Measuring twenty-seven and a half square miles, Loch Lomond is the largest single inland waterway in Britain. It is a haven for tourists, being only 20 miles north-west of Glasgow and on one of the main routes north.
Loch Lomond was formed during the Ice Age by the action of glaciers. Later it was at the junction of three ancient kingdoms, Strathclyde, Dalriada and Pictland. The loch also crosses the highland fault line, noticeable in its changing character and more rugged terrain moving from south to north. The highest mountain in the area and the most southerly Munro, Ben Lomond (3,195ft), sits on the loch's eastern shore.
There are 37 islands in the loch, some having seen habitation: they made perfect retreats for early Christians. One island, Inchmurrin, takes its name from the missionary St Mirrin who spent some time there.
The main tourist focus is on the western shore of the loch, along the A82 and at the southern end, around Balloch. Here is the place to head for boat trips around the loch or to view the pleasure craft. This is also the home of Maid of the Loch, an authentic paddle steamer currently undergoing restoration. Near by, the new Loch Lomond Shores development is attracting large numbers of visitors.
Most picturesque of Loch Lomond's villages is Luss on the west bank. Its streets are laid out in a linear pattern and were originally part of the planned estate village built by the Colquhouns. Recently restored, they present a pretty sight, as does the parish church with its interesting central altar. But most striking are the views from the loch-side walk and pier, extending uninterrupted along the loch.
Also on the western side are the villages of Arden, Tarbet and, most northerly, Ardlui. Arden boasts Scotland's most beautiful Youth Hostel, housed in a grand turreted building complete with ghost. Tarbet, 17 miles north of Balloch, is on the West Highland line from Glasgow to Mallaig as is Ardlui at the mountain-framed head of the loch.
On the eastern side of the loch, you find the northern end of the public road, as well as a hotel and a Youth Hostel at Rowardennan. This side of the loch carries the West Highland Way on its route north to Fort William from its start point at Milngavie just north of Glasgow; and from the car park just beyond Rowardennan Hotel is the start of the 'tourist route' up Ben Lomond.
The main place of habitation and also of tourism on this side of the loch is the village of Balmaha, at the end of the B837. Sitting directly behind it is Conic Hill, a humpy mound that marks the geological line where the highlands begin. This is a busy place in summer, serving as a starting point for boat excursions round Loch Lomond's islands.