Speedboats bring peril of high road to Loch Lomond

QUEEN VICTORIA loved it. So did Dr Johnson, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey, and Sir Walter Scott. The problem is that everyone who has visited Loch Lomond has loved it too.

But it isn't just the number of visitors flocking to the 22-mile stretch of water north-west of Glasgow that is causing problems: it is the speed at which they travel when they get there.

When Queen Victoria visited in 1869, she came by one of the paddle-steamers that had been taking passengers up the River Leven from the Clyde for more than 50 years.

These days the cruisers use speedboats and jet skis that rush across the water at more than 60 miles an hour. Last weekend a woman died after two of them collided.

The Department of Transport's marine safety inspectorate is to hold its own investigation, separate from the police and fatal accident inquiries (the Scottish equivalent of an inquest). There is talk of speed limits. But after decades of disharmony between the overlapping local authorities that govern the loch, no one expects an easy solution.

Tommy Daniels, a Loch Lomond boatman since 1939, has been writing letters to the various authorities for years to try to draw attention to the problems. Mr Daniels's old-fashioned wooden boat does seven to eight knots - just under 10mph. 'The plastic boats can fly up and down here at 60mph,' he says. 'Drivers don't know one end of the loch from the other; most don't even know where the engine of their boat is.'

Most of all he is worried about drink. 'You can't drink and drive on the lochside road, but out here you can do anything you like. I don't come here at the weekend anymore. They are destroying it.'

Queen Victoria wrote in her diary of her cruise on Loch Lomond: 'Nothing could be finer or more truly Alpine, reminding me much of the Lake of Lucerne; only Loch Lomond is longer.'

Her comments assured the loch instant fashionable status. But the tourist boom actually started about 200 years ago, when the geographer T Richardson published his Guide to Loch Lomond in 1799. Its fame was 'sounded by every traveller who had seen it', Richardson wrote. 'No place of its kind in Europe is more resorted to, foreigners of every description visit, returning amply satisfied with their romantic beauties; beauties which at once please the eye and gratify the fancy.'

That brought the famous flocking to the place. But a song helped too. 'The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond' derives from the failure of the 1745 Jacobite rising. Two men from the Lomond clan, Colquhoun, were sentenced to death. One was let off to return home and tell the story. The dead one's sweetheart says that she will meet her loved one again in heaven - a reference to her intended suicide.

The 'high road' and 'low road' in the chorus refer to the Scottish belief that if a clansman died, his spirit was transported back to his birthplace by the 'faeries', who always travelled underground.

Jacobite history, folklore, and a suicide were thus reworked from older songs in 1836 by Lady John Scott of Buccleuch - the Joni Mitchell of her day - who died, aged 90 in 1900.

But the 'Bonnie Bonnie Banks' have paid for their fame. Ian Thompson has worked on the loch at Luss village for 37 years. Last week he watched three men being rescued when their speedboat hit rocks. 'If there is an easy answer, I don't know anyone who knows what it is,' he said.

At Loch Lomond Marina, in Balloch, at the south end of the loch, director Simon Kitchen blamed 'a few irresponsible idiots giving anybody who uses speedboats or jet skis a bad name'.

A multimillion pound industry would be killed off if new speed regulations were introduced, Mr Kitchen said. 'At the moment we have one park warden for the whole area. And this isn't a park anyway. He's frustrated. We're frustrated. I wish someone had answers. We don't'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own