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.
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. Bikes 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 mins to Balloch via Dumbarton East & Central and Alexandria. These trains start from Airdrie and Coatbridge. On Sundays the trains run instead from Motherwell and 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.
First Glasgow Buses 1 & 1A run from Glasgow Osborne Street (stop 2) via Clydebank, Old Kilpatrick, Dumbarton and Alexandria, taking 1 hour 45 mins to Balloch. They run every 15 mins M-Sa and every 30 mins on Sunday.
Scottish 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.
Garelochead 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 & 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.
By boat: Sweeney's Cruises sail May-Sept 2-3 times a day from Balloch to Luss, adult £14 single, £20 return. The schedule allows you a couple of hours ashore in Luss.
- 1 Maid of the Loch. 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 & early 20th C to place ships on lakes and distant rivers.) She plied the loch until 1981 but then ship and pier facilities fell into disrepair. A council-backed volunteer group restored her to re-open as a static attraction in 2000, but it has not yet 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 Jan 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. 24 hours. A 200 acres (81 hectares) 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 C 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 C 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 eg 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). Feb-Apr & Oct daily 09:30-16:30, May-Sept daily 10:00-17:30, Nov-Jan Sa Su 10:00-16:00. Friendly informative avian centre, home to a variety of hawks, eagles, falcons and owls. No dogs allowed. Adult £8, child £4.
- Sea Life Loch Lomond Aquarium, Drumkinnon Rd, Balloch G83 8QL (behind Loch Lomond 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. But it's small compared to other Sea Life centres and two hours will be plenty. Adult £10, cheaper online.
- Loch Lomond Highland Games are held at Moss o Balloch Park, west bank of the river. They're usually on the second Saturday in July, however the next is on Sat 17 July 2021. 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 probably on 5-6 Sept 2020 but tbc. There's also a similar Springfest, which in 2020 is postponed into summer (tba) in Loch Lomond Shores shopping centre.
- 1 Loch Lomond Shores. Shops daily 10:00–18:00. Shopping mall. Retailers are House of Fraser, Pavers, Hawkshead, Thorntons, Loch Lomond Jewellers, Loch Lomond News, Ponden Home, Edinburgh Woolen Mill, Leading Labels, Grape Tree and Dare 2B; plus several eating places. The 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 shopping centre with a slightly tired selection of discount shops, but in an interesting building, the former Argyll Motor Works. This ornate sandstone factory was built in 1906 as the largest car factory in Europe at the time, but the company declined soon after the factory opened. It then became a torpedo factory, followed by an electronics factory, then was empty for a long period before the shopping centre opened in 1997.
- Corries, 50 Balloch Road, ☏ . Th-Tu 09:00-18:00. A large menu and friendly staff. Live music Thursday nights.
- Palombos of Balloch, 40 Balloch Road, Balloch G83 8LE. Daily 11:30-19:00. A sit-in fish restaurant, or you can carry out to the park. Also does B&B, doubles from £45.
- Within Loch Lomond Shores shopping centre are 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
- The Tullie Inn, Balloch Road, G83 8SW (next to railway station), ☏ . M-Th 07:00-23:00, F Sa 08:00-01:00, Su 08:00-23:00. Mock Tudorbethan pub with varied menu and large portions. Also does B&B.
- 1 The Stables, Carrochan Road, Jamestown G83 8BQ (On A803, 200 yards south of jcn A811), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 12:00-21:00. Under new management since autumn 2019, has a large menu with good food.
- Cucina, Balloch Road, Balloch G83 8SS, ☏ . Su-Th 12:00-20:45, F Sa 12:00-21:45. Good fresh Italian food with GF options.
- The Princess Rose, Old Luss Road, Balloch G83 8QW, ☏ . M-F 12:00-14:00, 16:30-22:00, Sa 12:00-00:00, Su 16:30-22:00. Good Cantonese food, watch out for parking traps.
- Bombay Jock's (formerly Golden Star), 100 Balloch Road, Balloch G83 8SR, ☏ . Daily 16:30-00:00. Indian food, gets mostly good reviews but has an occasional bad spell. Does carry-out of course.
- 2 Cameron House, 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 and spa. The hotel suffered a fire in 2017 and is not expected to re-open for accommodation until end of 2020 along with the leisure club and other dining and drinking spots.
- Along Balloch / Drymen Rd are Tullie Inn and Balloch House (see Eat listings) 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.
- 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 C pub on banks of River Leven as it flows out of the loch. B&B double £100.
- Norwood Guest House, 60 Balloch Road, Balloch G83 8LE, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Small friendly B&B. B&B double £55.
- Gowanlea Guest House, Drymen Road, Balloch G83 8HS, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Friendly comfy guesthouse with 2 doubles en suite, 2 family en suite (sleeps 3 or 4), 1 twin with private bathroom. Walkers, cyclists & dogs all welcome. B&B double £50.
- 2 Sheildaig Farm B&B, Upper Stoneymollan Road, Balloch G83 8QY (lane from A82 / A811 roundabout), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Farmhouse up rough track with rooms in main steading and attached buildings. Walkers, cyclists and dogs welcome. B&B double £100.
- 3 Lomond Woods Holiday Park, Old Luss Road G83 8QP, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 10:00. Open all year, well-run site for caravans and RVs. No tents but has camping pods, sleep 4 or 6. Pods £50, tourer & RV pitches £25.
Good mobile signal in & around town.
- East through Drymen to access the east shore of Loch Lomond. Stay on the main road to reach historic Stirling.
- North along A82 to Tarbet then various routes lead to the Highlands and Islands.
- South to Glasgow for big city attractions.