Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park became the first of Scotland's two National Parks when it was established in 2002. It is known in Gaelic as Pàirc Nàiseanta Loch Laomainn is nan Tròisichean. Scotland's second National Park, which followed a year later, was the Cairngorms National Park. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park has an area of 720 square miles or 1,865 km² surrounded by a boundary that is 350 km or 220 miles long. It is also home to some 15,600 people.
The area of the Park is shown on the map above. The landscapes covered by the Park range from the uplands of Breadalbane to the sea lochs of Argyll, and the presence of the Highland Boundary Fault cutting through it gives it areas that are typical of both Highlands and Lowlands. Included within the area of the National Park is the whole of Scotland's largest loch, Loch Lomond, while the surrounding mountainous areas include 21 Munros (individual mountains over 3,000ft); 20 Corbetts (individual mountains over 2,500ft); and two forest parks.
As a result of all this variety, the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park can be divided into four quite distinct areas. Loch Lomond is the largest inland loch in Scotland and provides the real heart of the National Park. The northern end of the loch is deep and narrow, with mountains on either side, including the iconic Ben Lomond. The southern half of the loch is much more pastoral and is home to many islands.
The Trossachs includes the upland and forested areas between Callander and Aberfoyle, first made famous by the novels of Sir Walter Scott and enjoyed as "the Highlands in miniature" by generations of tourists ever since. Following the route of the Dukes Pass from Aberfoyle to Loch Katrine shows you the very best of the Trossachs. The Argyll Forest includes those parts of the Park north and west of Loch Lomond including lengths of the shore of Loch Long, the Arrochar Alps, and parts of the Cowal Peninsula.
The north eastern part of the Park forms its fourth distinct area and falls within part of the historic district of Breadalbane. Extending from Tyndrum east to Killin and south to Loch Earn. Here you find broad glens and high mountains like Ben More and Ben Lui.
Scotland's National Parks were established by the Scottish Parliament under the terms of the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000. In many eyes this put right the fact that although National Parks were being designated in England and Wales from 1949, none existed in Scotland. This seemed a remarkable lapse given that it was a Scot, John Muir, who first came up with the idea of National Parks after emigrating to the USA in 1849.
Neither of Scotland's National Parks (nor any elsewhere in the UK) can be thought of as genuinely pristine wilderness of the sort John Muir helped preserve at Yosemite. Virtually the entire landscape of Scotland has been influenced or managed by humans over a period of thousands of years. Deforestation, farming, cattle, sheep, deer, sporting estates, power generation and transmission, afforestation, leisure pursuits and the needs of residents to live and work in the areas have all left their mark on the National Parks.
And neither does the idea of a National Park in the UK imply government ownership of the land within the park. Instead, the pre-existing land-owning pattern has been retained, leaving land in the hands of a patchwork quilt of large estates, smaller farmers, government agencies like the Forestry Commission and Ministry of Defence, local authorities, businesses, homeowners and charities like the National Trust for Scotland.
So if Scotland's National Parks are not owned by the government and do not include any pristine wilderness, just what are they for and what do they do? Their aims were set out in the 2000 Act, and are:
- To conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area.
- To promote sustainable use of the natural resources of the area.
- To promote understanding and enjoyment (including enjoyment in the form of recreation) of the special qualities of the area by the public.
- To promote sustainable economic and social development of the area's communities.
The responsibility for balancing these sometimes conflicting aims in a collective and co-ordinated way lies with the Board of the National Park Authority, which has 17 members: 12 appointed by the Scottish Government (six after nomination by local authorities) and five elected by the community. Day to day management is carried out by entering into management agreements with landowners, making bylaws, and employing rangers. Perhaps most importantly, the National Park takes planning decisions in relation to proposed developments within its area. It also looks after signposting and information for visitors, and runs the National Park Gateway Centre at Loch Lomond Shores, Balloch, combining the roles of Tourist Information Centre and visitor centre for the Park as a whole.