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A Dog-Friendly Guide to Loch Lomond

dog running around conic hill with loch lomond in the background

This blog post was written as a paid partnership with Hostelling Scotland to write a dog-friendly Loch Lomond guide. All opinions are my own.

I love how dog-friendly Loch Lomond is – it’s the perfect place to take your pooch for a weekend of adventure!

On a weekend in April, The Haggis, Angus, and I explored the east side of Loch Lomond. While many folks will opt to visit the busier, west-side of the loch, we decided to stick to the east, which is home to a variety of hiking, nature and wildlife.

We were welcomed with the perfect hiking weather – cloudy skies with snatches of blue, and still, calm waters on the loch. Angus loves to travel – and we love taking him with us on our adventures, and so for us, Loch Lomond was the perfect base for a fun weekend.

Even though Loch Lomond is dog-friendly, it’s still important to be organised when travelling with your dog. Read on to discover the paw-fect guide for visiting Loch Lomond with your dog!

What is the best way to explore Loch Lomond?

The best way to explore Loch Lomond is a combination of driving and on foot. We found that travelling the east side of Loch Lomond by car gave us more freedom, however, the road toward Rowardennan is quite bumpy – which certainly made us want to drive less!

Loch Lomond has a big focus on sustainability, and so we tried to walk as many places as we could. After all, one of the best parts about spending time at Loch Lomond is immersing yourself in nature. You can walk virtually anywhere as the West Highland Way runs the length of the loch on the east side.

Loch Lomond also has an electric car charging station at the Balmaha Visitor Centre in Balmaha.

Another fun way to explore Loch Lomond is by e-bike; an electric charging point for e-bikes is being installed in Drymen Square and some cafes (including the St Mocha Coffee Shop in Balmaha) have chargers you can borrow.

Using public transport

The best way to reach the east side of Loch Lomond is by catching the train from Glasgow to Balloch, and then the McGill’s bus to Balmaha. Public transport will only take you as far as Balmaha, so to reach the Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel you will need to walk (approx 2.5 hours) or drive.

Dog-friendly accommodation in Loch Lomond

We stayed at the Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel, which is one of Hostelling Scotland’s dog-friendly properties. This hostel was once a hunting lodge and sits right on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond; it has the most incredible view, and you can catch views of the loch from many of the bedrooms and the lounge.

Our private room had a view of Loch Lomond, which was wonderful to wake up to. The bathrooms are shared, and the showers are some of the best I’ve experienced in a hostel. The Wi-fi is a bit iffy, but I hear that this will be improved soon – plus, this is a place where you want to unwind, not scroll through your social media!

There is also a large kitchen and multiple dining areas where you can prepare your own meals, or you can enjoy a warm cooked meal at the hostel.

You have the choice of a continental breakfast or a cooked breakfast; you can also order a three-course meal for dinner, which we had one night. We had soup and bread to start, Tikka Masala for our main, and a chocolate brownie for dessert – it was delicious!

Angus was also able to join us for dinner – we brought our own bowl for him and he happily chomped away while we enjoyed our meal.

After dinner, we retired to the lounge where we relaxed with views of Loch Lomond and enjoyed a quiet beer (yes, this hostel is licensed and you can purchase craft beer!).

I’ve been on many hiking trips around Scotland and used these hostels as a base – they’re a fantastic option if you’re looking for comfortable accommodation at an affordable price.

One of the best things about the Hostelling Scotland hostels is that they are wholesome and family-friendly. We met folk from all walks of life – young students, retired folk hiking the West Highland Way, and people in their thirties (like us) who were using the hostel as a base for some hiking.

If you’d like to bring your dog, there is a small £5 fee for each night that your dog stays.

Rowardennan Lodge is a fantastic hostel with five-star views that is affordable for everyone!

>> Click here to book Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel

My other experiences staying with Hostelling Scotland:

Dog-friendly restaurants in Loch Lomond

The Clachan Inn, Drymen

The Clachan Inn is one of my favourite pubs in Scotland; the pub was licensed in 1734, making it the oldest registered pub in Scotland, and one of the oldest pubs in Scotland.

The pub area is dog-friendly (and in my opinion, the best place to sit down for a meal). The owners and bar staff are wonderful – they were delighted to see Angus, giving him lots of treats and a bowl of water.

I ordered the Aberdeen Angus burger which was delicious, and Craig had the Steak Pie. He swears it’s one of the best pies he’s ever had!

This pub has a local feel to it, and definitely holds a special place in my heart. In my opinion, it’s a must-visit.

The Perch, Balmaha

The Perch was another highlight when we visited Loch Lomond. Located on the waterfront, The Perch is stylish yet offers relaxed dining. They specialise in delicious brunches, lunches and homemade cakes.

Angus was greeted with treats and pats when we arrived and given a bowl of water while the Haggis and I studied the menu. I opted for the pulled-pork sandwich which was lovely! The Haggis had the Ceasar Salad which he also said was delicious.

We washed our lunch down with coffee and cake (they have a delicious sprawl at the till).

The service was also outstanding here.

The Clansman Bar, Rowardennan

The Clansman Bar is a restaurant and pub located at the Rowardennan Hotel.

This pub/restaurant is more casual, and dogs are welcome too. Angus made lots of friends when we went here for dinner!

Other options

You are welcome to sit outside with your dog at St Mocha Coffee Shop & Ice Cream Parlour in Balmaha. They make their own ice cream and coffee and are very into sustainability using the by-product of their coffee roasting.  They even made Angus a Puppachino when we visited!

Located next door is the Oak Tree Inn, where you are welcome to sit in the outdoor area with your dog. The Oak Tree Inn has been named Scotland’s Top Pub twice, and they source their ingredients as locally as possible. They serve a variety of dishes including pizza, burgers, fish and chips, and steak pie.

If you like the sound of soup and homemade bread, The Soup Dragon Café in Drymen is a vegan/vegetarian cafe that has a lovely outdoor area with seating where you can sit with your dog. There is also a lovely woodland walk here.

Dog-friendly things to do in Loch Lomond

Hike Ben Lomond

If you’re looking for a hike that’s more of a challenge, Ben Lomond is a popular choice. As Scotland’s most southerly Munro (a mountain in Scotland over 3,000ft), Ben Lomond is popular with day-trippers from Glasgow and even Edinburgh.

My suggestion is to spend more than just a day in the area, especially as the hike up Ben Lomond takes 4.5 – 5.5 hours on average.

The great thing is that if you stay at Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel, the walk up Ben Lomond begins from the hostel!

Distance: 12 km / 7.5 miles
Time: 4.5 – 5.5 hours
Difficulty: 3/5
Start from: Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel (click for the starting point in Google Maps).

>> For the route information, WalkHighlands has a great guide.

Hike Conic Hill

If you’d like a shorter hike with amazing views, Conic Hill is a popular choice. Conic Hill is a popular hill hike with locals; many Glaswegians will flock to this hill on weekends, climb it, and be back home in time for dinner.

The hike takes you through a forest and you climb gently uphill until you reach a kissing gate, and from there, the path is steep but manageable. The kissing gate may be a bit tricky for larger dogs, but Angus eventually figured it out so we didn’t have to lift him over the gate!

The views from the first small hill are incredible – you can see right across Loch Lomond and her islands, and of course, the might Munro, Ben Lomond.

Angus loved this short but steep hike – and we saw plenty of dogs of all breeds and colours on the way up.

Be sure to keep your dog on a leash at all times as there is often livestock around.

Distance: 4km / 2.5 miles
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: 2/5
Start from: Balmaha Visitor Centre Car Park (click for the starting point in Google Maps).

>> For the route information, WalkHighlands has a great guide.

Visit Inchcailloch Island

Did you know there is an island on Loch Lomond that you can take your dog to? Introducing Inchcailloch Island!

This island is part of the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve and is certainly one of the more off the beaten track options for exploring Loch Lomond. It is known for its wild and natural beauty; the view from the summit of Tom na Nigheanan has been said to be one of the best views you can get in Scotland!

A ferry runs from the Balmaha Boat Yard and Luss from April to October (this is a rough guide – it also depends on water levels when the ferry runs). It runs on demand from 9 am – 5.30 pm, and it costs £7.50 for a return ticket – and yes, your dog is welcome aboard!

Click here for more information about the Balmaha ferry.

History of Inchcailloch Island

St Kentigerna, an Irish missionary, settled on the island in the early 8th century. She lived on the island until she died in 734, and the legend is that she established a nunnery on the island.

Inchailloch Island is also home to the only Scheduled Ancient Monument in the Loch Lomond area – an ancient church and a burial ground.

When is the best time to visit?

The best time to visit is in spring when the bluebells are blooming on the island. Make sure you keep your dog on a leash at all times while visiting the island, so you don’t disturb the wildlife.

Walk some of the West Highland Way

You are guaranteed to see plenty of folk hiking the West Highland Way if you stay on the east side of Loch Lomond – so why not check off a section of the path?

A good section to try is from the Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel to Inversnaid, and back.

After you leave the hostel, follow the Ptarmigan path to Ben Lomond for a sweet surprise. There is a really cute Honesty Stall called Bens Bakes which is filled with yummy slices, lollies, bottles of water, chippies- and even dog treats!

You can pay by cash, but there is PayPal information at the stall in case you aren’t carrying any coins.

Go wild swimming

Take your dog for a paddle in the loch and go wild swimming. Angus loved running into the water fetching sticks! It’s the perfect way for your pooch to cool down after a hike.

Search for sea glass

There is a lovely little beach next to the Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel that is perfect for searching for ancient pottery and sea glass.

I found some lovely pieces to add to my collection, and Angus enjoyed exploring the small beach searching for sticks!

Looking for more ideas?

The Balmaha Visitor Centre is full of information on things to do and walking trails in the area. Pay them a visit and one of the friendly guides will be able to give you some ideas of things to do with your dog in Loch Lomond.

Tips for visiting Loch Lomond with your dog

Travelling with your dog can be stressful if you’re not organised, even when visiting a dog-friendly place such as Loch Lomond.

Here are some of my tips for visiting Loch Lomond with your dog:

1] Keep your dog on a leash when you’re in a paddock with livestock. Livestock owners have the right to destroy any dog that is disturbing their livestock – so keep your dog and other animals safe by keeping your dog on a leash.

2] Pick up your poo! Loch Lomond has a huge focus on being waste-free; there are plenty of rubbish bins around the national park where you can dispose of your dogs. I did see a few people who left their dog’s business in a bag on the side of a walking path, please don’t do this – carry it with you until you find a bin, or place it in a dog poo carrier. Please remember to use biodegradable doggy bags too.

3] Bring coins for parking. Loch Lomond charges for parking in many of their car parks.

4] Always carry water for your dog. There are Scottish Water Top Up Taps at the foot of Ben Lomond, Balmaha and one soon to open in Drymen village square.

5] Bring your own reusable water bottle and reusable coffee cup to Loch Lomond. As I mentioned above, there are many places you can refill your water bottle, and Scottish tap water is the best around! Click here to explore the locations where your reusable coffee cup will be accepted.

6] If you’d like to learn more about planning a sustainable visit to Loch Lomond, I recommend you visit the Love Lochs and Landscapes website. There are some excellent resources to help you with your planning.

7] Pack everything you need for your dog, and double-check you’ve packed it. Loch Lomond is a little remote, so make sure that you have everything that your dog needs for his trip. I’ve created a packing list below to help you.

Dog-friendly packing list

I’ve created this packing list to make your trip to Loch Lomond with your dog much easier.

  • If you’re travelling to Loch Lomond by car, I recommend having a Dog Car Seat Cover to save your car from wet, muddy paws! This is the one we have and I highly recommend it.
  • Enough food for your dog, plus some extra. If you’re doing lots of hiking your dog may need extra calories.
  • Food bowl
  • Portable water bottle with drinking bowl
  • Biodegradable poo bags
  • Poo bag carrier – yes this is a thing, and it’s a lifesaver! This is the one I recommend.
  • Dog collar, harness, and leash
  • Treats
  • Treat carrier bag
  • Dog bed
  • Blanket
  • Toys
  • Tick remover (one for dogs and one for humans too)
  • A couple of old towels
  • Dog-friendly first aid kit

What do you pack for your dog when you’re going on a road trip?

Summary

dog friendly loch lomond

Scotland is a great country to explore with your furry friend. There is an abundance of dog-friendly accommodation options, restaurants, facilities, and outdoor activities to keep your pooch happy and entertained.

I was surprised at just how dog-friendly Loch Lomond is – Angus had the time of his life being treated like royalty by the hostel and restaurant staff and he made lots of doggy friends in the area too.

Loch Lomond is certainly my new go-to recommendation for a dog-friendly holiday!

Do you have a question about travelling to Loch Lomond with your dog? Leave a comment below.