The name of the parish has been a matter of some dispute over the years. Thought to have been derived from the Gaelic “Ard tir”, the high land; or from a Gaelic word indicating “the land on the east” – a name which would have been given by the Gaelic-speaking people of Argyll on the west side of Loch Long. Probably a clue to the true meaning of the word Arrochar is found in a Latin deed of A.D. 1225, by which the then Earl of Lennox bequeaths “the upper Arrochar of Luss” to his son Gilbert; and the word would seem to be an ancient name for a portion of land, it has also been connected with the Latin word for plough, making the term Arrochar mean “plough land”.
Arrochar was the homeland of the Clan MacFarlane. They were noted cattle thieves and the moon was called “MacFarlane’s Lantern”. Their slogan and battle cry was “Loch Sloy” then an almost inaccessible loch among the mountains to which they drove the stolen cattle. Their castle was on Inveruglas Isle on Loch Lomond. This was destroyed by Cromwell’s troops, after which the MacFarlanes lived at Tarbet.
In her travels, the English author, poet, and diarist Dorothy Wordsworth, remembers Arrochar as a place where it always rains, where the mountains are grand and people are simple. Robbie Burns writes of Arrochar as a “land of savage hills, swept by savage rains, peopled by savage sheep, tended by savage people”.
However much truth there may be in all these descriptions, none of them tell anything of the really interesting Arrochar, the wild romantic Arrochar of long ago. If one were to seek to advertise this romantic Arrochar, he would tell of the grey days when the clouds hang their veils of mystery along the mountain tops, and the mists throw their fringes deep into the valleys; he would speak of the moonlight nights when Loch Lomond lies black and eerie among the shadows, when the Cobbler sees himself reflected from the fairy world which sleeps in the silvery depths of Loch long, when the owl hoots and the heron screams, and when the ghosts of the wild MacFarlanes look out from the shadows of the rocks, or move noiseless among the black firs on the hill side. He would mention Tighvechtan and Ballyhennan, and Tomnacroich and Tomnahianish, and all the other barbarous-like places which say so little to the stranger but which mean so much. For this is the true Arrochar, the romantic Arrochar, which any one may see and hear and feel if they listen to the old folks of the village.
Thanks to the Arrochar Heritage Group.