We stayed a couple of days on the outskirts of Balloch, the south end of Loch Lomond. I’d planned to drive up to Glencoe and Fort William one day, but I decided against all the driving, so we stayed in Balloch one day and explored Loch Lomond Shores. It’s a retail and activity centre with plenty to do for all the family. We easily spent a day there and that was without much effort. There was more we could have seen.
Before we headed there, because we were out really early we headed to Duck Bay to see if we could get down to the side of the loch. The last time I’d been to Loch Lomond I was about 7 or 8.
We had a laugh about the parking because you could park absolutely fine (for free) along the road between 7am and 10 pm, but not at night. They obviously don’t want campervans staying overnight. Back home it’d be the other way round, restrictions in the daytime.
We parked up, and spent 20 minutes just enjoying watching the ducks, the water, and skimming stones (without much success).
We found this – never found seaglass before, but can I class this as ‘loch glass’?
Afterwards it was only a short drive back to Balloch to Loch Lomond Shores.
Is parking free at Loch Lomond Shores?
It’s easy to reach with plenty of car parking which is free. Yes, free all day. General opening hours are 9am-6pm (5.30 on Sundays) with outdoor areas always open. Some shops and activities have different opening times that you can check on their websites.
There are lots of child and parent spaces, disabled ones, and coach parking.
Loch Lomond Shores Shops
The Loch Lomond Shores Shops aren’t brilliant – there’s a small Jenners (House of Fraser), Sports Direct, Hawkshead, Tweeds, Thorntons and a few others, but you wouldn’t go there for destination shopping. I did expect a bit more of a place like that, and there’s some empty outlets.
There are some upstairs eateries which didn’t look open either. I’d have thought restaurants would have been perfect to have at a site like that, to open later given the views over the lake and the parking. I think more could have been made of it.
During the year they also hold different events there, So check before you go in case there’s something you want to see.
However, there’s plenty to do for the day. During Scottish school summer holidays there would be extra areas open – crazy golf wasn’t open when we were there (weekends only out of holiday times), but we did most other activities there.
Sea Life Loch Lomond Aquarium
We did have a false start on the tickets for the Sea Life Centre, having decided we might have time to go one afternoon. I bought the more expensive flexible tickets, for just over an hour away, not really taking it in that I wouldn’t be able to use the ‘flexible’ benefit of changing them as they have to be flexed over 24 hours before your slot. I shouldn’t have been able to buy them surely. But I could, and then found I was £41 down with no way of changing or getting a refund. The next day I bought standard ones (you have to buy in advance), and we were first in the doors. Luckily on reception they could refund my muck up, so that was a relief.
Like every sealife centre Loch Lomond have got the classic favourite fish as you walk around the different displays and areas.
We saw seahorses, sharks, rays, orange clown fish, lion fish and more. The more ‘ugly’ fish as well as the pretty ones.
Alice the 3 legged turtle that had come to this sealife centre from Mauritius and seemed very friendly coming up to us in the ray and shark tank.
The otters were being very cute and cleaning each other, although they seemed to like N photographing them but not me!
You could touch things in the rockpool area although that wasn’t something we wanted to do.
There’s an Octonauts Cinema on floor 2, cafe on 3rd floor and an outdoor look out over the loch on the 4th floor which was interesting to see it from another angle and height.
The conservation aspect was on display throughout with digital displays for all the show cases. There were also interactive displays to take part in – we didn’t fancy the ‘smell out the otter’ board. Bleugh.
The sealife tunnel was fairly small here, as it’s not a massive centre. Just a few different fish, rays and sharks, but we still enjoyed it.
The only disappointment was not seeing any jellyfish. They’re usually our favourites to watch, they’re quite hypnotising in the lights.
We’re been to quite a few Sea Life Centres now. Due to the location and size, Loch Lomond Sea Life does feel like it missed out quite a few extras that some of the others have. We enjoyed it, but it felt expensive for what it was, given we were only there for 30 minutes.
For younger children there’s more to do – there’s a trail, all the interactive displays and of course the Octonauts cinema. Maybe we’re just too ‘old’ for it now, or we’re expecting too much.
If you’re in the area, it’s worth doing especially if you’ve got 2 for 1 vouchers. It’s good to tick another one off the list.
Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre
The Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre is a small attraction with over 35 birds, ranging from owls, eagles, kestrels to buzzards and everything else inbetween. It does conservation work taking on birds that need help, with visitors able to sponsor individual birds. We could see which had been sponsored which was nice.
It won a Trip Advisor choice award in 2022, and is one of the leading bird of prey centres in the country. The setting is in a wooded area, so it’s quite like the birds’ natural environment.
It didn’t take us long to walk around and see all the birds as it’s in a small space, but there was information about each bird, with their names and back stories. We love the owls, and the kestrels. It was nice to see my first red kite up close.
The best were 3 small young birds called Snap, Crackle and Pop who were very vocal.
There’s also an education room with lots of information and displays in. We watched a video on how young birds were taught to fly and hunt by their parents over Chicago cityscape, and then on how a trainer taught a bird of prey before being able to send him back out to the wild.
There are 2 falconry displays a day. These are quite short – ours was only 20 minutes, and we saw 3 birds flying or doing their thing while the expert spoke about them, their background, the species and how the centre have worked with them to rehab them. The ones we saw flying were an indian eagle owl Rocky and Scully the American Kestrel.
The third bird was one that they’re still working with, by keeping her active and her brain working, so she gets set lots of puzzles and challenges to find the food. It was brilliant to watch, and the falconer doing the talking was excellent.
We were probably there less than an hour, but it was a good way to spend some time before heading to our next time slot booking for the TreeZone course.
N was really pleased there were spaces on the Loch Lomond Treezone aerial adventure high ropes course. We booked when we turned up, and there were spaces for most slots early in the day. By 1pm for his slot, there was only 1 space later, so if there’s a few of you, it’s worth booking in advance.
There are 2 Treezone courses with a minimum age of 7 (over 1.1m tall). Everyone does the more basic one, then the group moves on to the harder and longer course. There were a mix of adults, teens through to one much younger girl in N’s group, and everyone did the harder course. You need to be 1.3m tall to do the larger course.
The courses are through the woodland walk area, above people walking. Those not taking part can follow the course around underneath with no problems.
They had a lovely instructor advising them around the courses, and she did have to rescue one people who was over confident on the second course and couldn’t get back onto the obstacle on his own. And the 2 younger people needed help moving their tractor over the brackets to move around the wires.
At the start, they do the safety talk, teach them how to move their tractor over the brackets at the platforms, and helped them get their harnesses on. They did weigh everyone to get the right size rope/tractor, so one thing to be aware of for anyone sensitive to their weight. I’ve never seen that before at other similar courses, but it does make sense really.
The basic course is quite straightforward. They all made their way fast through that, apart from the hitches getting stuck on the platform and moving on to the next obstacle. But the challenging one was much more fun for N.
He loved it, although his hands were hurting from hanging on and pulling himself along on the ropes. Other courses he’s done has had gloves suggested, and probably in future, he’d take along ones we already have. There was quite a bit of waiting around for the last few people who were taking their time, or got held up by someone missing obstacles due to overconfidence and falling. But the last zipwire is a good length and speed and it wasn’t a problem waiting.
Treezone is definitely a good activity for active people at Loch Lomond Shores.
How much does Treezone Loch Lomond cost?
We paid £24 for a child, adults are £33. Family tickets work out slightly discounted.
Opening times are daily during the Spring/summer season. From November through to sometime in spring it’s weekends only.
Loch Lomond Cruise
There are a couple of cruises that can be booked from Loch Lomond shores. A 90 minute cruise and a 50 minute one. We were able to buy on the day and chose the 50 minute one as that would be plenty of time for us.
The seating was all covered whether upstairs or not, and there were toilets on board if needed.
The tour guide aspect is fairly minimal on the cruise we did, although we did get enough information about the sights on the banks of the loch.
One sight was the Maid of the Loch paddle steamer which is currently being restored for historical purposes. We didn’t have time to walk round to see her up close, so it was nice to hear more on the cruise.
The cruise went up the west bank up to the gateway of the highlands at the widest part of the loch, then returned back down the east side. Getting to the highlands part was so different weatherwise compared to the sun that we’d left behind. All foggy above Ben Lomond, the southernmost Munro.
The loch is beautiful and it would have been a lovely cruise, nice and peaceful.
Of course you can’t rely on other visitors following the requests to sit children down at all times and supervise them. On ours we had an annoying family who couldn’t sit still and talked loudly the whole time. The toddler was all over the place, the mother was taking selfies with the family and talked a lot, plus they moved seats 4 times during the trip before sitting in front of us. Such a shame they couldn’t have just told their kids to sit down, or move away from others who wanted to actually listen to the tour information and enjoy the stillness of the loch.
For the price it was definitely worth going on the cruise and seeing and hearing a bit more about Loch Lomond and the surrounding areas.
I’m sure during the Scottish school holidays, Loch Lomond Shores is a lot busier than it was when we were visiting. If you’re in the area, and want a fairly diverse day with a bit of walking thrown in and activities, then it’s worth a visit. Just don’t expect amazing shopping.
Have you ever been to Loch Lomond? What would you like to try out?