One of the most picturesque and calming scenes in Scotland, Loch Lomond Shores lies just 40 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Glasgow city. With lots to do for families and children in the Balloch resort, I check out the local Sea Life Centre (for a second time) and give costs, travel and itinerary ideas.
Location: Balloch, G83 8QL
Travel: 40 minutes from central Glasgow by train or car.
Total Cost: Train tickets – £5.80 return train ticket per adult,£2.65 per child
Entry to Sea Life – £13.95 per person, children under 3 free.
When I was 16 I got, what I thought, was my dream job. As a repressed scientist (in the sense I made no effort at school and showed no real promise apart from a couple of good grades at GCSE) I’d always dreamed of being a marine biologist (the career I still choose for my speaking-to-odd-strangers-at-bars alias) and, if I couldn’t quite make the grades for that, the next best thing would be to walk and talk and squawk with the animals…or the fish at least.
A job in my local Sea Life Centre seemed incredible at the time – opportunities to talk about sea creatures (because what else would a 16-year-old dream of?), chances to be near sea life and, ashamedly true, the opportunity to dress up as a lobster at parties (I’m also a repressed actor in my spare time). In reality, however, the role was less about being an underwater miracle and more manning hyperactive children in the play area, cleaning up after hyperactive children in the play area, attempting to climb through obstacles to rescue stuck hyperactive children in the play area, and cleaning the toilets frequented by visitors to the play area. I lasted two days before handing in my notice letter.
A part of me, however, still harbours the hope I had for the £6 an hour role and I’ll usually jump on any opportunity to talk fish and pretend I have a knowledge beyond talks attended as a child. I’m not ashamed to admit in my mid-twenties, I still love a visit to a Sea Life Centre. And, having already visited once before, I jumped on a(n actually on-time) ScotRail train for a second time and made the 40-minute trip to my nearest in Balloch to stare at fish, fish, and a fair few crustaceans.
I have to admit, Sealife Centre Loch Lomond is one of the better ones. There’s an easy-to-follow path in terms of packing everything in, a great variation of sea creatures (including touch and play areas for the curious), activity sheets for the young marine explorers amongst us, and (best of all in my opinion) otters with feeding displays on offer.
What’s more, the obligatory underwater tunnel is particularly special with an array of impressive underwater creatures from White Tip Reef Sharks to Moray Eels, and Bamboo Sharks to (best of all) Scotland’s only Green Sea Turtle…he’s larger than you’d think! The centre boasts Scotland’s largest collection of sharks and rays (though one imagines the competition isn’t that great) and has a good variation in talks with multiple feeding opportunities throughout the day.
A fairly new addition to the centre is the ONLY Cow Nose Rays in Scotland (I know, a creature you’ve always wanted to see) and I’m not going to lie, they are pretty cute (alas, images when you’re walking round with a seven-year-old are hard to take so I haven’t got any to show). The finish on the aquariums is far beyond many of the centres I’ve visited and, if you like a snap or two, the twirling Jellyfish tank is not to be missed.
It’s not the cheapest of day out – it cost me £49.20 for three adults, a child and a baby (though the smallest of us was free, thankfully as she was fast asleep the whole time) plus train fares and countless other activities at Balloch. However, there’s family deals to be had (annual passes including a visit to a number of theme parks cost from around £105 upward – an investment worth making if you’ve got a mini-me it seems) and annual pasts cost around £40 per person if you’re a regular fish watcher. What’s more, it’s a genuinely engaging and interesting way to spend the day and I’d say it’s worth every penny. While the aquarium only spans one floor, there’s multiple levels to explore with a loch-view cafe, local art on staircases and a community theatre all nestled into one building.
My second visit to Sea Life Loch Lomond was (completely accidentally) an exact year after my first and I’m not afraid to say it gave me faint ambitions of somehow getting that marine biology degree once again. The best thing about my visit, however? There was that there wasn’t a Sealife Play area in sight…though I can’t comment on the cleanliness of the toilets, I left before I was trained in that department.