A fount of Scottish knowledge -  Meet

A fount of Scottish knowledge - Meet 'Mr Trossachs'

Visitors to Tigh Mor Trossachs tend to go back again. And again… and again… such is the natural beauty surrounding HPB’s Perthshire home in the heart of the Trossachs.

Arthur has been walking the Scottish hills for most of his life – he was just five when he climbed his first Munro (the term used to define any Scottish mountain over 3,000 feet high) – and is an experienced guide with a passion for the outdoors and a fount of knowledge on the natural and local history of the area.

Says Arthur: “Our walks are not endurance exercises – they will be led at a comfortable pace with plenty of time to rest, to look around and to appreciate the surroundings.”

The Trossachs was first made famous by Sir Walter Scott in the early 1800s, when his novel Rob Roy and poem The Lady of the Lake caught the popular imagination.

The region has always had an inherent beauty – but it’s fair to say that, until fairly recently, both natives and visitors took it a bit for granted, which was certainly to the detriment of the wildlife hereabouts. Recently, however, steps have been taken to restore the natural balance, first with the creation of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park in 2002, and subsequently with the inception of the Great Trossachs Forest, in the heart of the Park, covering an area the size of Glasgow.

The RSPB and the Forestry Commission both work to improve the habitat for, and to monitor, black grouse and golden eagle populations – still endangered, but back from the brink.

Black grouse are the size of a chicken. The males have distinctive red wattle over the eye and show a striking white stripe along each wing in flight. They have a lyre-shaped tail which is fanned out and raised to show white under-tail feathers when displaying, or “lekking”: males display their tails and white rumps, while calling at each other making mock attacks. Females stand around the edge and watch. With up to 20 or so males lekking at once, it can be quite a sight – but you need to be up at about 4am to catch the best display.

Giants of the Scottish skies, with a wingspan of some seven feet, golden eagles prefer remoter, wilder territory. Fully mature at four to five years, they can live for five times that. These majestic predators (though they are not above scavenging!) range over hunting territories typically extending for between 60 and 70 square miles. They are sometimes seen at the west end of Loch Katrine – normally flying high.

Meanwhile, pine martens are now common. They are to be encouraged, however; since their return grey squirrels have gone from the area and been replaced by reds. Pine martens are omnivorous and, among other things, eat squirrels – and greys are less agile than reds, so are more easily caught.

But the biggest success is the return of the osprey. A migratory bird, ospreys winter in West Africa, returning to Europe to breed in late March or early April (travelling about 5,000 kms in three weeks). Persecuted by gamekeepers, osprey numbers were further decimated by pollution and unscrupulous egg collectors, and they were extinct in the UK from 1908, but they always overflew northern Britain on their way to Scandinavia. In 1954 Scandinavian birds recolonised Scotland naturally; encouraged since 1976 (with the birth of the “Operation Osprey” initiative) the Scottish population is now fairly secure – and they are spreading through England as well. “The birds are often seen on Loch Venachar – and I wouldn’t be surprised if they started visiting Tigh Mor’s new ‘Lochan’ fishing pond any time soon! Still, the loss of a few trout seems a small price to pay for encouraging this beautiful bird,” says Arthur.

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