From gentle walks and water sports to technical mountain biking and epic winter mountaineering, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors in the National Park.
You’ll often be in challenging locations, on working farms and estates and areas protected for their conservation value – we hope all our visitors act responsibly, and have a safe and enjoyable time in the Park.
Here’s some advice to help you stay safe in the National Park.
In an emergency
If you get into difficulty away from the road network and need help or medical assistance, please follow these steps:
- Phone the emergency services on 999.
- When the operator asks which service, state: police.
- Provide accurate details of the incident and location (grid references are very useful) – if you are in remote location with difficult access it is important to emphasise this.
- Answer any other questions which the Police Service asks.
- The Police will assess the situation and send help – this may include a Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) and other medical support.
On the water
However you choose to enjoy water sports, please take care; the lochs of the National Park may appear the essence of picturesque tranquillity, but water temperatures are often low and weather conditions can change quickly.
On our boating safety pages you’ll find important information and advice about safety on the water, including:
- Pre-season and pre-launch safety checks for your boat
- Boat safety equipment checklist
- Wearing and caring for lifejackets
- Incident reporting & emergencies
- Notice to mariners
With 22 lochs and over 50 rivers, the Park has some great places for wild and open water swimming. Before entering the water, here are a few safety pointers to think about:
- Swimmers are low in the water and it can be difficult for boats to spot you – especially if it’s choppy. You should always wear a brightly coloured swim cap and, if possible, use a swim safety device – these are brightly coloured inflatables towed behind the swimmer.
- Try to swim with at least one other person.
- Where possible, use an escort canoe / kayak which can also display the alpha flag (international sign of diver in the water).
- Always swim well within your own capabilities and be aware of the effects of gradual chilling.
- Check weather conditions before heading out, swells can quickly develop with a change in wind strength / direction.
- Blue green algae can be a problem during the warmer months. The Local Authority should be the first port of call for advice if you spot any algal blooms – National Park visitor centres and SEPA can also be contacted.
If you are planning to swim on Loch Lomond, the National Park Authority water rangers are an invaluable source of information. Contact the Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway in Balloch on 01389 722030.
Hillwalking & climbing
There’s a huge range of places to walk and climb in the National Park – scenic glens and hills, lengthy mountain experiences or exposed and remote terrain. In winter, our hills and mountains can transform into icy, snow covered giants where experience and mountaineering skills are required.
A progressive approach to hillwalking is a great way to build up your fitness and experience, and the National Park has many routes suitable for visitors wanting to take their first steps in the Scottish hills.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has an excellent range of online resources to support hillwalkers.
For climbers, the National Park offers everything from; picturesque bouldering circuits at Loch Katrine and East Loch Lomond, bolted single-pitch sport routes at Ardvorlich and Glen Ogle, to trad. easy classics and mountain test pieces on the schisty, towering bastions of the Cobbler.
Other useful links include;
- Walk Highlands – covering routes, equipment and accommodation for the majority of hills and mountains in Scotland.
- The Ramblers Scotland – a charity whose goal is to protect the ability of people to enjoy the sense of freedom and benefits that come from being outdoors on foot.
- The Mountaineering Council of Scotland – representative organisation for hillwalkers, climbers and ski-tourers living in Scotland.
- The British Mountaineering Council – protects the freedoms and promotes the interests of climbers, hillwalkers and mountaineers.
- UKClimbing – a popular website offering a huge range of online climbing and mountaineering resources.
Ticks & Lyme Disease
Ticks are small parasitic insects that feed on the blood of birds and mammals – including you. They are found in many parts of the region and unfortunately carry several diseases including Lyme disease.
Ticks live in tall grasses, shrubs, bushes and trees branches up to waist height, and attach themselves as you brush past – they prefer creased areas like the armpit, groin and back of the knee. You won’t feel the bite, as the tick will anaesthetise the area. Don’t panic though, simply being bitten by a tick doesn’t mean you’ll automatically contract Lyme disease, however the risk is out there.
The following measures will help you avoid being bitten:
- Walk in the middle of paths and avoid unnecessary ‘bushwacking’ between March and October.
- Keep your arms and legs covered.
- Ticks stand out on light-coloured fabrics
- Good quality insect repellent can reduce the incidence of tick bites
- Check clothes and skin carefully– in springtime ticks are tiny, but more easily spotted in summer
- Check that ticks are not brought into the home on clothes, pets, equipment, rugs etc.
- Check children carefully, especially along the hairline and scalp
- If you discover a tick, fortunately they are relatively easy to remove – use a good pair of sharp tweezers, grip the tick by the mouth parts (close to your skin as possible), and pull it straight out. DO NOT squeeze the body of the tick, apply substances like Vaseline or try burning the tick off, these can lead to an infection.
If you do not have tweezers to hand, a loop or slipknot of strong cotton wrapped around the mouth parts, and pulled, is also effective. Make sure you remove all of the mouthparts
Removing ticks as soon as possible reduces the risk of infection – consider retaining the tick in a sealed container in case you develop symptoms later.
The most obvious symptom of Lyme disease is the ‘Bull’s Eye’ rash, a red ring-shaped rash spreading from the site of the bite. It appears 2 – 40 days after infection and is the only sure-fire symptom of the disease. If you develop this rash, take a photo for your doctor. Less than 50% of people with Lyme get this rash, and if left untreated a range of serious symptoms can develop, including a flu-like illness, facial palsy, joint pain and viral-type meningitis.
If you think you may have caught Lyme disease, see your GP straight away. If the GP suspects Lyme’s you should begin antibiotic treatment right away, without waiting for any test results.
For more information see the National Health Service website.