You'll tak the high road, and I'll tak the lowTraditional song Loch Lomond
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye
But me and my true love, will never meet again
By the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond
William and Dorothy Wordsworth arrived at Inversnaid on Loch Lomond after a journey on foot from Loch Katrine. They had come to see the country made famous by Walter Scott, but - as is not uncommon on the west coast - were soaked to the skin. Yet if their spirits were dampened by the climate, the people enchanted them, and one in particular:
Sweet Highland Girl, a very shower
Of beauty is thy earthly dower!
wrote William of the lass who had served them at Inversnaid. The impression of rustic innocence and beauty confirmed their romantic ideals that the Highlander was a better class of person, naive in the best possible way. (When James Hogg was tasked by the Highland Society of London in 1817 to publish a collection of Jacobite songs, he disappointed them by producing a collection of actual Jacobite songs from the first half of the 18th century - the Society found these lacked the required fashionable sentimentality, and the eventual publication Jacobite Reliques contained songs mainly written in English well after 1745.)
The Wordsworths were not the first people who had come to Loch Lomond for the scenery. The rational age brought factories, machines, railways - and a subsequent reaction in the pan-European picturesque movement, where travellers carried empty picture frames to help them contemplate waterfalls and other untamed features of a sublime nature. Lowlanders thrilled to Sir Walter Scott's tales of the fierce MacGregors, whose cattle raids and extortion rackets were now safely in the past, and tourists inspired by Scott were brought to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs in their coachloads by Thomas Cook. The Trossachs became a tourist magnet, with handsome facilities in the gothic style built to expedite their comfort in this accessible wilderness.
Only eighteen miles from Glasgow, Loch Lomond remains the most popular of Scotland's lochs: on sunny summer Saturdays it can seem that half the population of the city has decanted for a daytrip to her shores, especially around the villages of Luss and Balmaha, between which the loch is broad and shallow and dotted with wooded islands. Loch Lomond was long the most deserving case in Scotland for a national park - finally legislated for in 2002 by the new Scottish Parliament. (Scotland's long wait for a national park is one of those ironies, given the concept was instigated by an emigrant Scot, John Muir, in Yosemite & Yellowstone in the USA in the 19th century.)
Near Loch Lomond lurk Britain's nuclear submarines and Helensburgh, unique for its mixed population of naval personnel and well-to-do commuters who work in Glasgow. The town was built with the coming of the railways as a commutable seaside home for Glasgow's captains of industry, and you are as likely to see yachts in the driveways of the town's villas as cars. The most famous of these big houses is Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Hill House, and other houses along the coastal road were designed by Greek Thompson. However Helensburgh's main contribution to society must be as the birthplace of John Logie Baird, inventor of television.
Back at Loch Lomond but away from the southern end, the hills crowd the narrowing shores and the scene becomes definitively Highland. Along the eastern bank the loch is roadless and a fine wild path - the West Highland Way between Glasgow and Fort William - clings to the shore. In the times before the Highlands were tamed this was bandit country, within easy striking distance of the rich farms of the Lowlands. The most notorious of all the Highland clans - the MacGregors - lived here.
The area inhabited by the MacGregors, the Trossachs, is a fairly rugged stretch of country between Loch Lomond and Stirling, an area of lochs, forests and small glens, built on a slightly smaller scale than the rest of the Highlands further north. The outlook from the Trossachs is back to the Lowlands and, from any hilltop, Stirling castle on its rock can be seen.