From Iron Age settlement to self-catering holiday lodges by the Lake of Menteith
Lochend has been inhabited since long before the Iron Age, when the Lake of Menteith was home to about eight crannogs. Sitting right on the lake itself, these crannogs were circular houses built on stone bases or on wooden stilts, linked to the shore by underwater causeways known only to their inhabitants, who would shelter here with their livestock in times of danger.
We have the prominent remains of one such crannog right here in the bay, marked by a buoy about 150m in front of the waterfront lodges. There is nothing better than swimming out to the crannog stones, planting yourself down on 1000’s of years of history, and just soaking up the extroardinary silence – not to mention the views back to chalets and across to Ben Lomond and the Menteith Hills. You can even have somebody on the shore take a picture of you walking on water! A medieval pot was once found here, too, discovered in the 1950s by a friend, Gordon McGill, who was snorkelling in the lake! The pot now sits in the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling.
In 1238, with the help of the Earl of Menteith, Augustine canons founded a priory on Inchmahome Island, the largest of the three islands on our lake. Loch Inchmahome, as it was known then, would have been a busy trading point and what I always find extraordinary is how much people got about at that time, considering what travelling conditions must have been like.
Mary Queen of Scots at the Lake of Menteith
One such traveller was Mary Queen of Scots, who sheltered here as a child, on the run from the English army in 1547. It is also around this time that ‘Lochend’ is first recorded as ‘Steading call it the Lochend’! It is also recorded, in the 18th Century, that Robin Og, the son of the notorious Rob Roy, and as much of a rogue as his father, abducted an heiress, Jean Fey, and brought her to Lochend. He was later caught and taken to Edinburgh to be hanged.
Long before self-catering holiday cottages were even dreamed of in the Trossachs, Lochend was part of the very large Cardross estate, owned by the Erskines, the Earls of Mar, who sold it in 1922. It was probably much bigger when it was entitled ‘Lands of Lochend, the lees, loanings, manor places, houses, biggins, milns, yards, parks and pendicles’!
Spitfire in the Lake of Menteith
During the Second World War, the military commandeered the lake for use as an ammunitions dump. If you take a rowing boat out from the chalets, you can still see the remains of jetties built by the army on the western area of the lake, inaccessible by land.
On 3rd June 1943 Sgt. Pilot Thomas Hetherington was flying his MK1 Spitfire from RAF Grangemouth on a low flying exercise. He is rumoured to have been showing off to the land girls working in fields on the north side of the lake when his wing touched the water and sent the spitfire crashing into the lake. Hethering escaped unhurt – which is more than can be said for his plane! Although the valuable Merlin engine was rescued, the wreck itself was left at the bottom of the lake, where it still swims with the fishes today. Every now and diving teams come to look for it but the MK1 Spitfire has never been found, and remains the Lake of Menteith’s very own Nessy.