Lochearnhead is a small village in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park with around 250 inhabitants. The village is situated at the head and west end of Loch Earn on the A84 and A85 north from Stirling. The A84 will take you on to other popular destinations including Killin, Tyndrum, Loch Tay, Kenmore, Oban, Glencoe, Inverness and the Isles. The A85 at the T junction will lead you east to Perth; a scenic drive along Loch Earn, past Briar Cottages, through pretty villages including St Fillans, Comrie and Crieff. Other popular destinations are Glasgow and Edinburgh - circa 60 miles; Stirling, Falkirk, Loch Lomond, Inverary and so many other popular tourist destinations and attractions.
Lochearnhead is more than just a picturesque destination for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. It is also a place rich in history, with traces of human activity dating back thousands of years.
Loch Earn is a narrow freshwater loch in an area that is steeped in history with evidence of ancient civilisations; a Mesolithic burial chamber, Crannogs that were utilised between the Bronze and Iron age, a Pictish stronghold and the feudal estates of clans MacGregor, MacLaren and Stewart.
We are often asked about the depth of Loch Earn. It varies like the hills. The deepest part is around 285 feet (87 metres) near the half way point. Loch Earn has a seiching tide. This is a false tide. A bit like the result of moving a bath of water where the surface would travel to one end then it would have to come back again except it happens East to West over a 16 hour period due to wind pressure on the surface.
Privately owned, 16th century Edinample Castle lies on the south road of Loch Earn. It was built by ‘Black' Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy who is said to have murdered his architect after accusing him of negligence, though it was more likely a way out of paying him. The Stewarts of Ardvorlich have lived on Loch Earn for over 400 years. The founder of the MacLarens is said to be Laurence, Abbot of Achtow in neighbouring Balquhidder, who lived during the thirteenth century. An old MacLaren burial ground can be found on the North shore of Loch Earn. Much has been written by the MacLaren society who are an excellent source for diaspora keen to explore their ancestry. Briar Cottage ( known as Easter Achraw before 1900) was home to the same family of MacLaren tenants for 200 years.
General Wade ensured that new military roads were built in the area following the old drovers road up Glenogle around 1750. Then came the railways. The Callander to Oban section was built from 1870 then the Lochearnhead to Comrie rail link next. The village had its own station and junction to both railway routes around 1904 though it was closed in 1951 due to landslides. The station building and platforms are still used to this day but not as intended. It is now HQ for Hertfordshire Scouts who rent it out for other platoons to enjoy. The most spectacular part of the old railway lines is The Glenogle Viaduct visible from the A85 road. This is now an old railway walkway, part of the Rob Roy Way and Sustrans National Cycle Route 7
Lochearnhead has two hotels, The Lochearnhead Hotel and The Clachan Hotel on the A85, where guests can enjoy views over the water to the south side. The Loch Earn Wakeschool provides seasonal water sports activities including water skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, paddle boards and ringos. Lochearnhead was once famous for hosting watersports championships. The first recorded water skier was in 1955 when Ann Cameron was towed by her husband Ewen using a Chris Craft, the old rescue boat used by John Cobb on Loch Ness during his speed trials. Ann's ski was the bonnet of a Morris Minor 1000. Ewen Cameron was the Scottish Highland Games Champion in 1953, and proprietor of the original Lochearnhead Hotel. The Lochearnhead, Strathyre and Balquhidder Highland Games take place in the village annually in July.
The Prehistoric Era
The first evidence of people in Lochearnhead comes from Mesolithic arrowheads found in Glen Ogle by former local policeman Tom Gibbon and his son Donald1. These arrowheads suggest that hunter-gatherers visited the area around 10,000 years ago, following the retreat of the glaciers after the last Ice Age. A settled population is in evidence in the Neolithic period, from a burial chamber at Edinchip and from the cup-marked stones which lie between the Kendrum Burn and the Craggan Road, in what is known locally as the Druid Field. There is another site with cup and ring marks at the head of Glen Ogle. These mysterious carvings on rocks are thought to have been made by the first farmers in the area, who cleared the land for crops and livestock.
One of the most striking features of Loch Earn are the crannogs, or artificial islands, that dot its surface. There are two crannogs still visible on the loch, one at the west end of the loch in Carstran Bay, below Edinample Castle, the other at the east end of the loch, at St Fillans, known as Neish Island. These man-made islands probably date from the Bronze Age, although Neish Island was inhabited (latterly by the Clan Neish, for whom it is now named) until 1612. The crannogs were built by driving wooden piles into the loch bed and filling the gaps with stones and turf. They provided a secure and defensible dwelling place for the people who lived on them, as well as access to fishing and waterfowl.
The Pictish Frontier
Loch Earn was on the frontier between Pictland and Dalriada, or Dál Riata, the ancient kingdoms of the Picts and the Scots. Dundurn at the east end of the loch was a Pictish frontier fort, which controlled the access to the loch and the surrounding lands. This lends weight to the argument that the name Earn therefore comes from Eireann, in other words “the loch of the Irish”. The siege, by the Scots, of the Pictish Fort of Dundurn in 683 AD is mentioned in the Annals of Ulster, one of the earliest sources of Irish history. Giric, (sometimes called Grig), King of Picts and Scots, is said to have been killed at Dundurn in 889, and is buried in Iona. The Picts and the Scots eventually merged into one nation under Kenneth MacAlpin, the first king of Alba, in the 9th century.
The Feudal Era
Although Norman nobles had been obtaining land in Scotland for a century beforehand, the coming of the feudal era is attributed to David I of Scotland in the first half of the 12th century. Feudalism proved the backdrop for local history for several centuries, not least in land ownership patterns. The lands around Loch Earn were granted to various lords and clans, who built castles and fortified houses to protect their interests and assert their authority. Some of these structures still stand today, such as Edinample Castle, which was built by the MacGregors in the late 16th century, and later passed to the Campbells of Breadalbane. Other castles, such as Lochearnhead Castle and Ardveich Castle, have fallen into ruin or disappeared altogether.
The feudal era also saw the rise and fall of the Clan MacLaren. The MacLarens were the original owners of the lands of Balquhidder, Strathyre and Lochearnhead, and held them for over 500 years. They were known for their bravery and loyalty, and fought alongside Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn in 1314. However, they also suffered from the raids and feuds of their neighbours, especially the MacGregors, who were outlawed by the Crown for their lawlessness and violence. The MacLarens eventually lost most of their lands and power, and many of them emigrated to America and Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries. The MacLaren Clan Centre in Balquhidder preserves the history and heritage of this proud clan.
The Modern Era
Lochearnhead began as little more than a junction between the main north-south road from Callander to Killin and the road along Loch Earn from Perth (tracks might have been a better description). In 1761, the military road from Stirling to Fort William was completed and this improved communication for the village. The arrival of the railway in 1904 further boosted the development of Lochearnhead, as it brought tourists and visitors to the area. The station, which was part of the Comrie, St Fillans & Lochearnhead Railway, was a large and impressive structure, with a platform spanning 200 yards long and a canopy covering the entire length. The station also served as a centre for developing the sheep trade in Perthshire, as it had facilities for loading and unloading livestock. However, the railway closed in 1951, as road transport became more popular and efficient. The station was left to become derelict, until it was leased by the Scouts in 1962 and turned into a centre for youth adventurous activities. The station has been restored and renovated over the years and in 2019, it received the National Railway Heritage Award for the restoration of the station canopy.
Loch Earn is a well known centre for anglers and boats can be hired from Drummond Estates Boat Hire. The trout fishing season starts 15th March and ends October 6th.
The area abounds in wildlife and ospreys are regular summer visitors. Red squirrels are often sighted with red, roe deer and stags that “rutt” in the late autumn. Beavers have been introduced to the region and otters are occasionally spotted too.
The award winning BLiSS art installation trail links Lochearnhead with neighbouring villages St Fillans Balquhidder and Strathyre. Fishing, golf, walking, cycling, wildlife and history enthusiast will be at home here Lochearnhead and Loch Earn is a centre for all seasons.