Burns summer (not supper)

Today (July 21st) is the anniversary of Robert Burns’ death. Usually we celebrate his birthday on January 25 with Burns suppers the world over, but it seems a pity to only consider his poetry once a year. To mark the passing of Scotland’s national bard in 1796 at the age of just 37, here is a poem of his that you might not hear at a Burns supper. Burns penned songs and poems on many subjects, some rather unexpected. This one, to a mouse he found in one of his fields while ploughing, is no exception. Despite being written more than 230 years ago, some of the poem’s sentiments seem entirely in keeping with modern environmental concerns.

Photo credit: cazalegg on Visualhunt.com
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Boathouses at Loch Ard

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Loch Ard is one of the 22 lochs in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. A few kilometers west of Aberfoyle, Loch Ard is about 20 minute drive from Tigh a’ Mhaide and is a good choice for walking or cycling with some 16 miles of trails to explore and plenty of wildlife to spot. But one thing that sets Loch Ard apart from others in the area is its abundance of boathouses. Here’s a brief tour of just a few at the eastern end of the loch.

These two boathouses face each other across the water just before the River Forth flows out of the loch towards Aberfoyle.
This jetty and the boathouse opposite are popular subjects for local and visiting photographers.
Keeping the boat secure.
Moving west along the loch shore, this collection of boathouses nestles in a sheltered bay close to the road through the Pass of Aberfoyle.
Some of the boathouses have seen better days.
The final boathouse on our tour is tucked away under the trees at a point where the land descends steeply to the waterline.

The delights of Loch Ard are many and varied, from sculpture trails to water sports. But for us, the boathouses are one of its finest attractions.

Brig o’ Turk tearoom re-opens

In what must be one of the most eagerly anticipated events in Brig o’ Turk in recent years, the village tearoom re-opens today. Just a short walk from Tigh a’ Mhaide, the Brig o’ Turk tearoom is celebrated far beyond the village after it was used as a location in the making of the 1959 film The 39 Steps starring Kenneth Moore.

The Brig o’ Turk tearoom ready to re-open

The tearoom has been a welcome refreshment stop for visitors and a popular lunch/dinner venue for locals for many years but closed in 2017 when the couple who had been running it successfully for several years moved to take on a larger restaurant in nearby Callander. Now, after an extensive refurbishment and refit, the tearoom begins a phased re-opening today (Friday April 30). Initially offering take-away coffee/tea and cake with pizza in the evenings at the weekend, the tearoom’s new owners, Kay and James Hill, plan to expand their menu and graduate to indoor serving over the summer months.

Having tasted two of the tearoom’s new pizza options (goat’s cheese with caramelised onion and vegetarian chorizo), we can safely say the pizza is delicious. The garlic and cheese flatbread was an unexpected, and also delicious, bonus to our tasting task.

For opening times and the latest information, check the board at the door or see the tearoom’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BrigOTurkTearoom. Initially open Friday to Sunday for take-away between 10.30am and 4pm for cakes and coffee/teas, with pizzas available to pre-order between 6pm and 9pm, the tearoom is also dog-friendly with a charging point for e-bikes. Please visit!

Watching the wildlife

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There is wildlife aplenty at Tigh a’ Mhaide and in the surrounding area but many of our resident or visiting creatures are shy – or nocturnal – so spotting them isn’t always easy.

Image credit: Cazalegg on Visual Hunt

However, thanks to a wildlife camera in the woods, we’ve recently been treated to images of foxes, deer and a local badger.

We’ve even caught a fleeting glimpse of a passing otter which came almost nose-to-nose with one of the foxes before retreating hastily to the river. There are an estimated 8,000 otters in Scotland, living along the coasts or beside clean rivers and lochs and although the population is flourishing, it was still a surprise to see one.

Image credit: Cazalegg on Visual Hunt
Keep an eye on the lower right quarter of the video.

Our most common visitors are roe deer. Along with red deer, these are native to Scotland and are a common sight.

And the winner is…

The holiday accommodation at Tigh a’ Mhaide has been named Scottish Newcomer of the Year, 2020 in the LUXlife Magazine 5th annual resorts and retreats awards.

It’s our first award and we’re chuffed!

In customary fashion we would love to say thank you to whoever nominated us, but we don’t know who that was so instead, we’ll just say a heartfelt thank you to all the guests who have stayed with us since we opened and to the many who have left us kind words and glowing praise in our guest comments book.

Having opened for business mid-way through the 2019 summer season and spent a significant part of the 2020 season closed because of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, we now dare to hope that 2021 will be our first full summer season. But regardless of when we can reopen, we will still be striving to create a holiday home for our guests that is as perfect as we can make it.

We hope to see you soon.

Details of all the LUXlife winners are here.

For Auld Lang Syne

As Scotland is in either Covid-19 Level 3 or 4 over Hogmanay and Ne’erday, celebratory shindigs will be of the online and socially distant kind instead of the more usual crowded and close-up variety. It’s traditional the world over to sing Burns’ song Auld Lang Syne at the bells (midnight) and this year, perhaps more than any other, its message of friendship and remembrance of times gone by seems appropriate. While the song is attributed to him, Burns acknowleged it was a much older song and that he was simply the first to write it down. Although it was initially set to a different melody, the combination of words and music familiar today has been used for more than 200 years.

As we reflect on an extraordinary year, here’s Dougie MacLean with his version of Burns’ famous song. We wish everyone a healthy and prosperous 2021.

The difference a day makes

Walks around Brig o’ Turk are many and varied and the ever-changing weather simply makes things more interesting. Two walks around Loch Venachar, on consecutive days, were quite different experiences.

Walk 1, Loch Venachar’s north shore
Walk 2, west of Loch Venachar

Walk 1 was a waterproof and welly-boot walk with mud and snow the order of the day. Walk 2 was dry, crisp and icy so that walking boots – and sunglasses – were essential. The best advice we can offer visitors planning a walk in this particular Park (Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park) is to come prepared for everything. 😉

Hallowe’en tradition

Hallowe’en will be a bit different this year without door-to-door guising (if you live in Scotland) or trick-or-treating but will still be an excuse for dressing up and playing games, even if it’s only with your own family.

Hallowe’en was a big thing in Scotland when I was growing up. (Even the word Hallowe’en comes from the Scots term for All Hallows Eve or evening.) We dressed up, sometimes as witches, devils, fairies or other spirits but not always, and we went guising. This involved calling at the houses of friends and neighbours in our costumes (disguises) and in return for singing a song, telling a joke or a story, reciting a poem or giving some other small performance of a ‘party-piece’, guisers were rewarded with fruit, nuts, sweets and perhaps even a few coins. We took with us a Hallowe’en lantern but made them from turnips rather than pumpkins. (Turnips are much harder to hollow out.)  At home or at Hallowe’en parties we also dooked for apples. For the traditionalists, dooking for apples involves floating several in a basin of water, then trying to catch one and lift it out of the basin using only your teeth. An alternative approach is to kneel on a chair with a fork between your teeth, lean over the basin of floating apples and try to spear a fruit by dropping the fork. Another favourite Hallowe’en game was trying to eat treacle-coated scones hanging from strings with our hands tied behind our backs.All very messy, but lots of fun!

The traditional Hallowe’en festivities have their origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain which marked the end of summer and the start of winter. Samhain was part harvest festival and part commemoration of the dead and was thought to be a time when the barrier between our world and ‘the other world’ was at its most permeable. The tradition of guising at Hallowe’en comes from the idea that disguising yourself as the kind of spirit which might be abroad at Hallowe’en was a way of going unnoticed among them and so offered some protection from their mischief making.

However you mark Hallowe’en this year, I hope you enjoy it and your disguises are successful!

Image credits:

PumpkinsThad Zajdowicz on VisualHunt / CC BY

Broomstick:www.chrisbirds.com on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Lantern:houghtonbirds on Visual hunt / CC BY

Describing the landscape

Gaelic was a native spoken language in The Trossachs until at least the 1950s and is still evident in the place and house names in the area. The name Tigh a’ Mhaide means ‘house of the timber’ and may have been coined because of the sections of tree trunk used to support the porch at the front of the oldest part of the house.

The familiar English names of some of the most popular places to visit in the area derive from Gaelic names which are often wonderfully descriptive of the location or feature. For example:

Ben A’an comes from the Gaelic name Am Binnein meaning the pinnacle or apex. It’s easy to see why the familiar triangular peak earned its name.

Ben A'an from Loch Achray
Ben A’an rises above Loch Achray

Loch Achray comes from Loch Àth a’ Chrathaidh which has the intriguing meaning of Loch of the ford of the shaking.

Ben Venue comes from A’ Bheinn Mheanbh meaning the small mountain and though it may not feel like it on the long walk to the summit, Ben Venue is a mere 729m high compared to neaby Ben Ledi at 879m, or local munro Ben Lomond at 974m.

Ben Venue in the distance beyond Loch Venachar

Loch Venachar’s name is from Loch Bheannchair meaning the horn-shaped or tapering loch and a look at a map shows that it’s a good description.

Gaelic may no longer be the usual native spoken language of people living in The Trossachs, but it remains an important part of the landscape and much else in the local environment and wider culture of Scotland.

Tìoraidh an-dràsta! (Bye for now!)