Loch Lomond is Scotland’s largest and most popular lake, as well as the largest freshwater lake on mainland Britain. It is 24 miles long and 5 miles across at its widest point. At its deepest point, north of Tarbet, it is approximately 643 feet deep. The lake is preceded over by Ben Lomand, the southernmost of Scotland’s munros (mountains more than 3,000 feet high).
In 2002 Loch Lomond and the Trossachs became Scotland’s first national park, however most of the lands on the west side of the lake have been and remain in the ownership of the Colquhoun family since the thirteenth century.
The Highlands begin on the southern shore of Loch Lomand and the West Highland Way hiking trail runs along its eastern shore. Outlaw Rob Roy once hid in the idyllic wooded eastern shore of Loch Lomond and his cave hideaway is signposted between Rowardennan, Inversnaid and the tiny Ardlui Ferry departure point.
The Highland Boundary Fault, which runs from Helensburgh to Stonehaven, crosses the lake and four islands, forming a perfect line from northeast to southwest, show the location of the fault line. In total there are seven islands in the lake (three of them are inhabited) and numerous small islets.
Each of the seven islands has its own history. Inchconnachan Island, also known as The Colquhouns Island, was the holiday home of Lady Arran, who was born a Colquhoun. Inchcruin Island, or Round Island, was used in the 18th century as an asylum for the insane. Inchtavannach, Island of the Monk’s House, was the place where St. Kessog died and James Colquhoun built a winding path up to the summit in the 17th century. Inch Moan Island, also known as Peat Island, provided the peat for village fires and stone-age artefacts have been found on the land. Inchlonaig, known as Island of the Yew Trees, has traces of man dating back to 500 years BC and is famous for its ancient yew trees, reputedly used to make bows by Robert the Bruce for the 14th century Battle of Bannockburn. Inchfad, Long Island, was taken over by the MacFarlanes in the early 18th century and was the location of a registered government distillery until the mid 19th century. Inchcailloch, or Island of the Old Woman, is part of the Highland Boundary Fault, and has a church dedicated to St. Ketigerna from 1621, as well as a Clan McGregor burial ground. Inchmurrun has a castle that was completed in 1303 by the Earl of Lennox who was escaping the plague and the chapel was occupied by St. Mirren, the patron saint of Paisley.
The lake is thriving with life, with 25% of the flora of the UK being found around its shores and being inhabited by 14 species of fish, including the very rare powan fish that is only found in two Scottish lochs. On its banks red deer, roe deer, otters and red squirrels can also be seen. Quite surprisingly, one of the islands is home to a colony of wild wallabies. In the 1950s Lady Colquhoun visited Australia and fell in love with the wallabies. She decide that she would bring some back with her and, despite many believing they would not survive in Scotland, they thrived on the little island that is less than one mile wide. There are now around 100 wallabies and their population is controlled. Boat trips take visitors to the island to see the creatures.
The famous song, Loch Lomond, is often played at weddings and other celebrations, however many do not truly understand the meaning of the words in the song.
In 1688 King James II was forced to abdicate the throne because he was a Catholic, as most of England and Scotland had moved from being predominantly Catholic to predominantly Protestant. Much support for King James II remained however, particularly from the Catholic clans in the Scottish highlands and the Jacobites (given their name from the Latin Jacobus, meaning James) fought for King James II and his descendants’ claim to the throne. The Jacobites made attempts to regain the throne in 1689-90, 1715, 1719 and 1745-46, finally being defeated at the Battle of Culloden.
During the last uprising of the Jacobites two brothers were captured and held in Carlisle castle. Their captors played a cruel joke and told the brothers that one would be set free the next morning and the other would be executed – it was up to them to decide who would live. The older brother decided that he would be the one to be executed, as his younger sibling had a wife and children. That night he wrote the lines to the now famous song, scripting ‘I’ll take the low road and you’ll take the high road and I’ll be in Scotland before you’. The song was written for his younger brother, who would be taking the physical road back to Scotland while he would be taking the spiritual road and would be executed before his brother arrived back in Scotland.
- Information signs at Loch Lomond
- Information provided by Discover Scotland tour guide