The Beacon Mountain: that’s the meaning behind Ben Lomond’s name. It goes back to the middle of the first millennium, to a time when Gaelic language and culture were still confined largely to the western seaboard of what would become Scotland, and when the people of Loch Lomond and the Clyde spoke a language akin to modern Welsh. Lomond is derived from the Welsh word llumon (beacon). Although surrounding hills and features steadily acquired Gaelic names as that language became dominant (for example: Beinn Uird means Hammer Hill due to its shape, and Bealach Gaoithe means Windy Pass), the name of Ben Lomond appears not to have changed, and was so established that it gave its name to the large loch beside it.

What we don’t know, and can only guess at, is the reason for the name. Was there really a beacon lit on the summit of Ben Lomond? Was it lit as a warning, or was it a fire lit as part of seasonal festivals? The suitability of Ben Lomond as a beacon site is easy to see, as it’s highly visible to a wide swathe of west central Scotland, including south of the Clyde and Glasgow, and west into Stirlingshire. This visibility is part of the attraction for today’s hill walkers, who can appreciate extensive views from the summit.

We know more about the history of the area around the mountain in medieval and later times, as a wealth of archaeological remains can still be seen, including field walls, building footings, and the remains of small-scale industrial workings such as iron smelting and even the odd illicit whisky still! The extensive use of the hill ground for summer grazing of cattle and sheep, known as shielings, has also been revealed, with the remains mapped of over 40 shieling buildings and associated structures.

During this time the area would have been more heavily populated than today. The local inhabitants grew crops and grazed cattle, goats and sheep. In the summer months families took their animals up to higher pastures and lived in shielings (small seasonal stone and turf buildings). Here they tended the animals and prepared dairy products. As autumn approached the families left the shielings to prepare for the harvest and the annual cattle markets in Falkirk and Stirling.

There’s archaeology to see on the main path too; look out for signs of the old pony track, built in the early 1800s to give some of the first tourists a relatively easy ride up the mountain!

Clan MacGregor were closely associated with the Ben Lomond area for many years, including the famous Jacobite Rob Roy MacGregor, who personally owned the Ardess lands between 1711–13 until he was outlawed. Rob Roy MacGregor was a cattle drover, leader of the MacGregor clan and outlaw. His exploits were popularised through the writings of Sir Walter Scott, securing for him a name as a folk hero in Scottish history. The Munro and the surrounding area still retain the sense of wilderness that Rob Roy experienced when he roamed here over 300 years ago.