I have fond memories of my previous stay at the Lodge on Loch Lomond Hotel although up until last week it had admittedly been years since my last visit. When I worked out just how many years it kind of scared me as I was convinced it wasn't that long ago that myself and Mr Adventures Around Scotland had slept in the same bed as Bill Clinton in the Carter Suite (not at the same time I hasten to add!). It sometimes panics me how quickly time seems to be speeding up as my life passes by in a blur of birthdays.
When I was recently invited to review the hotel after a refurbishment, I couldn't wait to see if it was as good as I remembered. Despite the passing years, stepping through the front door of Lodge on Loch Lomond was reassuringly familiar and I immediately felt at home.
The hotel has a relaxing and intimate feel which helps you to switch off from the moment you arrive. Our welcome was efficient and professional, meaning myself and Mr Adventures Around Scotland could quickly get to our room, unpack and unwind.
The hotel is situated about a 30 minute drive from Glasgow on the west shore of Loch Lomond next to the pretty conservation village of Luss. It has beautiful views across the loch from most areas of the hotel and it even has its own beachfront if you prefer to immerse yourself in the Highland scenery, which I highly recommend!
The hotel is ideally located for exploring the Loch Lomond and Trossachs area with numerous walks, mountains, boat rides and cute villages on the doorstep. A short stroll along the beach will take you in to Luss which has to be one of Scotland's prettiest villages, with quaint cottages and colourful gardens. There are also options to take a boat ride from the pier if you would prefer to explore Loch Lomond from the water or even take a little ferry to the historic island of Inchcailloch.
Further south is the village of Balloch with a lovely country park, outdoor activities and shopping at Loch Lomond Shores. Further north and you enter a picturesque Highland landscape, with the breathtaking Glen Coe just over an hours drive away.
During this trip I headed to the east side of the loch and climbed Duncryne Hill, which is said to have one of the best views in Scotland of all the wee hills. I then headed to Balmaha, another pretty village, to enjoy a relaxed lunch by the loch before making my way to the opposite shore for my overnight stay at the hotel.
When people think of Scottish islands, images of the sandy beaches of the Hebrides, the history of Orkney or the whisky distilleries of Islay might come to mind. However, not all of Scotland's islands lie out at sea and some are very easy to visit like Inchcailloch, one of 22 named islands in Loch Lomond.
Easily accessible by boat, Inchcailloch is a National Nature Reserve which sits between the Highland and Lowland landscape and offers some superb views along Loch Lomond. It might be miniature sized but its history and scenic walks ensure a rewarding visit.
How to reach Inchcailloch
There are 2 options for reaching the island, either by a 5 minute crossing from Balmaha Boatyard or from the pretty conservation village of Luss, which is the route that I opted for.
It takes 45 minutes to reach Inchcailloch from Luss on the Cruise Loch Lomond ferry but I really enjoyed the longer boat ride as we explored the waters around some of the other small islands, islets and crannogs that dot the loch, while listening to some fascinating commentary from our very knowledgeable captain. In fact I'd recommend the cruise even if you don't choose to get off at Inchcailloch.
If you travel from Balmaha you will get dropped off at the north jetty and if you travel from Luss you will get dropped off at the Port Bawn jetty in the south of Inchcailloch, because the island is so small the drop off point doesn't really make any difference.
The boat from Balmaha runs an 'on demand' service, however there are only a few seasonal ferries to the island from Luss each day so be sure to check the times for the boat back or you might get stranded!
History of Inchcailloch
Inchcailloch is Gaelic for the 'island of the old or cowled woman' and is named after St Kentigerna, the daughter of an Irish King and mother of St Fillan who is said to have set up a nunnery on the island. She settled there and died in 734 AD and the few remaining ruins of a church dedicated to her memory can still be visited. The church was built in the 13th century and along with its burial ground, is the only Scheduled Ancient Monument in or around the Loch Lomond area. It's amazing to think that every Sunday for 400 years, parishioners would row across to the island so they could worship there. The burial ground has some interesting old headstones with Macfarlane and Macgregor being popular names, in fact the uncle of the infamous Rob Roy Macgregor is buried here.
As we weave our way through the Glasgow city centre traffic towards the motorway, Graham, our driver/guide has managed to point out historic buildings of note, cover Glasgow's history from medieval times to shipbuilding in the 70s and even managed a few laughs. This is quite a feat and the sign of an experienced guide, a promising start to my first Scottish tour bus trip.
I had chosen to join a Rabbie's small group day tour exploring Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond National Park & Glengoyne Whisky Distillery. Tales of romantic Scottish figures including Rob Roy, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace while travelling through some stunning scenery sounded amazing enough, the promise of a wee dram at the end was all the convincing I needed that this was the tour for me! I was not alone as eight other sightseers of various ages and nationalities from countries as diverse as Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada and Sweden had joined me for this mini Scottish adventure.
Our first stop of the day was Stirling Castle and as we arrived the cloudy sky opened up and the rain began to fall. I felt a bit disappointed as the views from the Castle are some of my favourite and it was hard to make out the landscape beyond the drizzle. Graham reminded us that Scotland needs rain to keep it looking so lush and beautiful and while this is true I was still secretly hoping the sun would suddenly appear along with the views.
Lately I have spent most of my time in Glasgow enjoying the atmosphere while the Commonwealth Games take place. However, with the glorious sunshine that we have been experiencing in Scotland this summer I really wanted to get out the city for the day and take in some of our stunning natural scenery.
Loch Lomond is only 30 minutes away and is an ideal destination for a day trip from Glasgow.
I love exploring this area all year round, however the lush green coloured coat that it puts on in summer makes the perfect contrast to the blue water and sky.
I started my trip at Inveruglas on the west shore, home of the Sloy Hydro-Electric Power Station which dominates the hillside. This is a popular stopping point and there are toilets and local information leaflets available which can help you plan out your travels in the area.
There is also a cafe which used to be very good and I would make a point to stop here when travelling north. Sadly the last couple of times I have been in I have experienced terrible service and found it overpriced and from reviews on TripAdvisor it seems I am not alone in my thoughts. I hate to find poor service anywhere but a cafe that operates within one of our National Parks and is frequented by tourists should be a shining example of the best Scotland has to offer. I really hope the next time I visit it has improved.
After Inveruglas I headed south to Firkin Point. Although busy with picnickers and sunbathers, a short walk and I had the place to myself.
Next destination was the pretty conservation village of Luss. With quaint cottages and stunning gardens bursting with summer flowers and scents it is easy to understand why tourists flock here.
A tour of a whisky distillery may be high on the list of things to do in Scotland but have you ever considered visiting a small, independent Scottish brewery? Widely available in pubs, supermarkets, farmer's markets and at events around the country, real ales and craft beer provide their own unique taste of Scotland.
If you're visiting the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond then follow the low road to the town of Alexandria where you will find the family run Loch Lomond Brewery tucked away in an unassuming industrial estate next to the whisky distillery (not open to the public).
It is unpretentious, not in the least bit touristy and offers a completely authentic experience. In Loch Lomond there are not many attractions that are still under the radar, this is the place to visit if you're looking for an original taste of Scotland, quite literally!
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