Planning a Loch Lomond day trip from Glasgow (or even Edinburgh) is an excellent way to see one of Scotland’s most beautiful natural areas even if you’re slightly short on time.
“By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes, where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond” – these are the opening words of an old Scottish folk song. It is said that one of the captured soldiers of bonnie Prince Charlie already spoke of the beauty of Loch Lomond in a letter to his sweetheart back in 1745 and it was on his words the song was based.
The song has been covered by AC/DC as well as Scottish band Runrig, and thousands of visitors head to Loch Lomond’s shores each year. If you too are planning your own visit to Loch Lomond, then you have definitely made the right choice.
Like all the national parks in the UK, entry to Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park is free, and it is easily accessible by car or public transport from Glasgow or Edinburgh.
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Getting from Glasgow to Loch Lomond
There are several ways to get to the loch no matter if you have a car available or not and should you not want to plan your own itinerary, you can always choose to embark on a day tour.
By Organised Tour
While it is possible to organise your own itinerary and go from Glasgow to Loch Lomond independently, some organised tours offer a great way to see the loch’s beauty alongside a knowledgeable guide.
Tours leave from central locations within the city and mean you do not have to worry about public transport times.
This day tour or this day tour gives you the chance to visit the Trossachs National Park, enjoy a 1-hour cruise across Loch Lomond as well as taking you to Stirling Castle – one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland – to finish off your day. You can also have a similar experience on a private tour.
This other fun-filled tour starts at Stirling castle and then takes you around several sites of the loch via mini-coach before giving you a glimpse of what it feels like walking the West Highland Way – one of Scotland’s most famous long-distance walking routes – before a finale pit-stop at the world-known Distillery of Glengoyne.
Taking the train is definitely a great way to get to the loch quickly. Two direct trains run from the centre of Glasgow to different parts of the loch.
One of them runs to Balloch – at the south end of the loch – while the other runs to Arrochar & Tarbet – more on the north end of the loch. Both train stations are reasonably close to the loch, and you will not have to walk more than 15 minutes to reach the shores of Loch Lomond.
Both trains run from Glasgow Queen Street station. The Balloch service runs twice every hour throughout the day up until about 11pm, and you can reach the shores of Loch Lomond in under an hour.
Balloch is the final destination of the line, so there is no need to worry about missing your stop. This service offers a very cheap way to commute from Glasgow to Loch Lomond. Click here to view schedules.
The train going to Arrochar & Tarbet is part of the West Highland railway line and does not run as frequently as the train to Balloch, but it is worth noting that this route is considered one of the most scenic train routes in the country.
The service runs about every two hours, and the journey time to Arrochar & Tarbet is a little longer than the one to Balloch. However, within a bit over an hour, you will be at the loch’s north shores, so it is still a great way to get from Glasgow to Loch Lomond.
The station at Arrochar & Tarbet is about a 15-minute walk away from the shores. The last train returning to Glasgow from this station is around 10 pm and it is cheaper to book a return ticket rather than two single tickets. Click here to view schedules.
Glasgow’s Buchanan bus station is right in the centre of Glasgow, and two Citylink bus routes cross the National Park and Loch Lomond.
While the train does offer a very comfortable way to get to Loch Lomond, going by bus will give you a wider variety of stops and places to visit during your day in Loch Lomond.
Whichever service you choose, be sure to say to your driver where you are planning to get off, as otherwise, they might not always stop unless passengers are waiting to board at the stop.
The service going to Fort William and Skye from Glasgow has stops at Balloch, Duck Bay Beach, Luss, Inverbeg, Tarbet and Inveruglas; all of which are close to Loch Lomond.
The other route going to Oban/Campbeltown has stops at Arrochar and Ardgartan. Just like the other bus, it does continue to other stops in the national park, such as ‘Rest and be Thankful’, but these do not offer direct access to Loch Lomond.
This service also runs several times a day, approximately every two to three hours but the last service running from Glasgow is at about 6pm. Click here to view schedules.
Getting from Glasgow to Loch Lomond by car is relatively easy. The city has several links to the motorway, and depending on the traffic you can get to Balloch in as little as half an hour.
From Glasgow, you would take the M8 and then change to the M898 to the Erskine Bridge, then take the A82 into the National Park.
If you are planning to go further north than Balloch, then the route is the same; you just keep going on the A82 taking you to other destinations such as Tarbet. The drive along the loch is lovely, and you will already be able to soak up a lot of Loch Lomond’s beauty on your journey along the shores.
However, be aware: While the M8 is a multiple carriageway, the A82 is not and once you are past Dumbarton it could be that you will have to queue behind lorries, buses and behind other drivers. On a sunny day, Loch Lomond is not just popular with tourists but is also visited by many locals.
The route along the loch is quite narrow and overtaking is not recommended unless the area is designated as such. Best is to check for any roadworks or delays on Traffic Scotland’s web page.
If you’re looking to rent a car, then it’s best to browse options on Rentalcars.com which aggregates prices across many major car hire companies.
It’s also worth considering taking out an excess insurance policy from iCarHireInsurance to ensure you don’t need to pay any deductible if making a claim.
Getting from Edinburgh to Loch Lomond
Due to Loch Lomond being in such close proximity to Glasgow, planning a day trip from Glasgow is a bit more straightforward and involves less travel time, but this should most definitely not dishearten you from planning your Edinburgh to Loch Lomond day trip.
While it does take longer to get there overall, Loch Lomond is still easily accessible from Edinburgh by either public transport, tour or car.
By Organised Tour
These tours offer a great way to enjoy your day from a comfortable minibus or another form of transport with a fun-packed itinerary and a knowledgeable guide.
This great tour from Edinburgh offers you the chance to visit the Trossachs National Park with a small tour group via Stirling Castle and Glengoyne Distillery.
It includes live commentary on board the bus, as well as the option to choose between a boat ride on the loch or a beautiful walk along its shores. If you’re not interested in visit the distillery, you can also choose this day tour.
If you’re going to Loch Lomond from Edinburgh, you will have to go via Glasgow. There are no direct trains from Edinburgh to Loch Lomond, but trains are running from Edinburgh’s main train stations to Glasgow Queen Street all day – most of the time there are several trains within the hour, so you will not find it hard to find one to match your schedule.
Once in Glasgow, you can choose either of the services mentioned above. Overall you will be able to reach Loch Lomond from Edinburgh within 2.5 hours or less. Click here to view schedules.
As with trains, you will have to change at Glasgow’s Buchanan bus station to board your bus to Loch Lomond. Buses from Edinburgh’s bus station run to Glasgow every 15 to 30 minutes, and you will likely only have to walk a few steps to board your connecting bus.
Traffic can differ depending on what time of day you chose to travel, and it is important to note that you might spend about three to four hours travelling.
However, the buses do offer a cheaper alternative to the trains, you can click here to view the schedules.
If you choose to go by car, you will not find it hard. Edinburgh offers a great connection to Scotland’s motorways, and you can reach the loch within about 90 minutes.
There are two main routes you can choose from here: Either you go via Glasgow or via Stirling. Both ways are easy enough to follow and will get you there around the same time.
Loch Lomond Day Trip Itinerary
You can either start your day in Balloch or in Arrochar & Tarbet. Both are very convenient to get to and have visitor centres to set you up for a good start to your day. This itinerary could easily be done vice versa.
Balloch is at the south shore of Loch Lomond. It has some great cafes, pubs and restaurants should you wish to enjoy a meal or early lunch before you start exploring.
The south shores will give you a taste of what beautiful scenery is to come, and there is a VisitScotland Information centre conveniently located directly opposite the train station in the centre of Balloch.
Through the centre, you will have access to local maps of Loch Lomond as well as be able to pick up a timetable for the Loch Lomond Waterbus and Ferry Services.
If you are looking to start your day with a little walk, you can walk along Balloch Castle Country Park at the eastern end of the village. The castle these days is actually a building constructed at the beginning of the 19th century, but the grounds used to have another castle that was built around 1300.
It will not be hard to guess why the location was chosen for either building: The views of Loch Lomond are spectacular, and the area of the castle towards the loch does create some majestic ambience. The walk will take approximately 90 minutes and is moderately easy as long as you are wearing a good pair of shoes.
You can also hire bikes and boats from the beach at Loch Lomond Shores or take a cruise on the loch from the pontoon and maybe find some mythical kelpies lurking in the depths of the waters.
Other options are to visit the Loch Lomond Bird Prey Sanctuary located in Balloch or, should the Scottish weather be that tiny bit to ‘dreich’ for outdoor activities, you could visit Loch Lomond Sea Life Aquarium.
Your next stop should be the village of Luss which is halfway between Balloch and Arrochar & Tarbet. It is quite small, but it is stunning! The village itself is a conservation village, and its old cobblestone buildings make you feel like you step back in time.
If you started your day by taking the train or bus to Balloch, you could easily take a bus up to Luss. Timetables will be available from the visitor centre. If you are looking for a more immersive experience on your day trip to Loch Lomond, then it is also possible to catch a water taxi to Luss Pier.
Once there, the village has access to several great walks that will help you explore the village and the beautiful area surrounding it.
These can differ in length, and it is entirely up to you whether you want to dedicate yourself to a 30-minute walk through the village or embark on the 90-minute heritage trail.
One thing not to be missed, however, are the views of Ben Lomond that you can get from Luss Pier. Walk along, and I am sure you will stand in awe.
If you are looking to have a bite to eat or a ‘cuppa’ to warm up, then Luss has a variety of shops and places to eat and drink.
Arrochar & Tarbet
Tarbet is actually the one out of the two villages that is closer to Loch Lomond while Arrochar is closer to Loch Long.
Arrochar & Tarbet train station is on the West Highland Railway line, and you can walk from there to Tarbet quite easily. The bus will likely drop you off at the ‘centre’ of Tarbet before either taking the turn towards Campbelltown or Fort William. If you are arriving by car, you will get to Tarbet by just following the A82 from Balloch and Luss.
Depending on your time budget and the time of year, the pier at Tarbet provides access to the loch, and a variety of cruise options are available.
From Tarbet, you can walk the Tarbet Isle Walk. It is only 1.2 miles or 2km long and a relatively easy circuit. You will cross through pine woods and oak woodland with excellent views over Loch Lomond and Tarbet.
A footpath links Tarbet to Arrochar, and the distance is approximately 1.5 miles. It is definitely worth taking a walk towards Arrochar as it will actually allow you to cross the narrow path between Loch Lomond and Loch Long offering you spectacular views of another beautiful loch in Scotland so you can tick two off of the list.
There is a visitor centre and a little tea room in Tarbet should you need to warm up after a long day of adventures and hillwalking. If you’re looking for a great place for lunch or dinner, both The Slanj (located close to the train station) and Cù Mara Bistro in Arrochar are excellent options.
Have more Time?
If you have more than one day in Loch Lomond, here are some suggestions for the best things to do.
Venture across the Loch to Balmaha
Balmaha is a small village on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond. It has a visitor centre, local amenities and some stunning nature walks. One thing definitely worth doing is the climb up Conic Hill. The hill is only approximately 400 metres high, but the climb is quite steep, so be aware! However, the views will make you forget any troubles you had during the climb.
It is from Balmaha you can also visit the small island of Inchcailloch. Balmaha’s bay provides the closest starting point for any crossing to the island.
Boats run from Luss to Balmaha, but it is worth noting that they do not run all year round. It is best to visit an information centre at Balloch or Arrochar and Tarbet for up to date timetables and information if you are planning to get to Balmaha by boat.
There is a bus service between Balloch and Balmaha runs throughout the day, so it is possible to get there by other means of public transport.
If you are going by car, Balmaha can be reached by driving from Balloch to Drymen village. In Drymen village, turn left on to B837 for Balmaha.
Explore other parts of Trossachs National Park
It is a lovely place, and you will not be disappointed if you choose to stray from Loch Lomond even further into the depths of the park. If you take the bus or drive towards Campbelltown, you will pass the famous spot ‘Rest and be thankful’ – and thankful you will be!
The view comprises a mountain pass ahead of you from which you can see the windy road ahead for miles. Other great bits of the park include Callander, an old town from which you can choose to partake several walks or Killin.
Take in more of Scotland’s beauty outside the park
The A82 continues on towards the West Highlands and will take you to Glencoe. I don’t think there will ever be a time in my life where I do not find Glencoe beautiful. I will marvel and be melancholy at the green mountains, the incredible glens, the waterfalls and summits all my life.
If you want to see Scotland’s outstanding beauty, then Glencoe should be on your list if you have the time. Should you not have a car you do not need to worry: The West Highland railway runs through Glencoe, and you can even listen to an audio tour created by Scottish Natural Heritage.
If you want to use Loch Lomond as a base to explore the Scottish Highlands, this is an excellent option.
They created a free app that provides an audio guide to several scenic train routes in Scotland. If you are going by bus, towards Fort William, the coach might not stop, but you will be able to enjoy the views nonetheless.
Another great place is the seaside town Oban – the self-proclaimed ‘seafood capital of Scotland.’ To be fair, I did have the best fish and chips I ever had in my life there, hands down. So potentially this is true. Oban always has something going on, and you will be able to partake in boat trips, visit museums or soak in some local musical talent at one of the pubs.
Oban can easily be reached by car or public transport. If you board the West Highland Railway at Arrochar and Tarbet, it will take you straight there, and buses run to Oban from several stops along the loch.
Where to Stay in Loch Lomond
Global B&B – A charming bed and breakfast located in the village of Luss, this is an excellent, quaint place to rest your head when visiting Loch Lomond. They have a handful of lovely, comfortable and clean rooms available and a great breakfast is included each morning.
The Loch Lomond Arms Hotel – If you’re on the hunt for a bit more luxury on your trip to Loch Lomond, then you can’t go wrong with this plush hotel. They have a range of luxe and stunning rooms available and there is also a great restaurant and bar on site.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Loch Lomond!
Going on a Loch Lomond day trip from Glasgow or Edinburgh is an excellent and easy way to enjoy the beautiful Scottish countryside while not venturing too far from the city.
Are you visiting Loch Lomond? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments below!