Balloch Castle remains a popular attraction to visit in Balloch despite being closed to visitors. Although you can’t go inside, the castle is still impressive and worth admiring from the outside. By visiting the castle, you’ll also visit the charming Balloch Castle Country Park (AKA Balloch Country Park) – a 200 acre country park worth exploring in its own right. With this in mind, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting Balloch Castle and the lovely Balloch Castle Country Park.
Table of Contents
Balloch Castle Country Park Overview
The Balloch Castle Country Park was initially designed as a 19th century private estate, which was centred around Balloch Castle. In the 20th century, the private estate was developed into a country park. Since being given country park status in 1981, the Balloch Castle Country Park remains the only country park in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. That’s why the country park is sometimes referred to as the Loch Lomond Country Park.
Now you know a little more about the country park, let’s dive deeper into the history of the castle itself.
Balloch Castle History
Balloch Castle certainly has an interesting history. The original castle (AKA the Old Castle) dates back to 1238. Whilst, the current castle that we see today (AKA the New Castle) was built in 1808.
To understand more about the history of the castle, let’s look at some finer details about the Old Castle and the New Castle.
The Old Balloch Castle
The land occupying the Balloch Castle Country Park was given to the Earls of Lennox in 1072. As mentioned, the Old Castle was built and inhabited around the middle of the 13th century. The Lennox family would later abandon the castle at the end of the 14th century due to fear of attack. Thereafter, the castle remained in the hands of the Lennox family. That was until the 19th century.
The New Balloch Castle
At the beginning of the 19th Century, John Buchanan acquired the castle and the estate. He was actually a partner in the Glasgow Ship Bank, which was Glasgow’s first bank that opened in 1750. By order of John Buchanan, a new castle was designed by Robert Lugar.
It’s believed that stones from the walls of the old castle were used to help build the new castle. All that remains of the old castle is a mound close to the shore of Loch Lomond. Whilst, the new castle, which is what we now call Balloch Castle, is positioned on higher land, overlooking Loch Lomond.
Afterwards, in 1914, the castle and country park was bought by Glasgow Corporation. These days, the castle is owned by Glasgow City Council. But, it’s under lease to the West Dunbartonshire Council, who manages it. In its glory days in the 20th century, the castle was once the main visitor centre for the park and it also acted as the headquarters for the Countryside Ranger Service.
Sadly, the castle now lies derelict and is fenced off to the public. Thankfully, there are restoration plans in place. But, as mentioned, the castle is still worth visiting even in its unrepaired state. Personally, Beck and I love visiting castles that are raw and authentic. Sure, you can’t enter as it’s dilapidated on the inside. But, it’s still epic to view from the outside as the outer walls remain solidly intact.
Balloch Castle Country Park Location
Now you know a little more about the history of Balloch Castle, let’s see exactly where it’s located. You’ll find the castle and country park in Balloch – the gateway to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park in Scotland.
To help get your bearings, please click on the image below to access an interactive map of the area.
Plan Your Visit: Things to Do (Highlights)
There are plenty of fun things to do at Balloch Castle Country Park. Of course, the castle is the main attraction. So, let’s start there!
The castle is located on the eastern side of the country park. You’ll find the main car parks at the southern edge of the country park, which is where the main entrance is located. From the main entrance, you’ll walk around 1km on mostly well-defined, wide and tarmacked paths to reach the castle.
Other than walking around the castle and scoping it out from the outside, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of Loch Lomond. Indeed, the castle provides a stellar vantage point for looking over and towards the glorious loch. Some people complete the Balloch Castle Walk to see the castle and explore the country park. Admittedly, Beck and I didn’t stick to a specified walking route. We just walked around the country park at random to explore its main attractions.
Before even reaching the castle, you’ll pass some lovely gardens. The Walled Garden is certainly one of the best gardens in the country park. You’ll certainly need to explore them before going to the castle.
Keep in mind that the Walled Garden is usually open from 10am to 3–4pm. Unfortunately, Beck and I had arrived too early. So, we merely enjoyed views from the closed gate.
Chinese Gardens and Other Gardens
Other than the Walled Garden, you also have the Chinese Gardens. Make sure to check out the pretty flowers and plants in the Chinese Gardens and other surrounding gardens (such as the Secret Garden). You’ll find these gardens on the eastern side of the park, just south of the castle.
The Fairy Glen
Once you’ve scoped out the gardens and castle, we recommend continuing to the northern end of the country park. That’s where you’ll find a lovely stream called the Fairy Glen. Along the picturesque stream, you’ll find a Fairy Trail created by Patrick Muir. He cleverly designed small installations from fallen tree stumps.
River Leven: Waterside Way
During your visit to the Balloch Castle Country Park, you’ll have to walk along the southern shores of the famous Loch Lomond. Indeed, the country park features many great walking trails. Perhaps, the best trail is the Waterside Way, which is the trail running parallel to the shores of Loch Lomond and the River Leven. The trail directly connects the top and bottom of the country park, where the main entrance is located.
Things to Do Near Balloch Castle
There are many great things to do near Balloch Castle Country Park. This includes visiting Balloch, doing a Loch Lomond cruise and exploring Duck Bay. Let’s look at these nearby activities in more detail below.
Being the gateway to Loch Lomond, Balloch is one of the most popular hubs to visit in the national park. During a visit to Balloch, you should definitely visit the Maid of the Loch and Loch Lomond Shores. Whilst there are plenty of nice cafes, pubs and restaurants. If you’re after a pub meal or just somewhere to stay, we recommend the Queen of the Loch, Balloch House or the Tullie Inn.
Do a Loch Lomond Cruise
Undoubtedly, a cruise on Loch Lomond is a quintessential thing to do during a visit to the area. There are many fantastic Loch Lomond cruises departing Balloch. Indeed, Balloch is the most popular destination for Loch Lomond cruises.
The most highly-rated and popular Loch Lomond cruise is the Experience Cruise (AKA the Sightseeing Cruise). It’s a short one hour cruise that takes in all of the major attractions around the southern end of Loch Lomond. This narrated circular cruise is the best option for those wanting a taste of cruising Loch Lomond without spending hours on a boat. Personally, Beck and I absolutely loved this cruise. We booked this tour on GetYourGuide using this link. Given the boat trip’s popularity, you’ll find plenty of departures daily.
Also departing Balloch, the Island Discovery Tour is a two hour Loch Lomond cruise exploring more of the world-famous loch. Specifically, you’ll explore more of the small islands found in Loch Lomond – an area known as the ‘The Narrow’. Otherwise, if you’re a budding photographer, you should consider the 90 minute Loch Lomond Evening Cruise.
FYI – Sweeney’s Cruise Co. Loch Lomond is the sole company running Loch Lomond boat cruises from Balloch.
Dine and Stay at Duck Bay
Just around the corner from Balloch, you’ll find the gorgeous Duck Bay. It’s a popular lochside picnic area. But, it’s most renowned for its spectacular marina. At the marina, you’ll find the highly-rated Duck Bay Hotel & Restaurant.
Balloch Castle Country Park Summary
So, that’s a wrap on the main attractions and highlights at the Balloch Castle Country Park as well as the places to visit nearby. Beck and I really enjoyed visiting the castle and country park. Certainly, we highly recommend visiting.
Balloch Castle Tourist Information
Now you know what to do during a visit, let’s look at some important logistics for your visit. Let’s start with how to get there.
How to Get to Balloch Castle Country Park
The quickest and easiest way to get to Balloch Castle Country Park is to drive there yourself. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, then we recommend hiring a car using Rentalcars.com. You’ll find a wide variety of cars on Rental Cars for reasonable prices. The website is user-friendly and booking online is super easy.
Balloch Castle Country Park Car Parks
The Moss o’ Balloch Car Park is the main car park at the entrance of the country park. It’s a large free car park. You’ll also find free roadside parking along the road that connects Balloch Road and the country park.
There is also disabled parking near the castle itself. There are only a few disabled parking spots available.
Balloch Castle postcode (Moss o’ Balloch Car Park): G83 8LQ
It’s possible to use public transport to get to Balloch. From Glasgow, you can catch a train directly to Balloch. We recommend using Google Maps and Trainline to help plan your journey using public transport.
FAQs About Balloch Castle
Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about Balloch Castle.
How Old Is Balloch Castle?
The Old Castle dates back to 1238. But, the New Castle, which is what we now call Balloch Castle, was built in 1808.
Where Is Balloch Castle?
It’s located in Balloch in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park in Scotland. Please read the Location section for more information.
How Much Does Balloch Castle Cost?
The castle is closed, so there is no cost involved with visiting.
Is Balloch Castle Country Park Free?
Yes, even parking is free.
Can You Go Inside Balloch Castle?
Why Is Balloch Castle Closed?
The castle is closed because it’s dilapidated on the inside and requires repairs.
Who Owns Balloch Castle?
The Glasgow City Council own the castle but has leased it to West Dunbartonshire Council.
Does Balloch Have a Beach?
Yes, along the Waterside Way, near River Leven, there is a small pebble beach near a jetty. Certainly, swimming is possible there.
Bonus Tips For Visiting Balloch Castle
- Kids will love the Balloch Castle Country Park play park: you’ll find the Balloch Castle Country Park play area on the water’s edge. There are also other play areas near the entrance. Indeed, the country park is a family-friendly location.
- Other castles of Loch Lomond: although not in the national park itself, Dumbarton Castle is located just 10 minutes from Balloch and is definitely worth visiting.
- Wedding venues in Loch Lomond: if you’re looking for a wedding venue in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, consider Venachar Lochside on the gorgeous Loch Venachar. Otherwise, Boturich Castle is another castle on Loch Lomond that acts as a wedding venue.
- Other lochs to explore in the national park: visit Loch Katrine, Loch Achray, Loch Lubnaig, Loch Ard and Loch Earn.