Welcome to Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond is the largest fresh water lake in the British Isles. It is 24 miles long, up to five miles wide and 600 feet deep, with a shoreline measuring over 95 miles. There are 38 islands on the loch, some of which have been inhabited since Neolithic times. From the Conic Hill, on the southeast shore, one can clearly see the Highland Boundary Fault, which has bequeathed a varied landscape to the area - high lands to the north and lower lands the south. This varied terrain is the territory of ash, rowan, oak, beech and sycamore trees along with an impressive 25% of Britain's wild plants. The area is a haven for wildlife; eagles, hawks and peregrine falcons are but three of over 200 species of birds that fly around Loch Lomond. On the islands and on the shores there are wild deer, pine martins and wild cats - there is even a small colony of wallabies on Inchconnachan island, brought here from their native Australia by a private landowner in the 1970's. The Loch itself is home to more species of fish than any other; including pike, brown trout, salmon, fresh water herring and powan. On the eastern shore, the majestic Ben Lomond (3195ft) keeps an eternal vigil over nature in all its finery.
Loch Lomond - view from Ben Lomond - via Balmaha
People have been living on Loch Lomond's islands and shores for at least 7000 years. On Inchlonaig scraps from early inhabitants have been unearthed, which have been dated to around 5000 BC. Another of Loch Lomond's islands, Inchgalbraith, is believed to have been constructed around 3000 BC as a Crannog - artificial islands which were used as a homes for extended families all over Scotland and Ireland from around 5000 BC. On the eastern shore of Loch Lomond iron age settlements are clearly visible at Strathcashel Point and there are a number of other first millennium hilltop forts scattered around the loch.
It was a loose collection of tribes that the Romans were to encounter in Scotland when they advanced north in 79 AD. It seems that the presence of the Romans may have acted as a catalyst for the development of the native societies, if only because the natives were forced to gang together against a common enemy. In any case, shortly after the Romans abandoned Britain in the 3rd century AD the Loch Lomond area had become the junction between three significant kingdoms; Pictland, to the east, Strathclyde, to the south and Dalriata, to the north west. Clach Nam Breatann, "the stone of the Britons", marked this junction and still stands today in Glen Falloch.
Christianity arrived in the area with St Kessog in c.510 AD. St Kessog, son of the King of Munster, established a church on Inchtavannach, "the monk's island", which he used as a base for missionary expeditions around Loch Lomond, until he was martyred at Bandry, just south of Luss, in c.530 AD. When, in the 18th century, the cairn marking the place of the saint's murder was destroyed to make way for a new road, a stone effigy depicting Kessog was discovered inside. This is now on display in Luss Parish Church. A little after Kessog's death, Saint Mirren founded a church on Inchmurrin, "island of Mirren". On this island, Loch Lomond's largest, the ruins of a 7th century monastery can still be seen.
So Loch Lomond's shores and islands developed as a tranquil setting for the growth of Scottish Christianity. However, its tranquillity would be disturbed in 1263 when a band of Vikings led by Magnus, king of Man and son-in-law of Hakkon, the Norse King, arrived in Tarbet on the Loch's western shore. They had sailed into Arrochar at the head of Loch Long, before carrying their longships one and a half miles onto an almost completely undefended Loch Lomond. Here, the Viking war party set about a devastating series of lighting raids before fleeing down River Leven to the sea.
Loch Lomond is connected with a number of important characters from Scottish history apart from Saints Kessog and Mirren and the brutal King Magnus of Man. Inchlonaig, 'the island of yew trees', gets its name from the trees which King Robert I had planted in about 1300 AD to provide timber for his archers' bows, which were used at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The trees can still be seen scattered about the island. Lady Isabella, wife of Duke Murdoch of Albany, lived out her final years on Inchmurrin after witnessing the execution of her father, husband and two of her sons at the hands of King James I in 1425. The castle on the island, now in ruins, was visited by James IV, in 1506, Mary Queen of Scots, in 1563, and James VI, in 1617. On Inchcailleach, "The Island of Nuns", there is a graveyard which was used by the clan MacGregor, where some of Rob Roy's ancestors are buried.
Mist over Loch Lomond
In 2002 the "Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park" was established in recognition of the value of preserving this beautiful and historic area. Preservation is important as Loch Lomond is located just 20 miles northwest of Glasgow which makes it one of the world's most easily accessible wildernesses - certainly it welcomes thousands of tourists each year. Balloch, at the southeast end of the loch, is the berthing point for hundreds of pleasure craft and a good place to head for boat tours of the loch. Here one can also catch a glimpse of The Maid of the Loch, a paddle steamer launched in 1953, currently undergoing restoration. The loch beside Balloch is even used as a 'runway' by seaplanes. On the eastern shore is the village of Balmaha, which provides another boating centre close to the town of Drymen. Further north there is less hustle and bustle; where woodlands and picturesque loch side towns gradually give way to wild scenery and rugged peaks. It is easy to see why for millennia Loch Lomond has been seen as a profoundly spiritual place.