The Lake of Menteith has the reputation of being Scotland's only lake, since of course all the rest are lochs (but see note below). It was however known as a loch until the 1880s when, for some reason it suddenly became known as a lake.
Various suggestions have been made as to why Menteith became a lake rather than a loch. Some have suggested that it was in commemoration of the 'false Menteith' who betrayed William Wallace to the English in 1305, others have argued that lake is simply a corruption of the Gaelic 'laicht' for low-lying ground - the 'laicht o' Menteith' being the area around the lake - although no explanation is provided as to why this change suddenly took place at the end of the nineteenth century, at a time when few, if any, of the local inhabitants had much recollection of Gaelic. It is far more likely that 'Lake of Menteith' was simply the invention of some now forgotten local entrepreneur as a marketing device.
The Lake is named after the Menteith Hills, which lie to the north of the lake; the name Menteith being derived from the Celtic root word 'men' for high ground (cf Welsh 'mynydd', Gaelic 'monadh') and the Teith river. Teith itself is a river name of uncertain origin, although it is possible that it belongs to the group of river names such as Thames, Thame, Taw, Teifi, Taf and Tawe which are all believed to have derived from a pre-Celtic Indo-European river name meaning 'to flow'.
Traditionally the Lake of Menteith within the county of Perthshire in east-central Scotland, although it now falls within the boundaries of Stirling Council; it is five miles west of the town of Callander and three miles east of Aberfoyle, within the area now known as The Trossachs. To the west of the lake lies Flanders Moss one of the few remaining raised bogs in the country.
The lake itself is some twelve miles long by one mile wide and features three islands, Inchmahome, Inchtalla and Dog Isle. Inchmahome features an Augustinian Priory founded in 1238 by Walter Comyn, Earl of Menteith and was briefly the home of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1547 when she was brought here for safety by her mother, Mary of Guise, following the Scottish defeat at the battle of Pinkie. Inchtalla is where the first Earls of Menteith had their castle and principle residence but all that remains now are ruins since the castle was abandoned in the fifteenth century when the Earls moved their caput to Doune. On the lake shore lies the Port of Menteith, which is a port in the sense that this is where you catch the ferry to Inchmahome (now in the custody of Historic Scotland), although with a population of around fifty it is nothing more than a hamlet comprising a few houses, one hotel, a church and a fishery. The fishery being the major reason why most people would visit the lake today to fish for both brown and rainbow trout.
The lake is also the occasional location of Scotland's only outdoor curling tournament. When the lake freezes over and the ice reaches a thickness of seven inches the Royal Caledonian Curling Club calls a
'Bonspiel' or Grand Match. The last time this happened was on the 7th February 1979 when it is said that 10,000 players and spectators converged on the lake.
Scotland's Only Lake?
There are in fact another four lakes in Scotland being; Raith Lake in Fife, Pressmennan Lake at Stenton in East Lothian, Cally Lake at Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway and Hirsel Lake near Coldstream and the river Tweed. However all four of these lakes are man-made, and so the claim is usually qualified by the statement that the Lake of Menteith is the only natural expanse of water in Scotland usually to be called a lake.
- John Ayto and Ian Crofton, Brewer's Britain and Ireland (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2005)
- Menteith, Lake of
- Lake of Menteith Fisheries Ltd
- Information on Scotland's lakes from
- For Inchmahome Priory see
- For a map of the lake see the National Library of Scotland