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Loch Lomond Facts: how deep, how big, how many islands

Some Loch Lomond facts, both straightforward and wacky. Did a torpedo once test-fired up nearby Loch Long run amuck and end up in a hotel? Yes!




Loch Lomond Facts

There are lots of everyday facts about Loch Lomond. It’s the largest loch in Scotland by surface area, for a start. It has an estimated 92,805 million cubic feet (2628 cubic m.) of water and is only 27ft or eight metres above sea level. Only because a melting glacier dumped a load of earth and rocks down at the south end, did it become a proper inland loch - dammed by the material - and not just an arm of the sea like its fjord-like neighbour, Loch Long. That all happened at the end of the last Ice Age, around 10,000 years ago.  Today, about half the population of Scotland lives within an hour’s drive.


Those are the basic statistics, before we descend to a slightly more obscure, I mean, entertaining, level. For instance, Loch Lomond has a larger number of native and introduced fish species than any other loch in Scotland, with 15 native species. This includes the powan, confined in the UK to a few lochs and tarns. The number of islands on the loch varies depending on its water-level. If tree-cover is used to define islands, this gives a figure of 39. Of the islands of Loch Lomond, Inchmurrin is the largest island in an inland lake/loch anywhere in the UK. And how deep is Loch Lomond? Well, we've a whole page on that topic. Follow the link.

Loch Lomond cruising, near inversnaid

Loch Lomond cruising, near inversnaid

(Picture here) The ambience of the upper part of Loch Lomond in early spring. Cruising is already under way though. That looks like a ‘Cruise Loch Lomond’ boat. Yikes, I’m turning into a ferry-spotter. 

Even more facts than you really need to know about Loch Lomond…

Then there are a few weird facts about the place. For instance, in the 1953 US film ‘The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms’, about a giant dinosaur-like creature that attacks New York, the dialogue makes more than one reference to ‘The Loch Lomond Monster’ as evidence that weird creatures exist. Presumably they meant the name of another loch? Or do they know something we don’t?

Still reading? Well, how about a few more, though I have included some odd facts about the wider Loch Lomond area and the sea-lochs to the west.

One of Sweeney’s Cruises, returning to the base at Balloch on the River Leven, with Loch Lomond behind.

One of Sweeney’s Cruises, returning to the base at Balloch on the River Leven, with Loch Lomond behind.

(Pictured here) One of Sweeney’s Cruises noses in to the River Leven, returning to base from the open waters of Loch Lomond. Meanwhile, the spring weather is going off slightly out on the loch. Och, it’ll soon pass. More facts below...

Did you know that……

  • Loch Lomond has its own unique plant. Growing nowhere else in Britain, the Loch Lomond dock (Rumex aquaticus) was only discovered in 1935. (This was odd as it grows up to two metres tall! Hardly an inconspicuous wee plant.)
  • The first successful unpowered flight in the UK was made in 1895 in a field above Cardross by Percy Pilcher, in his glider called ‘The Bat’. A lecturer at Glasgow University, he went on to build larger gliders, successfully flying them. He was on the point of attempting a flight in a powered machine when killed in a gliding accident.
  • Captain Haddock is Tintin’s best friend in the famous Belgian cartoon and story series. His favourite whisky is a brand called “Loch Lomond”. Blistering barnacles!
  • The Loch Lomond island of Inchmurrin has a nudist colony. It’s Scotland’s oldest naturist club, and has been there since the 1940s. I have heard that they are short of members though.  (Oooh, Can I say that? - anyway it proves the midges aren’t that bad....) - there are plenty of other good places to stay around Loch Lomond too!
PS Maid of the Loch, berthed long-term at Balloch, Loch Lomond.

PS Maid of the Loch, berthed long-term at Balloch, Loch Lomond.

(Picture here) Alas, the ‘Maid of the Loch’ no longer sploshes her way around the loch. She was the last paddle-steamer built in the UK (in Glasgow in 1953) and is laid-up undergoing restoration by the Balloch Steam Slipway (dated 1902).

  • On the 19th December 1812, the visiting English hunter/sportsman Col. Peter Hawker (1802-1853), records in his published diary what was the first winter ice climb on Ben Lomond. He records how his small party were ‘obliged to take knives and cut footsteps in the frozen snow.’ He even had to abandon his gun in order to reach the summit. (Just as well for the ptarmigan he was after.)
  • In the summer of 1787, Robert Burns was probably Loch Lomond’s most famous visitor up to that time, unless we count Rob Roy, though he was a resident. Burns was heading south, down the loch for Dumbarton. He spent the night at Bannachra, near Arden, in good company – basically partying all night. (Strong drink was definitely taken.) Next day, none too sober, with his companions and mounted on the road, he was overtaken by a Highlander, also on horseback. Burns raced him, and overtook him. The Highlander checked his horse, which fell, and Burns likewise went down. Cuts, bruises and a sore head were the results of his wild time by the loch.
looking north from Firkin Point, Loch Lomond

looking north from Firkin Point, Loch Lomond

  • The annual Ne’erday Swim at Rhu (over the hills to the west of Loch Lomond) regularly sees over 100 entrants taking to the water and audiences of several hundred gasping in admiration. (The ones in the water are just gasping for breath.)  A collection is taken for the RNLI and certificates are issued bearing the motto, “Many are cauld, but few are frozen”! (Ne'er Day = New Year's Day.)
  • Between 1912 and 1986, Loch Long was the site of a torpedo testing range. Every torpedo supplied to the Royal Navy at one time was test-fired down the loch (without a warhead!) before delivery. Usually all went well. Once, in the 1950s, one went astray and gave a local steamer a bit of a bump. Worse, a few years later, another torpedo went well off course.  It left the water, ploughed up a beach, over a lawn and crashed through the French windows of a lochside hotel. The Loch Long range is thus unique in managing to torpedo a hotel. (The site of the range is being redeveloped. The hotel is now a private house but if you know where to look you can see the wall that was built by the navy in case another torpedo went off track!)
Loch Long

Loch Long

(Pictured here) An especially attractive section of the Three Lochs Way (34 miles ' 55km) that runs through the sea-loch fringes of the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park.

  • A little way north of Kilcreggan pier, there is a painted boulder known as King Tut. It is thought to have been painted as a face as far back as 1867. With the Egyptian craze of the 1920s that followed on from the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, the boulder took on an Egyptian theme. It is still re-painted regularly by locals.
  • Long before the ‘right to roam’ legislation was enacted in the Loch Lomond area, outdoor enthusiasts from Dumbarton gathered for a mass trespass on the Overtoun estate in May 1911, then a strictly guarded sporting estate.  Demonstrations also took place at Balloch, where walkers wanted to reach the south shores of Loch Lomond. Today, both areas, naturally, are open to all and actively managed for recreation and walking.
  • It is thought that by 1816 the illegal stills on the islands of Loch Lomond were producing an estimated 100 gallons a day for consumption in Glasgow.
Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank

Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank

(Picture here) One of Scotland’s oddest attractions in the Loch Lomond area, down by Dumbarton and the Clyde. The Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank did what its name suggests. The shipbuilders Denny tested models of ship hulls in a 300ft (90m) tank. Built 1882, the tank complex retains many original features, except the shipyard of which it was once part, which closed a long time ago. The tank is part of the Scottish Maritime Museum.

* (And finally) Though the Cutty Sark is possibly the most famous Dumbarton-built ship, the now-vanished yards here were pioneering in their day. The first ever steamship to cross the English Channel, the ‘Margery’, also came from Dumbarton.  The largest-ever inland waterway fleet – Burma’s Irrawaddy Flotilla – as mentioned in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Road to Mandalay’ - was also built here.