One of Scotland's best-known songs, The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, was reputedly written by a soldier of Prince Charles Edward Stuart's army during the Jacobite rising of 1745. During the long, slow retreat from Derby the soldier was captured and taken to Carlisle Castle and it was here that he wrote the song for his love, while languishing in prison awaiting execution. It tells of their joy in each other's company on the banks of Loch Lomond and how she would make the lonely journey home to Scotland by the 'high road'. Meanwhile his soul would be instantly transported at the moment of death back to his beloved loch along the 'low road' of the underworld and reach there before her. It's a poignant song of love and parting and a nostalgic remembrance of a landscape that the soldier will never see again in life.
Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater lake in Britain. It is 24 miles (38.6km) long, 5 miles (8km) wide and, at its deepest point is 623ft (190m) deep. Within its banks are approximately 38 islands, some of which are inhabited, while others form sanctuaries for birds and wildlife. Most of them are in private ownership and not open to visitors. Inchcailloch is part of the National Nature Reserve and Bucinch and Ceardach are National Trust for Scotland properties. They can be visited and in summer a ferry and mail boat operate a regular passenger service from the boatyard at Balmaha, allowing island exploration and the opportunity to lunch at the Inchmurrin Hotel on Inchmurrin.
The loch straddles the Highland Boundary Fault, a fracture caused by movement of the earth's crust millions of years ago, and the geological differences between Highland and Lowland Scotland formed at this time are clearly visible from its banks. Here the fault runs from Conic Hill on the southeast shore down through the islands of Inchcailloch, Torrinch, Creinch and Inchmurrin.
Most visitors rush up the busy A82 along the west side of Loch Lomond, but on the more secluded eastern shore there is a largely unspoilt area of tranquillity and beauty, even in the height of summer. The diverse woods here are part of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and contain walking and nature trails and isolated picnic spots. The variety of animals and plants which can be found is staggering. Over a quarter of the plants that flourish in Britain can be found around the loch. You may well spot the rare capercaillie (it's the size of a turkey), ptarmigan or even a golden eagle. On Inchcailloch white fallow deer have been spotted in the past. While on Inchconnacan you might encounter a wallaby. They were transported here from the Australian outback some years ago, by Lady Arran.
From the car park head towards the entrance on to the main road. Go right on to a track beside the starting post to the Sallochy Trail. Cross the road with care and continue along the trail on the other side. Follow red and blue waymarkers. At the second junction turn right and follow the red and blue waymarkers.
The trail goes through the wood and passes into the ruined 19th-century farm steading of Wester Sallochy which the Forestry Commission has now cleared of trees. Several buildings can be seen and it's worth spending some time investigating these old ruins and trying to imagine life in those times. When you have finished, circle the buildings to the left and follow the well-worn trail until it ends at a T-junction beside a waymarker post.
Turn right on to the forest road here. Follow the forest road for about 0.5 miles (800m) to reach a gate just before the junction with the main road. Turn left onto the main road for a very short way and then turn right into a clear entrance to a path to the loch.
This path soon joins a well-surfaced footpath. You are now on the West Highland Way. Follow the waymarkers, keeping on the main path and ignoring any subsidiary tracks branching off it.
Follow the path uphill through a rocky section and up steps and then, as it levels off, through a wood. Eventually the trail passes through the Sallochy Woods car park to return to the start of the walk.
West Highland Way, forest trail and forest road
Loch, hills and woodland
Suitable for dogs
AA Leisure Map 27 Loch Lomond & Inverary
Sallochy Woods car park
None on route
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.