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!)

With a quack and a waddle…

There was great excitement here last month when we were joined by four young Khaki Campbell ducks (actually, three ducks and a drake to be more precise). They have kept us entertained, and on our toes, as they have adjusted to their new life on our duck pond.

The one on the right hasn’t quite got the position off pat.

The drake quickly earned the nickname McQueen, after US actor Steve McQueen’s famous, fence-leaping, motorcycle stunt in the 1963 film The Great Escape. In our McQueen’s case, the leap was wing-assisted rather than motorbike-assisted. Happily, we persuaded him back into the enclosure in which the ducks spent their first few days here while they became accustomed to their new home.

McQueen (left) with his flock.
The duck house built specially for the new arrivals.

Starry, starry nights

One of the joys of living in, or visiting, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is the chance to see just how many stars are visible to the naked eye in the night sky. Simply looking up on a clear night can offer some fabulous views. In urban areas, around 100 stars are visible at night. In contrast, in rural areas of the Park, where light pollution is minimal, 1000s of stars can be seen.

The bright star near the centre of this image looking north-east is the star Vega, which is part of the constellation Lyra (The Harp). The Earth’s axis is not constant and so, thousands of years ago, Vega was the North Star. In about 12,000 years from now, Vega will again be the North Star, replacing Polaris.

Other locations are out of bounds for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown, but a recent spell of good weather with clear night skies has been a great opportunity to star gaze at Tigh a’ Mhaide. Despite our woodland setting, it is still possible to see some well-known constellations and even catch of glimpse of the Milky Way.

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Coronavirus update

Update: Since this post was published, new government advice for self-catering properties means we have closed to guests for the time being. We will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

As the country gets to grips with the coronavirus pandemic and everyday life changes more every day, we are taking a number of precautionary measures to allow us to remain open for those of our guests able to travel here safely and in keeping with the latest government advice on limiting the spread of the virus. We will be keeping that advice under review and, in the meantime, taking the following steps in order to protect our guests and ourselves. We will:

  • Ensure a minimum of 48 hours between bookings.
  • Clean intensively after every booking. Tigh a’ Mhaide is always spotlessly clean when guests arrive, but our usual cleaning routine is now even more intensive. In particular, after every booking we will:
    • Wash all towels, bed linen and protectors at the highest possible temperature.
    • Disinfect all surfaces and appliances.
    • Put all crockery, cutlery, pots and pans through an intensive dishwasher programme.
    • Disinfect keys.

We have already installed a lock box so that guests can check themselves in and out without face-to-face interaction with us (though we will still greet you from a distance and be available if you need help). 

We will also temporarily remove any indoor games that cannot be easily disinfected between bookings. Outdoor games (croquet, putting/mini-golf and table tennis) will remain available.

In addition to these measures, we ask all our guests to follow the latest government advice about travel, handwashing and social distancing in order to protect themselves and others. You can check that advice here.

For anyone going out walking, whether for a gentle stroll or a more challenging hill walk, there is also new guidance from The Ramblers and Mountaineering Scotland about how to do that safely. Details here.

Festive wishes

This year seems unlikely to be a white Christmas in our corner of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park but we’ve already had some wonderfully crisp, frosted-white and sunny winter days. This image is of nearby Loch Lubnaig on just such a day earlier this month when I ventured out to practise with my new camera. It was so cold my fingers were quickly numb but the scenery was at its breathtaking best.

With the solstice now behind us, at Tigh a’ Mhaide we are already looking forward to the return of the sun and longer days. We wish all our guests and blog readers a truly merry festive season and we look forward to welcoming many more visitors to The Trossachs in 2020. Don’t forget you can book with us directly at http://www.tam.scot.

Up close & personal with a pine marten

Pine martens are native to Scotland but are an uncommon sight. About the same size as an average cat, the pine marten is now a protected species with only an estimated 3,700 adults in Scotland.

Pine marten in the wild.
Pine marten photographed in the Scottish Highlands.
Image credit: BROTY1 on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA

Numbers declined dramatically in the 19th century when they were frequently killed by gamekeepers on sporting estates to stop them eating the young pheasants being reared for shooting. But they are again appearing in areas where they were once common and the native woodlands around Tigh a’ Mhaide are a perfect environment for them. They are beautiful creatures with their dark brown fur, long bushy tails and creamy yellow bibs.

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