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.

A walk on Lendrick Hill

The first few weeks of the new decade have been mostly wet and fairly miserable so a brief spell of fine weather and sunshine recently was the perfect excuse to get outside. And what better way to blow off the cobwebs than with a short hillwalk around the village on a route that offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

For guests at Tigh a’ Mhaide, the Lendrick Hill walk begins at the door. Turning east on to the road through the village, the walk follows the pavement as far as it goes before continuing along a path and crossing the A821 at the eastern edge of Brig o’ Turk. Once on the north side of the road, the path divides and boardwalks lead both right and left. Here, our walk turns right and follows the signposted path for Lendrick Hill and the Woodland Trust for Scotland (WTS) visitor gateway.

For most visitors, the Lendrick Hill walk begins when they park beside the WTS visitor gateway but guests at Tigh a’ Mhaide can walk there. Lendrick Hill rises behind the gateway.

The cylindrical shape of the wood-clad visitor gateway reminds me of an iron-age broch, though, given it was created by the Woodland Trust, perhaps the allusion is intended to be to tree trunks. The gateway is open from April to October. In addition to leaflets, maps and information about the Trust’s work in the area, it offers a children’s play corner and toilets.

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A Guid Ne’erday

The celebration of Christmas was banned for almost 400 years in Scotland (outlawed during the Protestant Reformation) and so Hogmanay (December 31) and the New Year became the focus of mid-winter festivities. The period after Christmas up to Handsel Monday (the first Monday of the New Year when people exchanged a small gift as a token of luck) became known as the “Daft Days”. This was a time of fun and light-hearted good cheer and was the subject of Robert Fergusson’s 1772 poem “The Daft-Days”. Here’s an extract:

This statue of Robert Fergusson stands on The Royal Mile. Edinburgh outside Canongate Kirk where he is buried in the churchyard.
Image credit: Dun Deagh on Visual Hunt, CC BY-SA

When merry Yule-day comes, I trou,
You’ll scantlins find a hungry mou;
Sma are our cares, our stamacks fou
O’ gusty gear,
And kickshaws, strangers to our view,
Sin fairn-year.

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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.

St Andrew’s Day: What’s the story?

Today is St Andrew’s Day in Scotland, and also in Barbados, Greece, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine among others places. A bank holiday in Scotland since 2006, St Andrew’s Day marks the start of the winter festivals which run right through to Burns’ Night in February. The day is celebrated with ceilidhs, music, feasts and special events across the country. This year, the national tourism agency Visit Scotland staged an unusual celebration of our national day.

But how did Andrew become Scotland’s patron saint? St Andrew’s Day has been marked on November 30 since the middle of the 5th century, that date being widely accepted as the anniversary of his martyrdom. However, the reason for his adoption as Scotland’s patron saint is shrouded in mystery and legend. 

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Inversnaid: waterfalls and wars

Inversnaid, on the east shore of Loch Lomond, is the site of a magnificent waterfall. Its Gaelic name is Inbhir Snàthaid. Inbhir means a confluence of rivers, estuary or the mouth of a water course and is common in place names. Inbhir Nis (Inverness), Inbhir Aora (Inveraray), Inbhir Uaraidh (Inverurie) and Inbhir Chluaidh (Inverclyde) are all well known examples.

The Snàthaid element of the name means ‘needle’ and it’s easy to see why Inversnaid was named as it was. The waterfall plunges from the narrow Arklet Water into Loch Lomond many feet below. It is spectacular, especially after a spell of wet weather which happens regularly. Seen from the loch, this torrent of falling water could certainly look like a needle.

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The Duke’s Pass: What’s the story?

The Duke’s Pass connects Aberfoyle with Loch Achray and gives access from the south to Loch Katrine and Brig o’ Turk. Now a public road forming part of the A821, The Duke’s Pass is a popular route for cyclists and is often considered to be one of the country’s most scenic drives. The road featured in the BBC’s series Britain’s Best Drives with actor Richard Wilson.

The modern road follows one built in the 19th century by the landowner Douglas Graham, the 5th Duke of Montrose, to improve access around his estates and to the slate quarry above Aberfoyle. Originally little more than a track suitable for horses, the road in the pass between Ben Venue and the Menteith Hills was improved to accommodate the influx of carriages as Victorian visitors flocked to The Trossachs following the publication of Sir Walter Scott’s narrative poem The Lady of the Lake. In 1931, after the land was acquired by the Forestry Commission, construction of a public toll road began as part of a scheme to provide work for unemployed miners.

Travelling south to north, Ben Ledi comes into view as the Duke’s Pass begins its decent to Loch Achray.
Loch Drunkie is visible far below from the Pass.

The road remains popular with visitors to the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. It is the route to the Three Lochs Forest Drive, and features regularly in cycling races. It provided the Queen of the Mountain challenge at Stage 2 of the inaugural Women’s Tour of Scotland cycle race this summer and features as the hill climb in the annual Duke’s Weekender cycle event.

The climb up from/decent to Aberfoyle is steep and winding making it a favourite for cycling hill races.
A number of walking paths, replete with wild flowers in spring and summer, cross or lead off the Pass.

Passing below the aptly-named Creag Mhòr (big rock), the road winds up from Aberfoyle towards the Lodge Visitor Centre. The Lodge was originally named after David Marshall, Chairman of the Carnegie Trust and the prime mover behind the building of the Lodge in the 1950s. The Trust gifted the Lodge to the Forestry Commission in 1960. Beyond, the road passes within sight of the quarry which produced slates, including those on the roof at Stirling Castle, from the 17th century until its closure in 1954. The ridge above the quarry is said to be the site of a violent clash between cattle reivers (thieves) from Lochaber and their local pursuers. A dozen men are thought to have died in the fight.

Near the top of the pass and the entrance to the Three Lochs Forest Drive, is Creag Mhadaidh (Wolf Rock). Wolves were hunted to extinction with official records dating the killing of the last wolf to 1680. However, reported sightings of wolves continued for a further 200 years. Could the intriguing name mean that wolves were spotted at Creag Mhadaidh?

A walk by Loch Drunkie

There are 22 major lochs and numerous smaller lochs and lochans in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Among the smaller freshwater lochs is Loch Drunkie which lies to the south of Loch Venachar and is accessible from the Three Lochs Forest Drive off the Duke’s Pass between Aberfoyle and Loch Achray. The loch is the starting point for three walks.

Loch Drunkie is visible below from the Duke’s Pass

The loch’s name is a curious one and its origins are obscure. Drunkie is an anglicised version of the loch’s Gaelic name, Drongaidh. The name dates from at least the 15th century and may simply refer to the physical characteristics of the loch which lies in a hollow or depression in the landscape.

The first glimpse of Loch Drunkie in the distance from the Forest Drive
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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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