The History of Arrochar

The name Arrochar comes from the Gaelic and Irish corruption of the Latin word aratrum, or plough and carrucate which was a measure of land between 100 and 160 acres, representing the land which could be worked by one plough team in a year.

It was not until 1249 that Arrochar and Argyll were even considered to be part of Scotland and not Norway. The Vikings, however, did not recognise this distinction and because an agreement between the kings of Scotland and Norway decreed that the Norsemen could rule anything they could sail their boats around, the area came under brief Viking rule in 1263.

In Arrochar itself, the head of the loch is marked by Shire Bridge, once the boundary between Argyll & Dumbartonshire. For centuries it was more than just a line boundary on a map. Until the late 19th century, it also marked a cultural boundary with Gaelic spoken on the west side of Loch Long and English spoken on the ‘lowland’ shore.

The hillsides around Loch Long and Loch Lomond bear testament to the many small communities that used to live here. A few tumbled walls are now all that remain of settlements whose inhabitants abandoned their cottages and self-sufficient lifestyles in favour of towns and cities, or to travel to America or Australia.

Find out more about the archaeology of the area.

Arrochar is the clan seat of the MacFarlanes, famous as cattle thieves but also as heroic defenders of their royal family. However eventually their lands were sold to the Colquhouns, and the clan home Invereach was renamed Arrochar House and is now part of the Claymore Hotel.

The former Ministry of Defence torpedo testing station on the north shore of Loch Long opposite Arrochar was active from 1912 until 1986. The range was busiest during World War Two – in 1944 over 12,000 torpedoes were tested, the peak being 62 in one day. Test firing was carried out from submarines, from torpedo tubes built beneath the pier of the test facility. Torpedoes under test were intended to run under floating targets, rather than strike them, to check that they were running straight and true. In 1915 a spy called Augusto Alfredo Roggen was caught and hanged at the tower of London for taking photographs here.

Livings have been made on the land, in forestry, and fishing, and even today Arrochar is a largely rural population with many people still working the land or in the forests of Argyll. The railway and the growth of steamer travel in the 1800s began the development of tourism and Arrochar grew to meet the demand of travellers with many bigger houses being built to provide holiday homes for rich industrialists form Glasgow. Mansefield House is one of these houses.

Find out more about the area’s rich heritage.