Balloch Castle Country Park is a 200-acre public park located at the southern end of Loch Lomond.
This popular green space offers visitors easy access to the loch as well as a number of nature trails, ornamental woodland, play parks and formal gardens.
The centre of the park is home to the 19th-century Balloch Castle which is the focal point of paths that run down to the waterfront in a circular route.
Visitors can easily walk from the park into Balloch where they can enjoy the Loch Lomond Shores mall, a sea life aquarium, and a bird of prey centre.
|Opening Hours:||Monday to Sunday: 10 am – 4 pm|
|Parking:||Free on-site car park|
|Facilities:||Disabled access, play park, public toilets, picnic benches|
Balloch Castle Country Park is one of the largest public parks in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
Covering 200 acres, the park offers visitors fantastic views over Loch Lomond as well as multiple walking routes on paths that thread their way around the estate between a historic walled garden to the south and the magnificent Balloch Castle in the middle.
Meanwhile, the northern half of the park features thick coppices and managed woodland, several small beaches overlooking the loch, and walking trails that circle meadows and open parkland.
Suffice it to say, there are plenty of things to do for families at this attraction.
Getting to Balloch Country Park is particularly easy from Glasgow as driving from the city centre takes just 40 minutes, while visitors coming from Stirling will arrive in around 50 minutes.
Edinburgh is slightly less straightforward as the 75-mile drive can take up to 2 hours depending on the amount of traffic on the always-busy M8, which makes Balloch Castle Country Park less than ideal for day trips from the capital.
Once at the site, visitors will find ample parking in two free on-site car parks which are connected by a network of well-maintained tarmacked paths that are suitable for wheelchairs, pushchairs, and the able-bodied alike.
These paths run in a 2-mile circle around the perimeter past a number of attractions including a walled garden at the southern end of the park and a small beach with a jetty leading to the Loch Lomond waterfront midway along the western side.
Sadly there’s no cafe in Balloch Country Park, but the jetty has a temporary pop-up cafe that opens in summer inside the jetty boat house.
For the rest of the year, visitors have a wide choice of restaurants and cafes to choose from in Balloch as well as a collection of eateries in the nearby Loch Lomond Shores shopping mall.
While the landscaped parkland is the main draw for tourists, in days past the centre point was Balloch Castle – the ancestral home of the Earls of Lennox who maintained their power base on the site from the early 1200s to the 1600s.
The old castle was pulled down in the 1800s so that the stone could be used as material for the current Balloch Castle which dominates the centre of the estate.
Sadly, the castle is now rather dilapidated so it’s not open to visitors but there’s hope that the current managers – West Dunbartonshire Council – will eventually re-open it after completing an extensive programme of restoration.
1: It may not be immediately obvious, but Balloch Country Park covers more than 200 acres so there’s lots of space to escape the crowds that congregate in nearby Loch Lomond Shores.
One particular hidden gem that’s worth checking out is the walled garden at the southern end of the park which is ablaze with flowers during the warmer months.
2: There are a few wee sand beaches in the park which are great spots to set up a beach towel in summer. The area near the jetty gets rather busy though, so I recommend walking a few hundred feet north where there are a couple of much quieter beaches.
3: If you have kids that need to burn off energy then the jetty is the place to go as there’s a decent play park area next to it where mums and dads can keep watch from the surrounding grass area. There’s a temporary summer cafe in the nearby boathouse too.
1: If you’re considering swimming in Loch Lomond be aware the general advice is to not do it as the water is very cold even in the height of summer, meaning muscle fatigue can set in quickly. There are also lots of sheer drops and strong currents.
There’s a good resource about how to enjoy Loch Lomond safely on the official Loch Lomond website.
2: The nearest place to get food at Balloch Country Park is Balloch Road at the southern entrance where you’ll find the Balloch House pub/restaurant. The menu is very good and there’s a wide choice of meals, though it’s a wee bit pricey.
A cheaper alternative is the chippy a hundred yards up the road, or failing that I recommend taking a walk to Loch Lomond Shores which usually has pop-up food stalls on the forecourt in addition to the cafes inside the shopping centre.
This is one of the largest public parks in one of the most-visited regions of Scotland so it’s understandable that it’s a popular destination, especially at the weekend in summer.
That being said, Balloch Castle Country Park is quite a sizeable place so there’s usually somewhere to sit in peace and quiet no matter the time of year.
This park really shines as a family destination though, and there are more than enough things to do to keep children and parents occupied for most of the day.
The main attraction has to be Loch Lomond which borders the park along its western edge.
The views across this famous body of water are stunning and many visitors come to the park just to enjoy the waterside setting, so it’s just as well there are several small beaches along the shore where visitors can sit and enjoy the view.
The largest of these beaches can be found midway along the western edge of the park, more or less opposite Balloch Castle.
A jetty allows visitors to head out onto the loch in a boat, but swimming is not recommended due to a combination of sheer drops, freezing-cold water and unpredictable currents.
If the weather is too cold for water-based activities then parents might like to let their kids run riot in the play park near the jetty or perhaps go for a walk around the perimeter of the park which shouldn’t take more than one hour to complete.
A visit to Balloch Country Park is nicely rounded off with some of the other attractions in the immediate area, all of which are within walking distance.
The nearest is the Maid of The Loch paddle steamer which has operated cruises up and down Loch Lomond for over 70 years.
The boat is located on a pier on the opposite bank of the River Leven which lies at the southern edge of Balloch Castle Country Park, so to get to it visitors will have to walk south to Balloch Road, cross the bridge, and then walk back up to the pier on the opposite side of the river.
Expect to take 20 minutes to walk from the park jetty to the Maid of The Loch, and 30 minutes to walk from the jetty to the next major attraction – Loch Lomond Shores.
This is the main tourist destination in Balloch as it features several attractions in one small area, including a sea life centre, a bird of prey centre, a tree-top adventure course and boat hire.
Things to do
Walking Trails: Balloch Country Park offers various walking trails with stunning views of Loch Lomond. The trails meander through woodland, parkland and ornamental gardens on flat and well-maintained paths that are suitable for all abilities. Wildlife spotting is also an added bonus.
Picnicking: Grab your favourite snacks and enjoy a picnic by the stunning Loch Lomond. The park has several designated picnic areas with tables and benches, making it an ideal place for a family outing or a romantic date.
Visiting Balloch Castle: Explore the historic Balloch Castle within the park. Although you can’t enter the castle, the exterior and the surrounding gardens are worth a visit. The castle also acts as a dramatic backdrop for photographs.
Bird Watching: Balloch Country Park is home to several species of birds. Bring your binoculars (link to binocular reviews) and guidebook, and spend a peaceful day bird-watching. If you’d like to see even more birds, head north a few miles to RSPB Loch Lomond (Address: High Wards Farm, Gartocharn, Alexandria, G83 8SB).
Play Area: If you’re visiting with children, the park has an excellent play area. It includes traditional play equipment like swings and slides and provides a safe and fun environment for kids to enjoy while mums and dads enjoy the views of Loch Lomond.
Historic Foundation: Balloch Castle and Country Park is steeped in history, with its roots dating back to the 13th century. The original castle, known as Lennox Castle, was owned by the powerful Earls of Lennox.
A Regal Rebuild: The current castle, a handsome Gothic-style building, was built between 1808 and 1809 by the rich Glasgow merchant John Buchanan. Despite its name, Balloch Castle is not a castle in the traditional sense, but a manor house.
Architectural Marvel: The castle’s design is attributed to the famed Scottish architect Robert Lugar. Known for his expertise in Gothic Revival and Classical architecture, Lugar’s influence can be seen in the castle’s beautiful attention to detail.
A Haven for Wildlife: With over 200 acres of land, the country park is a haven for a wide range of wildlife. From roe deer to otters, and bird species including the great spotted woodpecker and willow warbler, it’s a great location to sit with a pair of binoculars.
Expansive Views: The park provides stunning views of Loch Lomond, Scotland’s largest freshwater loch. From the castle’s hilltop position, visitors can enjoy panoramic vistas of the loch and the surrounding mountains.
Protected Status: The castle and its grounds have been designated as a Category B listed building and a Garden and Designed Landscape of national importance.
Things to do nearby
Maid of The Loch. Address: The Pier, Pier Road, Balloch G83 8QX. Distance: 1 mile.
The Maid of The Loch is a paddle steamer located between Balloch Country Park and Loch Lomond Shores shopping mall. The ship has been in operation since 1953 and has provided transport links and pleasure cruises to many of the lochside communities for the best part of 70 years.
Today, the Maid of The Loch is moored at the southern end of Loch Lomond where guided tours take visitors around the vessel and the restored winch house.
Loch Lomond Shores. Ben Lomond Way, Balloch G83 8QL. 1.5 miles.
A chic and modern lochside shopping mall with a variety of shops, delicatessens and cafés. There is ample parking as well as on-site facilities including picnic areas, pop-up snack bars, and pleasure cruises that sail around Loch Lomond.
Sea Life Aquarium. Drumkinnon Tower, Ben Lomond Way, Balloch G83 8QL. 1.5 miles.
A highly-rated aquarium opposite the Lomond Shores shopping mall. The aquarium has a number of different animal enclosures with otters, sharks, rays, rockpool creatures and many more creatures waiting to be discovered.
During a visit you will see over 1,500 animals in 7 themed zones inside the aquarium, as well as enjoy cruises around Loch Lomond to enjoy the beauty of Scotland’s largest loch.
Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre. Ben Lomond Way, Balloch, Alexandria G83 8QL. 1.5 miles.
This visitor attraction features falconry displays with a varied collection of birds of prey including buzzards, owls, eagles, hawks and vultures.
The attraction is widely acknowledged as being one of Scotland’s foremost bird of prey centres thanks to the diverse range of bird species that originate from Britain and across the globe.
River Leven. Address: Balloch, Alexandria, G83 8LG. Distance: 1 mile.
The River Leven flows for 6 miles from the southern tip of Loch Lomond to the north of the River Clyde.
This freshwater river is a popular fishing spot due to the number of salmon and sea trout that migrate up it, and it’s also popular with walkers and cyclists thanks to the paths that run along its entire length on the western side.
Frequently asked questions
Is Balloch Castle free?
Balloch Castle is currently closed to visitors. Balloch Castle Country Park is free to visit.
Does Balloch have a beach?
There is a sand beach on the east side of Loch Lomond Shores in Balloch. This beach stretches north towards the Maid of The Loch steamship. The beach has a boat hire operator as well as picnic tables.
There are smaller beaches along the shoreline of Balloch Country Park.
Can you go inside Balloch Castle?
Balloch Castle is currently closed and is not open to visitors. West Dunbartonshire Council has announced a restoration programme so it may re-open in the future. See the West Dunbartonshire Council website for updates.
Who owns Balloch Park?
Balloch Castle Country Park was purchased by the Glasgow Corporation in 1914 which leased it to Dunbarton District Council in 1975.
Balloch Country Park now forms part of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.