A great day out but also the start of the national Lochs and Glens Route.
Kelvingrove Museum and Art gallery houses one of the finest collections of paintings in Britain. Another mile after crossing the River Kelvin you pass near Victoria Park and Fossil Grove (leave the route at Primrose Street). This is Glasgow's oldest tourist attraction. It is a 350 million year old geological formation consisting of the stumps and roots of trees which were growing at that time. It was discovered by accident in1887 and now designated a site of Special Scientific Interest. There are interpretative displays. (0141 287 2000). The Fossil Grove exhibit is open in summer only 12 noon - 5pm. As you pass John Brown Engineering in Clydebank you might like to note that it was the firm of this name that built the Lusitania, HMS Hood, the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth and the later ship of similar name the QE2. There is an exhibition about all of this in Clydebank Museum which is quite near (01389 738702) The village of Bowling is where the Forth-Clyde canal meets the sea. For cyclists there is a good towpath; an almost uninterrupted route to Glasgow, and beyond to Kirkintilloch, Falkirk, and even along the Union Canal to Edinburgh. The connected Forth-Clyde and union canals have been restored with funds provided by the National Lottery, the whole project being called the Millenium Link.
It is now possible to sail from central Edinburgh to central Glasgow, but the numbers of boats making the trip is sure to be exceeded by the numbers of cyclists rolling along the towpath. A detailed description of the entire route for cyclists will be put in this website during the next month or two. The towpath is not suitable for large groups of cyclists. Loch Lomond straddles the Highland Boundary Fault, where The Highlands begin, and has a wide variety of plant and animal life. It's dominated by the mountain Ben Lomond. Together with the Trossachs it forms Scotland's first national park. The park authority has to reconcile various conflicting interests: conservation, tourism, forestry and farming. They won't be able to please everyone, for example there is a proposal to make the River Leven navigable again so that boats can sail from the Clyde to Loch Lomond. This proposal is opposed by fishing interests who claim it will introduce alien fish species to the loch.
This leads from central Glasgow to Loch Lomond, famous in song and story and now centre of Scotland's first National Park. Central Glasgow cannot of course claim the same scenic glories but there is plenty of interest along the way (see About The Route) and the cycleway has the advantage of being mostly traffic free and easy to follow. It uses a mixture of former railway lines and canal and riverside paths. The cycle path was opened in 1989, and for a while simply went to Loch Lomond. Now however it is the start of the Sustrans long distance Glasgow to Inverness cycle route (Lochs and Glens North). It can also be connected to our 134 mile long Mountains and Lochs Route.
If you're not wanting all that you can just hop on a train at Loch Lomond (Balloch Station) which will simply and easily return you and your bike to central Glasgow. The route begins at Bells Bridge, a footbridge opposite the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) by the River Clyde. The route is quite easy to follow, a map being of limited use in the congested city centre. It's better to keep a sharp eye out for the direction signs, though most of the time you'll be following a well defined path. The instructions here will highlight where you might go wrong. An easily seen landmark near the start is the Finnieston Crane, originally used to lift steam locomotives.
Cycle downstream past the glass Moat House building then turn away from the river and cross over the Clydeside Expressway on a footbridge. The route is clearly signposted but one thing that might lead you astray are the cycle signs leading to train stations. Train Stations on Route: Exhibition Centre, Partick, Garscadden, Yoker, Clydebank, Singer, Dalmuir, Kilpatrick, Bowling, Dumbarton (East & Central), Renton, Alexandria and Balloch (Loch Lomond). You can join or leave the cycle route at any station and taking a bike on the train will not be a problem. An interesting place to visit early on the route is the Museum of Transport, it has a tea room and is signposted. A further mile after this you pass near Victoria Park and Fossil grove; see About the Route. At Clydebank the route leaves the former railway line and joins the Forth-Clyde Canal towpath. Shortly before here there is a signed section on a street by John Brown Engineering, then you see the blue and grey Playdrome building, at which point you are directed by a pedestrian path to a pelican crossing. The canal is very near here, if you can't see it look for a mock ocean liner which is the worlds only sail-through fish restaurant.
Cycle along the towpath with the canal on your right - going in the opposite direction would eventually take you to Edinburgh. After four miles on the canal towpath the canal ends at Bowling. There's a bike shop here but no refreshments. The bike shop sells chocolate bars etc and if you become a customer they might even give you a coffee. The canal basin isn't visible but you should go under the railway bridge to have a look. The route continues over this former railway bridge then crosses a road turning left into a park, at which point you are following an old railway line again. People with children should be aware there is a second road crossing.
A mile after Bowling you pass a Little Chef Restaurant and a Tourist Information Office. You pass to the rear of these so a sharp eye is needed if you are looking for a cup of tea or a bed for the night! Towards Dumbarton the railway line ends and you are on normal roads. These are well signed and take you through a public park at first, then into central Dumbarton. The route in Dumbarton takes you across the River Leven, immediately after which you turn sharp right into a public park. The sign is a bit faded so look out for it! The footpath runs prettily over small wooden bridges by the river. Occasionally the path joins minor access roads but if you keep by the river you will not go wrong. Eventually you meet a flood control barrier, then lots of small boats and the river widens out into the loch. Tourist information, train station, boat trips, pubs and tea rooms, it's all here. The cycle route continues through Loch Lomond Shores and National Park Centre to Balloch Castle Country Park which has fine views of the loch.