during the summer months.
On Loch Lomond, the boats connect places like Inveruglas, Inversnaid, Tarbet, Rowardennan, Luss, Balmaha, Balloch and the island Inchcailloch.
On Loch Katrine, there is one route connecting Stronachlacher (west) with the Trossachs Pier (east).
The waterbus is a great way to explore different parts of Loch Lomond, especially the more remote areas on the eastern shore. The ports are great starting points for gentle walks, challenging hikes and mountain biking routes. Find out more here.
Visitor Info for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
There is no fee to enter the national park, however, many car parks charge a fee and there are many paid activities.
Visitor Centres in the National Park
There are several visitor centres around the national park as well as VisitScotland information centres in the major villages. You can find the ones I recommend visiting on this map.
- The Balmaha Visitor Centre is the main National Park Centre and features an exhibition about the park, its geology and the Highland Boundary Fault. There is also a shop, toilets, a picnic area, a play park and staff who can help you plan your day. The centre lies at the foot of Conic Hill and overlooks the islands of Loch Lomond, and is thus also a great starting point for many activities in the park.
- The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre near Aberfoyle has all the information about local walks in the forest park, views of stunning a waterfall, a cafe with panoramic views and a wildlife hide. Plus public toilets and a shop.
- The Glen Finglas Visitor Centre between Loch Achray and Loch Venachar provides information on woodland regeneration and the native woodland habitat.
Parking in the National Park
Car parks across the national park are operated and maintained by the different local councils. Many smaller car parks and road lay-bys are free of charge, while car parks at the bottom of trailheads usually incur a fee.
The easiest way to pay for parking is to have plenty of coins handy. However, there are also apps that allow you to pay without cash, such as RingGo.
There are multiple petrol stations around the national park, for example in Balloch, Callander, Tyndrum and Arrochar.
Public toilet facilities
There are many toilets around the national park (often at car parks) as well as public toilet facilities in villages. Find a full list here. Some may charge a small fee, so have coins handy.
Things to do in the national park
Loch Lomond & the Trossachs is of course, first and foremost, famous for its beautiful scenery. Enjoy taking it on on a walk or hike, hire bikes or kayaks to get off the beaten track, join a cruise or book a scenic flight high above the park.
The national park is packed with things to do – here are 40 ideas to choose from!
Travel Info for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
How much time do you need?
Due to its location, the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park is perfect for day trips from the city. You could spend all day immersed in the mountains and lochs of the southern highlands and be back in Edinburgh or Glasgow for dinner. Many of the locations listed below make for fab day trips from Edinburgh or Glasgow.
However, it is really worth spending at least a week in the area, if you can. There is just so much to do and see and the four regions of the park are so different, it would be a shame to rush through!
Fitting Loch Lomond into your Scotland itinerary
My classic 8-day Scottish Highland itinerary leads through the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park. You can either stop for views or short walks on the way or add a day or two to your trip to take in more sites in the national park.
Visiting Loch Lomond also works well in combination with my west coast itinerary, because it lies on the way back from the coast.
Where to stay in the national park
There are countless villages and holiday parks in the national park which offer plenty of accommodation options in the park. Here are some of my top choices:
- The Lodge on Loch Lomond, Luss: A stunning 4-star hotel in the charming village of Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond. Most of their guest rooms offer panoramic views of the loch. There are also one- or two-bedroom suites available.
- The Inn on Loch Lomond, Inverbeg: A few miles up the loch, the Inn on Loch Lomond is a traditional hotel with spacious and modern rooms. Many have views of Loch Lomond and the loch is just a short walk away.
- Ashfield House Boutique B&B, Arrochar: A beautiful Bed & Breakfast nestled on the banks of Loch Long, perfectly located to explore Loch Lomond and the Cowal peninsula, or hike in the Arrochar Alps. The rooms are stunning and host Cristina is a true whizz in the kitchen!
- Strathyre Forest Holidays, Loch Lubnaig: A number of breathtaking log cabins and lodges on the quiet western shore of Luch Lubnaig. The cabins offer stunning views of the loch and one even has a hot tub! I’ve not stayed here yet, but this treat is high up on my list.
Budget-friendly Youth Hostels
There are several youth hostels in the national park. Many of them are located along the West Highland Way, which follows the eastern shore of Loch Lomond – for example, Crianlarich Youth Hostel, Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel or Inversnaid Bunkhouse.
Camping & Wild Camping
There are specific rules around camping and wild camping within the national park. There are managed campsites with facilities ranging from electric hookups to composting toilets, as well as Camping Management Zones without formal facilities, which are great if you are after a wild camping experience.
Camping Byelaws apply from 1 March to 30 September, which means that in order to wild camp in the designated areas you must get a permit. Outside this time period, you may camp within the Camping Management Zones without a permit.
However, only 4% of the national park are covered by the Camping Management Zones – you can wild camp outside these areas without a permit year-round.
Food & Drink in the national park
Food is a big part of any successful trip to Scotland and luckily, there are some great options around the national park. Below are some of my personal recommendations – all of these also have fantastic vegan options.
- Auchentullich Farm Shop: A well-stocked farm shop just off the A82 near Balloch.
Arden, Alexandria G83 8RF
- The Lodge on Loch Lomond: The restaurant at this hotel in Luss overlooks the loch. Great food and stunning views!
Luss, Alexandria G83 8PA
- The Village Inn: A historic pub and restaurant in Arrochar. Best to book a table ahead of time as it’s very popular.
Shore Road, Arrochar G83 7AX
- The Drovers Inn: An iconic historic pub in Inverarnan.
Inverarnan, Arrochar G83 7DX
- Country Mumkins at the Artisan Cafe: A charming tea room in an old church building near Tyndrum.
Old Church Road, Tyndrum, Crianlarich FK20 8RX
- The Real Food Cafe: An award-winning fish & chip shop in Tyndrum. A must on any road trip to the Highlands.
Tyndrum, Crianlarich FK20 8RY
- Deli Ecosse: A lovely surprise of a cafe within the charming Highland village Callander.
10 Ancaster Square, Callander FK17 8ED
Here are some more suggestions from Ksenia Zizina (For All Things Creative) and Erin Doogan (Beauty Creep), who gave away their favourite spots near Loch Lomond on my Instagram Live show #WildForScotland:
- The House of Darroch: A fancy team room in Gartocharn near Balloch.
Gartocharn, Loch Lomond G83 8RX
- Ben View Garden Centre: This garden centre near Aberfoyle has a lovely tea room.
Ward Toll, Aberfoyle G63 0QY
- The Boat House: A high-quality restaurant on the banks of Loch Lomond near Balloch.
Loch Lomond, Alexandria G83 8QZ
- SEA LIFE Loch Lomond Aquarium: There is a cafe at the tops of the aquarium with lovely views of Loch Lomond. No need to pay the entrance, fee, just ask to go up to the cafe.
Balloch, Alexandria G83 8QL
- Three Villages Cafe: A traditional village cafe in Arrochar.
The Pier, Arrochar G83 7AB
Ready to plan a trip to the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park?
Your next step is to choose things to do and where to go!
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.