FAMILY HOLIDAY ON THE WEST COAST OF SCOTLAND
Loch Lomond, Argyll and the Isle of Bute
Since our daughter arrived almost four years ago and now joined by her 9 month old baby brother, we have continued to holiday throughout Scotland, from the far north to the Scottish Borders and western isles. Her first adventure was at just five weeks old for a weekend by Loch Tay, the following week we headed to Dunkeld and so it continues. For her 2nd birthday she had her first Scottish Island experience when we enjoyed a long weekend on the Isle of Arran.
As part of Visit Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 #YCW2020, we were invited to take part in the West Coast Waters sponsored campaign. This is to help promote this wonderful part of the country and highlight some of the lesser visited regions and various family friendly activities.
Our trip was set around the Firth of Clyde via Loch Fyne to the iconic bonnie banks of Loch Lomond during the last weekend of September.
DAY 1 – FRIDAY
This family adventure started at the CalMac Ferry Port in Wemyss Bay, easily reached from Glasgow and less than a couple of hours drive from Edinburgh, from here we were travelling onto the Isle of Bute. When sailing on Scotland’s waterways, I would recommend you explore the various options for Island Hopping as this gives you the opportunity to explore the west coast and it’s many islands. Check out the many different variations of travel you could do with Calmac Ferries
It’s always exciting to step onto a ferry for a holiday, but I think more so for our little people this experience is hyped up with being able to stand out on deck seeing the world flow by and taking in all the many birds and many other animals you are likely to spot on your travels on the water.
After a quick and comfortable crossing we stopped off at the Winter Garden in Rothesay, which is the biggest town on the island. While our youngest had lunch, my daughter and I had a play in the waterfront garden followed by a visit to the Discovery Visitor Centre and museum, which lies within the garden.
Next up we made our way to Mount Stuart House and Gardens, which is a short drive south of Rothesay and lies within a beautiful Estate along the coastline.
We enjoyed a wonderful lunch, which included a selection of their finest local produce from land and sea for both adults and children alike. You will find a playground for the little ones by their visitor centre to run off some energy and lovely grounds to further walk and explore. A visit to Mount Stuart House works perfectly as part of an onward journey along the west coast or as a day trip from the mainland.
After Mount Stuart we continued our journey north towards Rhubodach where we would sail back to the mainland. If you have time I’d recommend you head past the sandy Ettrick Bay Beach, which is on the western coast of the Isle of Bute, a short drive from Rothesay. It’s a great beach for walks and running off some energy, you’ll also find a little tearoom to sit and watch the world go by.
The drive from the south of the island to Rhubodach was pretty spectacular, taking in some of the amazing coastline around the Isle of Bute. The ferry sails every 30 minutes and takes all of three minutes to cross back to the mainland.
We made our way from Colintraive towards Portavadie and stopped off at Kyles View near Tighnabruaich. From here you look down a narrow sea channel that separates the northern end of the Isle of Bute from the Scottish mainland, well worth a stop!
After a short drive we then arrived at Portavadie Marina, which lies by Loch Fyne, where we would be spending the night in a luxurious two bed cottage with marina views, ample space with a good size twin room for the kids. It was well kitted out with games for all ages in the living room, good living space and nice kitchen dining area, ideal for families.
DAY 2 – SATURDAY
After a lovely breakfast and before we headed off to Ardkinglas Estate for our next adventure, we made the most of the new Spa and Leisure Facility. What a treat and this was something I had long been wanting to try out. Not only is there an outdoor heated infinity pool (for the adults), and an indoor pool, but they also had a perfect kids pool at only 0.35m deep. This meant our son and daughter could play there (supervised of course) and did not have to worry about it being too deep, but with ample space to play and swim around. The changing facilities are probably the best I’ve come across in a Leisure facility. So well thought through with several dedicated family changing rooms and play pens next to the free hair dryers.
There is also a gym and spa treatment rooms onsite, with a family friendly cafe next to the pool. Outside the leisure facilities, you’ll also find a good sized playground.
From Portavadie you can continue your island hopping journey onwards to Tarbet and beyond with CalMac Ferries or as we did, drive north along Loch Fyne and the Argyll Forest Park.
We then made our way to Ardkinglas Woodland Garden, which is located by the banks of Loch Fyne. There you will find one of only a few Gruffalo trails in Scotland, this is an impressively done trail with wonderful story telling (requires own reading) along the route. Once you have searched (and found a Gruffalo) there is also a small fairy trail, which our daughter loved exploring. A wonderful way to spend a few hours as a family. A great place for kids to start learning more about the outdoors and explore the many different species of plants. We were all excited that we spotted a red squirrel upon entering the Estate, always a treat seeing them out and about Scotland!
There’s no cafe on site, but you will find a small kiosk and the Tree Shop Cafe and Loch Fyne Restaurant is only a short drive away.
Next up we made our way along the scenic Ardkinglas Glen, before passing the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint Video. We arrived at the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond where we hopped onto a Cruise Loch Lomond boat for an hours cruise around the loch. We had been on the cruise a few years ago, but it’s something we always enjoy, especially sitting on the top deck and just taking in the breathtakingly beautiful views across the Loch. The downstairs is enclosed and perfect for kids, with large windows looking onto the loch. Our daughter also enjoyed the excitement of sitting on the open deck a couple of times seeing the captain sail the boat.
Our accommodation for the night was at Lodge on Loch Lomond, literally as the name says, with a private balcony overlooking the loch, another beauty of a view! A comfortable family room, with private sauna and also on site leisure facilities.
After we had settled into our room and before dinner, we ventured out to their private beach to skim stones and watch the ducks swim about, as the golden colours were reflecting on the loch. A great way for our little ones to finish another great day.
DAY 3 – SUNDAY
After a good night sleep and a delicious dinner the night before, we headed down for breakfast at the Lodge on Loch Lomond Restaurant and what a special view across the Loch with the sun rising in the horizon. We enjoyed a good selection from their buffet breakfast which set us up for the day.
When we finished breakfast we got ready and headed for the Sea Life Centre Loch Lomond only a short drive away in Balloch, which is at the southern tip of Loch Lomond. This was a wonderful experience, we had earlier in the year taken our kids to Tobermory Aquarium and also another one in Denmark, but this was by far the best and biggest overall experience. I caught up with James, one of the guides, and his passion for the place was shining through throughout the conversation as he was showing off the various displays.
I’d recommend you make an effort to see the otters getting fed, these fellas were so playful and just an absolute joy to watch. Also make sure you check out the top floor viewing platform and café the floor below, some of the best views over Loch Lomond.
Next up myself and my daughter got the opportunity to try out canoeing on the Loch with Loch Lomond Leisure. She had been canoeing before, but never for this length of time. This was such a fun experience for us both and with her at 3 years old was perfect as this is their minimum age requirement for this activity. My wife and I have been enjoying the occasional canoeing when away on holidays over the years and its such a wonderful way to explore our many lochs and waters from a different perspective and at slow pace.
We spotted loads of birds, paddled past the Majestic Maid of the Loch paddle steamer and even saw a seaplane land by Cameron House, which got us both really excited! Loch Lomond Leisure offers various water based activities including hiring rowing boats, pedal boats, speed boats, you should check them out for your next adventure on Loch Lomond.
After about an hour we called it a day as our daughter was keen to try out the well equipped playground adjacent to the Sea Life Centre, so went there for a while before we headed for lunch.
Lunch was at the iconic Boat House by Cameron House and sits on the banks of Loch Lomond only a short drive from Balloch or is an easy walk from Loch Lomond Shores.
As we arrived the restaurant had a bustling atmosphere with families and groups enjoying Sunday lunch. We were offered a table with lovely views overlooking the marina at one side and the loch at the other.
We ended up going for a full three course meal, which we had not expected, but it was difficult to say no to the delicious food on offer.
A big thanks to all the people who we met throughout our trip and for the various partners and organisations involved who helped make our weekend a special one. We’ll be back!
‘For further information on booking your trip to Loch Lomond, Trossachs and Clyde Sea Lochs visit http://www.lovelochlomond.com’
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