Water buses are a splashing idea
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WATER WORLD: Stuart Cordner from Cruise Loch Lomond
CRUISE CONTROL: Sian Stephens from Bonhill, Alexandria, aboard the Lomond Warrior
CAPTAIN: Alistair Burns from Garelochhead is in the driving seat
A SPLASHING new service has been re-launched this week - joining up communities across Loch Lomond.
The water bus is a fantastic opportunity for residents across the West of Scotland to explore the beauty of the National Park.
Most people are familiar with the car and bus routes around the area.
But for most, this service offers a rare opportunity to see the beauty of the loch from the water.
The new timetable returned at the weekend and is a partnership between Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and Tarbet-based Cruise Loch Lomond.
The return follows a successful 2011, where more than 10,000 people used water buses to explore Loch Lomond.
In the summer, Sweeney's Cruises in Balloch will also be joining the scheme, with plans afoot to build a permanent water bus pontoon at Drumkinnon Bay taking day-trippers from Balloch to Luss.
We joined Cruise Loch Lomond's Luss to Balmaha Service on board the Lomond Warrior, joining the clued-up crew at the village pier.
Stuart Cordner, 40, director of Cruise Loch Lomond, is a leading supporter of water buses and the benefits it brings.
He said: "Historically, we were operating our own cruises from Tarbet since 1978 and the opportunity arose to increase the number of stops and pick-ups at six more locations around the loch, including Luss to Balmaha.
"This all evolved in partnership with National Park and other agencies into the Water Bus service.
"Since it began we have seen a huge uptake in demand, not just from holidaymakers, but from day trippers, cyclists and walkers.
"And we now have a new route taking walkers from Tarbet to Rowardennan for 9.30am where they can spend the day climbing Ben Lomond and catch the boat back at 4.45pm."
However, for many of those involved in the initiative, the key benefit is keeping tourists in the area longer.
Stuart added: "We work with businesses around the loch to show people there are other activities for them to do.
"This includes day trips on the water buses, which may encourage them to stay on another night."
One of those benefiting from this joined-up approach to tourism is the Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha.
After a guided tour on board the Lomond Warrior, we met Stuart Fraser, 30, a partner in the business on the shore as we disembarked.
He told the Advertiser: "The feedback to the water bus service has been fantastic, everyone who has stayed here and tried it has loved it.
"The Luss experience is very popular, our customers enjoying being able to go and explore another village for the day, knowing that at 2pm there is another boat to bring them back over.
"It really does add to their experience of the loch and makes a great day out."
Fiona Logan, CEO Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park added: "Increasing the accessibility of the National Park for our visitors is hugely important to us and the water bus is a great way to experience the varied landscape we have here.
"This year, we will also have our volunteer rangers on board some sailings to give visitors a personal experience of the loch and to offer their expertise on the best things to see and do in the Park.
" If you haven't already experienced arriving at your destination by boat, I would strongly recommend a trip out this summer."
Villages included in the water bus service are: Inversnaid, Luss, Tarbet, Balmaha, Inchcailloch and Rowardennan. The water bus service operates daily and is only forty-five minutes from Glasgow by train or bus.
Details of the service and routes can be found on the National Park website www.lochlomond-trossachs.org.
This article appeared in Dumbarton & Vale of Leven Reporter 03 Apr 12
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