The answer to the question ‘where is Loch Lomond’ explains a lot about how the area gained its status as an icon of Scottish scenery. Many pictures of beautiful scenery in Scotland feature Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
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The question is asked frequently by folk who hear that famous song ‘The Banks of Loch Lomond’. Along with Auld Lang Syne, this is an iconic song of Scotland and seems to appeal to people who have never actually been to Loch Lomond, but find the sentiment of the song inspires them to visit. (Actually, come to think of it, I get a bit sentimental myself on hearing ‘The Lakes of Pontchartrain’, and that isn’t even Scottish, but Irish.)
Anyway, what’s the appeal of the song ‘Loch Lomond’? Here are a few notes and then we’ll move on to answering the question ‘where is Loch Lomond’.
Some authorities suggest the tune is a variant of the old Scottish ballad ‘The Bonnie Hoose o’ Airlie’, others want to link it to the equally venerable ‘The Lowlands of Holland’ – yes, you got to know your Scottish ballads here!
However, most experts agree that the words are quite a bit younger than the tune. The song was first published in ‘Vocal Melodies of Scotland’ (1841). No individual composer is credited. The usual story is that the lyrics were written by a Jacobite prisoner, while awaiting his fate in Carlisle prison, in England. (It always seems to be in Carlisle – but then the sentimental Victorians were always very inventive.) Maybe the prisoner was captured after the Battle of Culloden and shipped across the Border; maybe he was taken while the Jacobite army retreated northwards in the previous winter. Or maybe the whole thing is fictional. But, if it was written around the Battle of Culloden in 1746, then the words with variations must have been around for almost a century before being published.
Here's the sun that 'shines bright on Loch Lomond' and where the lovers parted on 'the steep, steep side o' Ben Lomond' - basically, that's Ben Lomond seen from across the loch, from its south-western end near Balloch.
Again, like Auld Lang Syne, a lot of Scots (at least) can sing their way through the first verse or so, and then things start to get sticky. By verse two (see opposite), things are beginning to fall apart, while by verse three we are mired in Scottish sentimentality. Truth to tell, it isn’t great poetry. The high road and low road allusions are usually explained as the ‘high road’ as in the highway, a physical route, leading home to Scotland, as opposed to the ‘low road’, meaning death, where the spirit of the soldier returns immediately to his homeland.
So, the subject matter of the song is decidedly gloomy – though that doesn’t stop it being played at weddings and rock concert and other upbeat occasions. But it is because of its iconic status – even a few bars of it seems to say ‘Scotland’ – that must make folk want to find out where is Loch Lomond.
Anyway, if you are a resident or a habitual visitor then you’ll already know the answer to where is Loch Lomond. The famous loch lies partly in the Lowlands and partly in the Highlands of Scotland. And, back in the days when Scottish tourism first began, before the end of the 18th century, both Loch Lomond and the Trossachs were areas that were comparatively easy to reach from Scotland’s main cities, especially Glasgow and Edinburgh.
See another of those sophisticated hi-tech sketches, below, where it all becomes, uhmm, clear......
Got that? Basically, the Romantics, then everyone else, escaped the city and soon found themsleves across the Highland Boundary Fault, where it all got a lot nicer. Not just on Loch Lomond and in The Trossachs, but also on the Clyde sea-lochs, minutes away to the west. The nuclear submarines do their best to keep a low profile.
The sudden transition from Lowland Scotland – for example, on the journey north from Dumbarton on the Clyde – to the vista of Highland Scotland, revealed from the south end of Loch Lomond, first excited travellers more than 200 years ago. At that time, the taste of these early visitors was being influenced by the Romantic Movement in the arts and literature. This involved a new and positive way of perceiving wild and untamed places – as a rebellion against the ‘tamed’ landscapes and the order and symmetry of the Neo-Classical Age that went before.
The 'bonnie banks of Loch Lomond' are undoubtedly bonny. Looking west, these are the Arrochar Alps, selectively framed from just north of Invernsnaid on the West Highland Way. (see Loch Lomond cruising for more information.)
In Loch Lomond and the Trossachs – touched on in the Scotland tourism page - the Romantics found scenery exactly to their new tastes – and they found this wild and beautiful place without travelling too far from ‘city comforts’! So part of the answer to the question ‘where is Loch Lomond’ in a historical context is that it was just far enough away from centres of population a couple of centuries back to give a taste of excitement and daring for adventurous travellers – such as William and Dorothy Wordsworth who first came this way in 1803. But not so far away that visiting amounted to a fearful and risky expedition.
So the real answer to the question of where is Loch Lomond is ‘close enough’ – ie these days within minutes of Glasgow Airport, or an easy journey by road or rail – even closer than when it was first discovered and enjoyed by those early romantics. Today, in fact, more than half the Scottish population live within an hour’s drive. In addition, for more than two centuries, Loch Lomond (and the Trossachs to the east) have been balancing the needs of visitors with the need to retain the essential spirit of wild landscape. It’s a place that, in short, is loved to bits. That is why since 2002 the area that visitors still enjoy is now in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Finally, if you want a great experience of the area then we recommend you cruise Loch Lomond.
And for more information follow this link not just where is Loch Lomond, but also how deep.
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Song ‘Loch Lomond’
1. By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond.
Where me and my true love were ever wont to gae
On the bonnie, bonnie banks O' Loch Lomond.
O ye'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road,
An' I'll be in Scotland afore ye;
For me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks O' Loch Lomond.
2. 'Twas there that we parted in yon shady glen,
On the steep, steep side o' Ben Lomond',
Where in purple hue the Hieland hills we view,
An' the moon comin' out in the gloamin'
3. The wee birdies sing and the wild flow'rs spring,
And in sunshine the waters are sleepin';
But the broken heart it kens nae second spring,
Tho' the waefu' may cease frae their greetin'.
More information here on
Scotland in Three Days