Pocket Britain

Possibly Scotland's largest lake with lush green islands

Loch Lomond is either the first or second largest lake in Great Britain, depending on your point of view. Loch Ness has a higher volume of water, but Lomond has a bigger surface area. It takes up a huge 71 square kilometres.
Either way, the lake is a beautiful place. Much of its appeal comes from the lush green islands scattered across the water. H.V. Morton, a 20th century travel writer, described them as "jewels upon its surface". There are around 30 islands altogether, but the precise number depends on the rainfall. Many of them are hidden or revealed as the surface of the lake rises or falls.
Technically, most of the islands are private property - so if you want to visit, you'll sort of be exploring someone's back garden. Nevertheless, most of the landowners won't mind responsible tourists. If you respect the land, you're free to access these interesting and unusual places.
In the past, the islands were used in some creative ways. One was a prison, while others were home to illegal whisky distilleries. Much of their appeal in the present day comes from the fantastic views on offer. There are still some surprises out there though - one of the islands, for example, hosts a colony of wallabies!
There's just as much fun to be had on the water as off it. Loch Lomond is one of the best boating and water sports venues in Scotland. Any kind of craft is welcome, from tiny kayaks to giant cruisers. You'll spot yachts drifting gently in the wind, and jet-skis zooming about like hyperactive children.
If you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, there are still plenty of ways to while away the time. Walking trails and cycle paths spiral off in all directions. There's a full golf course right on the banks of the Loch, where you can practice your putting in the most spectacular location imaginable.
At the lake's southern tip is Loch Lomond Shores, a leisure and retail complex overlooking the water. It might sound sacrilegious to put a shopping centre in such a pretty place, but the architects worked hard to make sure it sits well within its surroundings. The finished result is certainly no eyesore. It houses various shops, restaurants and even an aquarium. There's a tourist information centre here too, making this a common starting point for trips to the lake.
Loch Lomond is part of the Trossachs National Park, an area of nearly 2000 square kilometres that has been protected since 2002. It contains a pick 'n' mix bag of scenery, with 20 mountains over 3,000 feet, 2 forest parks and around 50 rivers. You'd expect a landscape like this to be tucked away in one of Scotland's nooks and crannies. Instead, it's very conveniently placed just next to Glasgow. Half of the country's entire population could drive here in less than an hour.
Unsurprisingly, many of them do. The lake is one of Scotland's most popular natural wonders. It's particularly well known for its famous song, "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond". The tune has been recorded by many artists over the years, but no-one knows who first composed it. One rumour is that it was a soldier held in enemy captivity. He wrote the song in expression of how much he missed his homeland.

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