“Loch Lomond”


Singer laments parting from his/her love by Loch Lomond, noting "the broken heart it kens nae second spring." Chorus: "You'll take the high road and I'll take the low road And I'll be in Scotland before ye But me and my true love will never meet again..."


The song (or at least the chorus) seems to have entered oral tradition in the US, probably through the recording by Benny Goodman's band. (Benny Goodman & his Orchestra, vocal by Maxine Sullivan, "Loch Lomond" (Victor 25717, 1937)). - PJS

Legends about this song are numerous. One has it that it was heard and/or composed by Lady John Scott in the 1840s. Another (supported by the Clancy family) is that it is derived from the Irish "Red Is the Rose," with which it shares a tune. ("Red Is the Rose" sounds more recent and more composed, though, at least to my ears.)

Legend has it that the "low road" is the road of death, and that the song was made by a Scottish prisoner following the 1745 Jacobite rebellion: The condemned soldier tells his comrade that (following his execution), he will take the low road back to Scotland and arrive first.

One real connection with the Jacobite rebellion is a broadside, NLScotland RB.m.168(178), "Flora's Lament for her Charlie," printed by Robert McIntosh, beginning "It's yon bonny banks and yon bonny braise, Where the sun shines bright and bonny, Where I and my true love went out for to gaze On the bonny, bonny banks of Benlomond." The next verse is standard "Loch Lomond." But it looks like a patch-up job, and no tune is listed.

More explicit, and perhaps more traditional, is Ford's second text, said to have been found by Lady Jane Scott in Edinborough; it has a terminal verse, "The thistle shall bloom, an' the King hae his ain" and an explicit complaint in the second verse that "My Ranald... the morrow he marches to Edinburgh toun, To fecht for the King an Prince Charlie!"

Both these items, however, look like patch jobs as well. The connection with the '45 remains uncertain.

Fuld offers a list of possible antecedants of the tune; all show noticeable differences. I think the matter must be regarded as unsettled.

Loch Lomond, one of the largest Scottish lakes, is a short way north of Dumbarton, and not far north and west of Glasgow; its outlet flows into the Clyde in Dumbarton. - RBW

Same tune

  • Flora's Lament for her Charlie (broadside NLScotland, RB.m.168(178), "Flora's Lament for her Charlie," Robert MacIntosh (Glasgow), after 1849; probably the same broadside as Murray, Mu23-y3:013)

Cross references


  • NLScotland, L.C.Fol.70(17a), "Bonnie Banks of Lochlomond," unknown (probably Poet's Box ) (Dundee), n.d.


  • George Alexander, "Loch Lomond" (Columbia 3294, 1906)
  • Henry Burr, "Loch Lomond" (Victor 16062, 1908)
  • Unidentified baritone, "Star of Eve/Loch Lomand [medley]" (Climax [Columbia] X-88, c. 1901)


  1. Ford-Vagabond, pp. 145-148, "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond" (2 texts, 1 tune; the first is the common version and the second a variant without chorus which may have inspired the popular piece)
  2. Dean, pp. 122-123, "Loch Lomond" (1 text)
  3. Silber-FSWB, p. 257, "Loch Lomond" (1 text)
  4. Fuld-WFM, pp. 336-337, "Loch Lomond"
  6. Roud #9598
  7. BI, FSWB257B


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1841 ("Vocal Melodies of Scotland")
Found in: Britain(Scotland) US(MW)