TRAVEL GUIDE: Loch Lomond
Half-term should be fun, but often it’s a headache as the adults wonder how to keep the kids amused. The Johnston family - Paul, Elaine and their kids Emily, 13, and seven-year-old Crawford - from Newtownards found the perfect solution. They decided to spend some quality time by beautiful Loch Lomond. Below, Elaine recounts her memories of the trip.
Friday: We caught the 7.30am Stena crossing. We’d never been on a ferry sailing before. Midway through the trip Crawford turned slightly green and proceeded to throw up, but the staff couldn’t have been more helpful. Our first destination was Sno!zone at Xscape, two hours’ drive away in Braehead, Renfrew. We eventually found this huge indoor ski centre with sledging and snowboarding in the middle of a vast industrial estate and part of a huge entertainment complex. The environment is very realistic, including the temperature. Our instructor, Campbell, gave us a snowboard lesson, and was very patient with Crawford who struggled at times. But Emily thought it was fantastic. Paul had never snowboarded before but was a natural.
We also tried sledging. Crawford really enjoyed this and was determined to go faster every time he went down the slope. Once we managed to find our way out of the industrial estate it was onwards to our accommodation, the picturesque Loch Lomond Waterfront Cottages. The owners greeted us then we explored the spacious luxury self-catering lodge. It was fantastic, fully equipped with two bedrooms, both ensuite. Modern, with all facilities necessary for a mini-break or longer, it contained everything you could possibly need. The hot tub on the patio was a very welcome bonus. Aching muscles made themselves felt and we all enjoyed an hour relaxing in the hot tub.
Following a great bar snack meal at the local, The Oak Tree Inn, just a short walk away, we flopped into bed, fell asleep within minutes and slept like logs.
Saturday: On Saturday morning we woke up and appreciated the beautiful setting of the lodges and beautiful Loch Lomond. We were fortunate with the weather - it was a beautiful crisp sunny day and we headed to the eastern shore for a cruise on the Loch with Cruise Loch Lomond.
Poor Crawford’s face dropped when he realised we were going on another boat trip. The cruise was completely full with a great atmosphere on board. The views over the Loch were stunning, and the banter from Bob the Skipper was great with plenty of stories of Rob Roy and his cave. Despite the sunshine the temperature really dropped and we could have done with our hats and gloves which we mistakenly left in the car. Surprisingly Emily really enjoyed the cruise, Crawford less so but was fascinated by the fishermen we chatted to on the beach when we docked for lunch.That night we decided to eat again at The Oak Inn, but in the main restaurant. The food was excellent with the average price of a main meal only £8-£9.
Sunday: A relaxed Sunday morning, lazing about the lodge and enjoying the hot tub set us up for our final day in Scotland. While I packed up, Paul and the kids enjoyed a walk around the Loch, stone skimming on the small beach, before we headed to the Loch Lomond Aquarium at Loch Lomond Shores a short drive away.The Aquarium was part of a larger complex, which mixed retail and a number of leisure facilities. The kids enjoyed the ‘visitor journey’ which was really informative. Perhaps my kids are slightly spoilt as their local aquarium allows the public to touch certain species in a large touch tank. Though the shark section more than made up for it.
Sunday afternoon: Regrettably time to head back to Stranraer and the Stena home. Stopping on the way, of course, for travel bands and sea sickness tablets for Crawford. It was only the second time Paul, Emily and I had been to Scotland and Crawford’s first visit. We were all incredibly impressed with the warm welcome everywhere and by how busy it was despite the time of year (everyone was a tourist!).