Making the Most of the Bonnie Banks ... Princess Anne Is Soon to Open Scotland's First National Park at Loch Lomond. Juliet Clough Took a Grand Tour of the Beautiful Trossachs to See What's on Offer throughout the Summer

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Byline: JULIET CLOUGH

THE establishment of a national parks system has come high on the agenda of the Scottish parliament.

Why? Unlike many international parks, this one is hardly a wilderness.

More than 80 per cent of Scotland's population lives within two hours of Loch Lomond. An estimated 7million cars drive along the west shore road every year.

Visitors have been coming here in droves for more than two centuries, inspired by such as Sir Walter Scott and Queen Victoria. As for that song, Loch Lomond gets the nostalgically inclined reaching for their hankies the world over.

And this is a world- class landscape. The challenge, says the new National Parks Authority, is to manage it in a way that encourages an estimated 5million visitors to enjoy it every summer without damaging the very environment they have come to see.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park embraces a diverse range of scenery. It stretches from the sea lochs of the Cowal Peninsula to the wild moorland of Breadalbane.

It boasts 21 Munros, two forest parks, a national cycle network route, 57 sites of special conservation value and more than 1,250 miles of trails.

In short, this area provides Lowland Scotland with its most accessible taste of the Highlands.

But it is also home to more than 14,000 people scattered throughout small towns, villages and farmsteads.

The park is aiming for an integrated approach, co- ordinating and enhancing the activities of the many organisations already active in the area, acting chief executive Jane Hope told me.

But, unlike in England and Wales, where the chief aims of the national parks are conservation and enjoyment, Scotland's will also have a built-in responsibility to promote the sustainable economic and social development of those who live there.

Among the 25 members of the new authority are five people elected by local communities.

12 million has been spent on the park, which will be officially opened by Princess Anne on July 24. Of this, pound sterling3million has gone on the National Park Gateway Centre at Balloch.

The centre is full of technological wizardry; touch- screens offer explanations of the wildlife and natural history of the park, plus daily events information. A new cycle trail leads to Tarbet, Arrochar and Helensburgh.

Another route, the Lowland Highland Trail, follows the National Cycle Network Route 7, from Drymen to Killin.

There are new visitor centres at Inveruglas and Rowardennan, while others are being upgraded.

Plans are afoot for a solarpowered boat - which luckily seems able to do without much sunshine - geared towards educational trips.

For further information, telephone 01389 722199 or email www.justoutstanding.co.uk Asked to pick a special day out in each of the four main areas of the National Park, I would fall back on trusted favourites.

Argyll: Once you get off the Dunoon ferry and into the avenue of giant redwoods at Benmore Botanic Garden (01369 706261) you can feel the tranquillity surroundingyou like a cloak. The other attractions include one of the finest collections of rhododendrons in the country.

Breadalbane: For effortless scenery head for Killin, where the beer-brown River Dochart cascades over a long and beautiful tumble of rocks. …