Loch Ard is a lesser-known yet pristine loch found in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Found near the charming village of Aberfoyle, Loch Ard is a hidden gem. In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting the small but impressive Loch Ard.
Despite Loch Ard being a gorgeous loch, you won’t have the option of taking a cruise. Certainly, a cruise on one of the lochs in the national park is a great experience. Make sure to do a Loch Lomond Cruise (read about personal experience here) during your visit to the area.
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About Loch Ard
Loch Ard is a tranquil freshwater loch around 4km (2.5 miles) in length and roughly 1.6km (1 mile) in diameter. The name ‘Ard’ comes from the Scottish Gaelic word ‘àird’, which means height or promontory. So, in Scottish Gaelic, Loch Ard means the loch of the height or promontory.
Surrounded by the beautiful Loch Ard Forest and dwarfed by Ben Lomond in the distance, Loch Ard is a supremely peaceful place to visit. Located near the well-known village of Aberfoyle, the loch lies tucked away in the forest, oozing a calm ambience. There’s no wonder that Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish historian, talked about the loch in his novel, Rob Roy.
The loch is also the source of the River Forth. This river eventually reaches the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland.
FYI – Loch Ard was the name of a ship built in Scotland in 1873. The ship ended up wrecked on the Shipwreck Coast of Victoria, Australia in 1878. Indeed, Loch Ard Gorge in Australia is named after the Loch Ard ship.
Where in Scotland Is Loch Ard?
The loch is located near Aberfoyle in the Stirling council area and falls in a wider area known as Loch Lomond, the Trossachs, Stirling and Forth Valley. To help get your bearings, please click on the image below to access an interactive map showing the location of the loch.
Now you know where the loch is located, let’s look at the best things to do during a visit.
Plan Your Visit to Loch Ard
There are plenty of fantastic things to do at Loch Ard. In particular, the forest next to the loch has numerous enchanting trails to explore. With this in mind, let’s start by looking at the best trails.
Loch Ard Trails (Walking and Cycling)
The Loch Ard Forest has four main trails, which all offer something a little different. Each trail is family-friendly and can be used for both cycling and walking. Please press the links below to find out more about the trails.
- Lochan Spling Trail: this short circuit explores the scenic Lochan Spling, which is a small loch with plenty of wildlife.
- Forth Valley Viewpoint Trail (AKA Ben Lomond Viewpoint Trail): this is another short circuit, which provides views over Aberfoyle and Ben Lomond.
- Eight Mile Loop: this is by far the longest trail, exploring the entire southern edge of Loch Ard.
- Loch Ard Sculpture Trail: this trail is also known as the Loch Ard Cycle Loop and the Lochan a’ Ghleannain and Rob Roys Cave Loop. Beck and I really enjoyed walking the Loch Ard Sculpture Trail. Find out more about our experience doing the Loch Ard Sculpture Trail below.
Loch Ard Sculpture Trail
Starting from the Loch Ard Forest Car Park, Beck and I completed the route in a clockwise direction. Admittedly, after hiking up Ben Lui and Beinn a’ Chleibh in the morning, we were both a bit slow to get going. Thankfully, the spectacular forest was a welcome distraction to get us moving. You’ll pass several interesting sculptures and installations along the way. Also, before exploring Loch Ard, you’ll pass Lochan a’ Ghleannain, which is a quaint loch worth seeing.
After wandering through the forest and passing Lochan a’ Ghleannain, you’ll soon arrive at a small headland along the southern border of the loch. Some people refer to this small headland, at its most western point, as Loch Ard Beach. From there, you can enjoy some of the best sweeping views of the loch. Nearby, you can explore Rob Roys Cave.
FYI – other than the actual Loch Ard Sculpture Trail, the Loch Ard Forest is filled with many other sculptures. In reality, most of the trails in the forest are actually sculpture trails. All of these sculpture trails combined form a longer Loch Ard Family Sculpture Trail.
Rob Roys Cave
Hidden along the shores of Loch Ard, you’ll find Rob Roys Cave. But, it’s not easy to locate. To find Rob Roys Cave, you’ll briefly follow a side trail, that descends and leads closer to the shore. Within this area, you’ll find numerous huge boulders and small crevasses between rocks.
You’ll need to climb, weave and scramble over some rocks to find a small opening, facing the shores of the loch. Admittedly, the word ‘cave’ is a bit of a stretch; but, it’s certainly possible to cram inside this small opening and hide as necessary!
Other than Rob Roys Cave, there are other historical attractions to explore at the loch such as Duke Murdoch’s castle ruins and Helen’s Rock.
FYI – there is in fact another Rob Roys Cave that can be seen during the West Highland Way. About 1km north of Inversnaid, on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, you’ll find the inscription ‘Cave’ on a flat surface of a boulder as well as a ‘Rob Roys Cave’ wooden sign.
Go Country Adventure
Other than the lovely forest trails, the loch is well known for Go Country Adventure (AKA Loch Ard Water Park). This is the best place at the loch to enjoy watersports such as kayaking, canoeing, sailboating and paddleboarding. There’s also a fun obstacle course in the water, which makes for plenty of fun water-based activities.
What to Do Nearby
What next, after visiting the loch? Well, there are two things you should definitely do. First, you should visit the nearby village of Aberfoyle. Additionally, you should explore Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. Let’s start by talking about Aberfoyle.
Aberfoyle is the closest major village to the loch. The village is serenely set next to the River Forth. It’s likely you’ll drive through Aberfoyle to reach Loch Ard, so you may as well visit whilst you’re in the area. It’s very much a hub of activity, whilst being the gateway to the marvellous Queen Elizabeth Victoria Park.
Aberfoyle map: Google Maps
Aberfoyle postcode: FK8
Explore Queen Elizabeth Forest Park
Loch Ard actually falls in the magnificent nature space called Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, which fills a considerable portion of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. There are many beautiful places to visit in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park other than just Loch Ard. This includes the Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, Little Lawn Waterfall as well as driving along the scenic Duke’s Pass and Three Lochs Forest Drive.
Other Excellent Lochs in the National Park
When it comes to lochs in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, it’s not just about Loch Lomond itself. The national park has 22 lochs to visit and explore. With this in mind, we don’t intend on listing all of the lochs in the national park. Below, we’ll detail the lochs that Beck and I visited and particularly enjoyed.
- Loch Lubnaig: another lesser-known but equally impressive loch popular with open water swimmers.
- Loch Katrine: one of the most popular and well-known lochs that’s certainly a must-visit.
- St Fillans on Loch Earn: this village is beautifully located on the eastern edge of Loch Earn. Visiting St Fillans and Loch Earn really go hand in hand. When it comes to Loch Earn walks, we highly recommend the Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’ Chroin Walk, which starts from this loch.
- Loch Achray: featuring a brilliant campground, Loch Achray is one of the lochs visited during the Three Loch Forest Drive. To enjoy the best views of Loch Achray, you’ll need to climb Ben A’an and Ben Venue.
- Loch Venachar: a lovely quiet loch located in the Trossachs.
How to Get to Loch Ard
The quickest and easiest way to get to the loch is to drive to the Loch Ard Forest Car Park. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, 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.
There is no public transport that goes to the Loch Ard Forest Car Park, which is the easiest access point for exploring the loch and its forest trails. If you need to use public transport, you’ll be best served to get to Aberfoyle, which is possible to do from Stirling by bus. From Aberfoyle, we recommend catching a taxi.
Loch Ard Parking
The Forest Car Park is located here. It costs £3 to use. Both cash and card payment is possible at the car park’s parking metre.
Aberfoyle and Loch Ard Accommodation
There are some phenomenal accommodation options located on the shores of the loch. Below, we’ll detail the best Loch Ard hotels.
- Forest Hills Loch Ard: The Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa is a well-renowned and very popular hotel located on the northern shores of the loch. Indeed, for the ultimate accommodation option on the loch, this is the one.
- Macdonald Forest Hills Resort: for something slightly more affordable, consider staying at the self-catering apartments at the Macdonald Forest Hills Resort.
- Altskeith Country House: this highly-rated accommodation is another popular option. Certainly, you’ll enjoy a wonderful stay at the Altskeith Country House.
Loch Ard Camping
It’s possible to wild camp at the loch. There is actually a designated place for camping at the southwest corner of the loch. But, please bear in mind, that between March and September, you’ll need a camping permit to camp at this dedicated area as it falls under the Camping Management Zone.
Below, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about the loch.
What Is the Postcode For Loch Ard?
How Big Is Loch Ard?
It’s roughly 4km (2.5 miles) in length and 1.6km (1 mile) wide.
Can You Wild Camp at Loch Ard?
Yes. Please read the Camping section for more information.
Can I Swim In Loch Ard?
Yes, of course!
- Best time to visit: the best time for visiting Scotland is during the middle of the year (May to October). Although, the locals will tell you that the best weather is in May and June. But, this is Scotland after all, so anything is possible!
- Facilities: there are no toilet facilities at the loch or at the forest car park. Thankfully, nearby Aberfoyle has all of the relevant facilities and amenities you’ll need.
- Loch Ard fishing: you’ll need a permit to fish in the loch. Fishing permits are available in-store from James Bayne Fishing Tackle in Callander.
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