Balloch is a town on Clydeside in central Scotland, on the southern shore of Loch Lomond. It expanded from 1850 when the railway arrived, bringing trippers from Glasgow to the pier, whence boats and charabancs conveyed them around the loch. Balloch is still easy to reach by public transport, but this part of the loch is lowland and urban, and few boats now sail so you need your own transport to reach the more attractive areas of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Balloch in 2021 had a population of 6030.
The short River Leven drains the loch, flowing south from Balloch through Jamestown, Alexandria (the largest town), Bonhill and Renton. This Vale of Leven conurbation, population 20,000, is industrial and residential, with little to interest the visitor. The river flows into the Clyde estuary at Dumbarton.
Balloch is nowadays bypassed to the west by A82, the main road from Glasgow to the Highlands, and to the south by A811 towards Stirling. Bicycles may use A82 but it's always pounding with traffic, consider using the old road B857.
Two trains per hour run M-Sa from Glasgow Queen Street, taking 50 min to Balloch via Dumbarton East and Central, and Alexandria. These trains start from Airdrie and Coatbridge. On Sundays the trains run instead from Motherwell via Glasgow Central.
1 Balloch railway station is on the west bank of the river next to Balloch Road bridge, 100 yards from the ferry jetty. There's a staffed ticket office and machines, toilets and a waiting area. There is step-free access to the sole terminus platform.
First Glasgow Buses 1 / 1A run from Glasgow Osborne Street (stop 2) via Clydebank, Old Kilpatrick, Dumbarton and Alexandria, taking 1 hour 45 min to Balloch. They run every 15 min M-Sa and every 30 min on Sunday.
Citylink coaches from Glasgow to the Highlands run along A82 a mile west of Balloch: the bus stop is by the roundabout junction with A811. It's seldom convenient to use them to get here from Glasgow, but they take you from Balloch direct to Inveraray, Oban, Campbeltown, Fort William and Skye without doubling back via Glasgow. One bus a day (for Campbeltown) runs via the airport (GLA IATA) stand 9, northbound at 14:30 and southbound from Balloch at 12:00.
First Bus 206 runs from Dumbarton via Alexandria to Balloch, taking 50 min. It's every 30 min M-Sa and hourly on Sunday.
McColls Bus 306 runs 3-5 times a day from Helensburgh via Arden on the west loch shore and the A82 / A811 roundabout near Balloch to Alexandria. It's usually simpler to take the 1 / 1A and change in Dumbarton.
Walk: it's easy enough to walk between Balloch village, the Loch Lomond Shores shopping centre, and Balloch Castle and Park.
By bus: Garelochhead Bus 207 runs hourly M-Sa from Bonhill to Alexandria, Balloch and the Loch Lomond Shores shopping centre. Their bus 305 runs daily every couple of hours from Alexandria to Balloch, Arden and Luss on the west loch shore. Their bus 309 runs daily every hour or two from Alexandria to Balloch, Drymen and Balmaha on the east loch shore.
By bike: a cycle path runs from Balloch along bypassed loops of road and purpose-built track along the west bank of the loch via Arden, Luss and Inverbeg to Tarbet, 17 miles in all. It's level going and suitable also for hikers, wheelchairs and horses.
Taxi: Wright Taxis serve Balloch, Alexandria and Dumbarton, tel +44 1389 721010.
- 1 Maid of the Loch, Pier Rd G83 8QX, ☏ . April-Oct daily 10:00-16:30. The last paddle steamer built in Britain - twice! Launched in 1953, she was first built in Glasgow then split into sections for transport and re-assembly at the loch. (This was a common system in the 19th and early 20th century to place ships on lakes and distant rivers.) She plied the loch until 1981 but then ship and pier facilities fell into disrepair. A volunteer group restored her as a static attraction in 2000, but it has not been possible to sail her again. Interiors and livery have been returned to their 1950s condition, the engines are occasionally in steam, and an auxiliary motor slowly turns the paddles for effect. So the paintwork and brasses gleam but a full restoration would require an expensive and hazardous process of hoisting her out of the water and trucking her to dry-dock, which could terminate her elderly life. (The last attempt in 2019 ended with an inglorious splash when the old bezom refused to be hoisted.) There's a tearoom aboard. The Maid is often booked for private functions. Donation.
- 2 Balloch Castle Country Park, Drymen Rd G83 8LX, ☏ . Daily 10:00-16:00. A 200 acre park with woodlands, open areas and walking routes, its highlights being the formal Walled Garden and Chinese Garden, and tree-framed vistas of the loch: the rhododendrons and azaleas are glorious in May / June. It's also used as venue for events such as music festivals and the annual Highland Games. It surrounds Balloch Castle, which is derelict and not open to the public. This was built in 1808/09 in Tudor Gothic style, all make-believe turrets and cod-castellations, by the Buchanan family who'd made their money from hats. They obliterated the 13th century castle of the Earls of Lennox - a few earth mounds and ditches are all that's left to see, while on the nearby island of Inchmurrin a few stumps remain of the Lennox's 14th century castle. The park passed into public ownership in 1915. Free.
- Cruise the loch: Sweeney's Cruises operate a variety of boat trips year round, the shortest being the "Experience Cruise" (adult £12), a one-hour potter around the southern basin. They also operate the water buses, see "Get around". They sail from the village landing next to the railway station and Balloch Road bridge.
- Water sports such as canoeing, kayaking and paddle-boarding: with your own kit you can start here. There are no public hire or instruction facilities in Balloch, see Loch Lomond for other options. There's a £20 fee to launch a motorboat from the Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway (foot of Pier Rd just beyond Loch Lomond Shores shopping centre) and you must register it - and any kind of powered craft such as jetski - in advance with the Park.
- Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre, Ben Lomond Way, Balloch G83 8QL (next to Loch Lomond Shores shopping centre), ☏ . Daily Apr-Oct 10:00-17:00, Nov-Mar 10:00-16:00. Friendly informative avian centre, home to a variety of hawks, eagles, falcons and owls. No dogs allowed. Adult £9.50, conc £7.50, child £5.
- Sea Life Loch Lomond Aquarium, Drumkinnon Rd, Balloch G83 8QL (behind Shores shopping centre), ☏ . Daily Mar-Oct 10:00-17:00, Nov-Feb 10:00-16:00. Good range of fresh- and seawater habitats including a tropical ocean walk-through tunnel. It's small compared to other Sea Life centres and two hours will be plenty. Adult or child £17.
- Golf: Cameron House Golf Club is by that hotel. Vale of Leven GC is south in Alexandria, white tees 5278, par 67, visitor round £27.
- John Muir Way is a 130 mile / 215 km walking trail from Helensburgh to Dunbar on the east coast. It's named for the naturalist John Muir (1838-1914) and initially stretched from Dunbar his birthplace to Edinburgh, but in 2014 was extended to Helensburgh. Hiking east to have the weather at your back, Stage One is out of Helensburgh over Bannacra to Balloch. Stage Two is east across the hills to Strathblane near Milngavie, with an alternative route for bikes via Gartness and Dumgoyne. Stage Three is through Lennoxtown to join the Forth-Clyde Canal at Kirkintilloch, thence along the towpath towards Edinburgh.
- Loch Lomond Highland Games are held at Moss o Balloch Park, west bank of the river. They're on the second Saturday in July, with the next on Sa 15 July 2023. Luss Highland Games are held on the first Saturday in July.
- Loch Lomond Food & Drink Festival: the main event is in September, with the next on 2-3 Sept 2023 in Loch Lomond Shores shopping centre. There's also a smaller Springfest.
- 1 Loch Lomond Shores, Ben Lomond Way G83 8QL, ☏ . Shops daily 10:00–18:00. Shopping mall with 14 retailers and a couple of eating places. Farmers Market and craft fair is held just outside on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month 10:00-16:00.
- 2 Lomond Galleries, Main Street, Alexandria G83 0UG. Small dilapidated shopping centre with many vacant shop units, so this historic ornate sandstone building is at risk of dereliction. It was built in 1906 as the Argyll Motor Works, the largest car factory in Europe in its day, but the company declined soon after. It then became a torpedo factory then an electronics factory, then was empty for a long period before the shopping centre opened in 1997.
- Blue Lagoon Fish & Chips (formerly Palumbo's), 40 Balloch Road G83 8LE, ☏ . Daily 11:00-23:00. Chain sit-in fish restaurant with 9 branches in Glasgow and 8 across the central lowlands.
- Loch Lomond Shores shopping centre has Café Zest, Queen of the Loch Hotel & Restaurant for pub food and Café at the Shores for cakes and sandwiches.
- Balloch House within Innkeeper's Lodge (see Sleep) is a gastropub open Tu-Sa 07:00-23:00, Su M 08:00-22:30
- Tullie Inn, Balloch Road G83 8SW (by railway station), ☏ . Su-Th 08:00-23:00, F Sa 08:00-00:00. Mock Tudorbethan pub with varied menu and large portions. Also has rooms. B&B double £100.
- Cucina, Balloch Road G83 8SS (by railway station), ☏ . Su-Th 12:00-20:45, F Sa 12:00-21:45. Fresh Italian food with GF options.
- The Princess Rose, Old Luss Road, Balloch G83 8QW (by Holiday Park), ☏ . M-Sa 12:30-21:30, Su 15:00-21:30. Good Cantonese food. They plan to close Oct-Nov 2023 for refurbishment.
- 1 Chimes, 209 Main St, Jamestown G83 8PN, ☏ . Tu-Su 16:00-23:00. Decent friendly Chinese.
- Cameron House has two restaurants, see below.
- Along Balloch / Drymen Rd are Tullie Inn and Balloch House (see Eat) and The Dog House, open Su-Th 11:00-00:00, F Sa 11:00-01:00.
- Scotch whisky is distilled and blended all along the Vale of Leven but there are no distilleries open to visit.
- Loch Lomond Brewery is also in the Vale, no tours.
- The main accommodation strip is along the historic high street, Balloch Rd becoming Drymen Rd as it crosses the river. Plus there's a couple along the modern road A811 just south.
- 1 Innkeeper's Lodge (Balloch House), Balloch Road, Balloch G83 8LQ, ☏ . Simple hotel above 18th century pub on the banks of River Leven as it flows out of the loch. B&B double £130.
- Norwood Guest House, 60 Balloch Road G83 8LE (100 yards east of Innkeeper's Lodge), ☏ . Small friendly B&B.
- Gowanlea Guest House, Drymen Road, Balloch G83 8HS (300 yards east of Innkeeper's Lodge), ☏ , email@example.com. Friendly comfy guesthouse with 2 doubles en suite, 2 family en suite (sleeps 3 or 4), 1 twin with private bathroom. Walkers, cyclists and dogs all welcome. B&B double £100.
- 2 Sheildaig Farm B&B, Upper Stoneymollan Road, Balloch G83 8QY (lane from A82 / A811 roundabout), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Farmhouse up rough track with rooms in main steading and attached buildings. Walkers, cyclists and dogs welcome. B&B double £150.
- 3 Lomond Woods Holiday Park, Old Luss Road G83 8QP, ☏ , email@example.com. Open all year, well-run site for caravans and RVs. No tents but has camping pods, sleep 4 or 6. Pods £85, tourer & RV pitches £38.
- 4 Cameron House, Alexandria G83 8QZ (On A82 two miles north of Balloch), ☏ . Scottish baronial mansion on the banks of Loch Lomond with two restaurants: the Boat House (daily 10:00-22:00) on the marina does seafood and pizza, and Clubhouse at Cameron (daily 08:00-21:00) does Scots classics. There's also an 18-hole championship golf course, leisure club and spa. The hotel suffered a fire in 2017 but was fully refurbished by 2022. B&B double £500.
As of July 2023 Balloch, Alexandria and their approach roads have 4G from O2 and 5G from EE, Three and Vodafone.
- East through Drymen to access the east shore of Loch Lomond. Stay on the main road to reach historic Stirling.
- North along A82 to Luss and Tarbet then various routes lead to the Highlands and Islands.
- South via Dumbarton to Glasgow for big city attractions.
|Routes through Balloch|
|Campbeltown/Crianlarich ← Luss ←||N SE||→ Dumbarton → Glasgow|