Following the introduction of wild camping restrictions on the east shore of Loch Lomond (reported on UKH here) a new campsite has recently been opened by Forestry Commission Scotland. The tents-only woodland campsite at Sallochy is the only place where 'informal' camping is now permitted anywhere between Drymen and Rowardennan, and is well placed for walkers on the West Highland Way.
The Sallochy site is meant to serve as a replacement to the wild camping that was formerly popular along the loch shore, bringing campers into one easily managed space. Following a 'soft launch' at the start of the month the site has been growing in popularity, with around 20-30 campers per night out of a total possible capacity of about 100. Only 20 tent spaces are available, and if the site were to completely fill at holiday weekends it is hoped that nearby paying sites at Cashell and Milarrochy would be able to take any overspill.
Compared to the freedom of pre-byelaw days the site's 'informality' is only relative. We are told that showing up without pre booking is not encouraged, and permits must be obtained in advance as there is no provision to pay on site. These are available at the visitor centre in Balmaha (open daily 9 - 4.30pm), and should be easy for most West Highland Way walkers to pick up if following the standard direction of travel south-to-north. An online booking system is promised for the near future.
Camping outwith the designated pitches is not allowed, and fires are permitted only in mobile 'fire pits', which can be hired on site. Fire wood must be bought, not scavenged. Toilets are available but there is no running drinking water on site, and the consumption of alcohol is not permitted - in line with recent local measures aimed at preventing anti social behaviour. A warden is on site from 8.30am - 12.30pm and 4pm - 8pm daily.
The Loch Lomond wild camping restrictions have only been in force since June 1 and a formal review is still some time away, but a source in the National Park suggests that so far the new regime is having some success, with wardens encountering few problems and only a few parties yet having had to be moved on. It seems the message about the new byelaws is generally being heeded. Perhaps the weekend party crowd is heading elsewhere instead?
Sallochy site open: 1st March - 31st October
Charges: £5 per person per night, under 16s £2.50, under 5s free
For more info call 01389 722009 or visit the Forestry Commission website.