Lochan nan Arm: legends, translations and a bit of geomorphology

I’ve quite a long association with the area around Tyndrum in the Western Highlands. I first visited as part of one of my undergraduate projects when I was doing my geology degree related to past mining activity and then went back for a ‘working break’ to teach on a field course as I waited to sit my finals.

I’ve walked over from Loch Lomond side across Ben Oss and down into Glen Cononish and out via Tyndrum.

I’ve stayed at Tyndrum By the Way after doing a day’s field teaching for External Studies Geology in the Field so that I could fit in an evening ascent of Ben Dubhcraig. Oddly, I ran into my pal Dr Liam Herringshaw (now Director of the Yorkshire Fossil Festival) and a group of geology students from Hull University in their minibus on the way out from the ScotGold mine at Cononish. They were using the hostel at BTW for their base.

Most recently, I was helped to provide medic cover with a team from Rescue Medics for the Tyndrum 24 event run by WayOutside in January 2020. Then lockdown came.

We were finally able to go away for a few days right on the last weekend of the kids’ school holidays. Camping pods are, we’ve found, a good compromise and we got an excellent £60 a night deal for five humans (well at least four, I am a bit feral) and Shadow the dog in a Trekker Hut with By the Way. It was encouraging to see BTW looking busy.

During this visit going round the Cattle Creep path was a lot easier than in January and we also ventured down towards Glen Cononish by the West Highland Way.

We stopped to have a picnic at Lochan nan Arm (‘lochan of the weapons’ is the usual translation), where there are these two fine carved stones to commemorate a battle that took place in the area around Dalrigh (meadow of the King) in 1296. Rather than relate the story, I’ll refer you on to a great article I found by Colin S. MacDonald on his blog. It has loads of photos and a great discussion of the maps and possible battle sites.

For my own part, the lochan drops off steeply at the side and it is nearly circular, so I strongly suspect it is a small kettle hole.

Small lake and trees

Lochan nan Arm from the West Highland Way


Over the years the Strathfillan Community Woodland has grown and these two fine pieces of stone carving have been installed at the right lochan, according to local sources (see Colin’s blog, I told you it was a good read!).

Stone with sword carving

The sword on the stone

Stone bench

The bench on the other side of the path. According to the sources, it was probably more than just the one sword.

I am a palaeobiologist in my early 40's carrying out research work. I am based in Scotland.

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Posted in Geodiversity, Scotland, Trips

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Al is a Hill and Moorland Leader and has also completed the Expedition Skills module
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