Things to do
Follow the natural rhythm of the day
Imagine waking up to the sounds of skylarks, cuckoos, curlews and the everyday life of West Moss-side Organic Farm. Your kettle is whistling on the stove and the wood burner is stoked up. Breakfast on the decking perhaps?
Greet the new morning and plan your day – not too much though. Let the time unfold to restore the body and soul. Fill the day with joyful activity – no rushing – just living.
By the evening you are ready to relax – enjoy a barbeque with West Moss-side organic beef or perhaps take a stroll or short drive to the village for dinner at the Lion and Unicorn, returning to star gaze into the unpolluted dark skies. On the other hand, maybe the end of the day is spent by the wood burner snug with a book or a game and a glass of wine.
Explore the past
Stirling Castle can be seen from the farm fields across the flatland of the Carse of Stirling being only 10 miles away. Closer by is Doune Castle the location for several films including Monty Python’s Holy Grail and more recently Outlander. Deanston Distillery is in the neighbouring village – yes Deanston – an historic village by the River Teith, the distillery is in a converted 19th century cotton mill. Then just along the road west is the Augustinian priory on the magical wooded island of Inchmaholme in the middle of the Lake of Menteith.
Or why not follow in the footsteps of Rob Roy Macgregor, cattle thief and extortionist but daring hero is our very own folk legend as he allegedly stayed in the Lion and Unicorn here in Thornhill.
Oh, I forgot – why not travel even further back and take a trip to the Iron Age and climb up to the Dunmore Hill Fort and imagine guarding the Pass of Leny keeping a look out over Loch Venacher. Drive or cycle to the Bocastle carpark just past the Lade Inn just outside Callander. It’s a lovely walk and you should also climb the nearby Bocastle hill with its huge stone known as Samson’s Stone. Legend has it that it was thrown by Samson one of the Fingalian giants in ancient times. It was originally located on Ben Ledi, nearly 3 miles northwest, and was one of several stones being thrown in a competition to see who was the strongest of the giants. Geologists say It is actually a glacial erratic …..
So, from the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies to Inveraray castle and all points in between there are literally dozens of historical sites to explore within easy reach of West Moss-side.
Glasgow and Edinburgh are both about an hour’s drive away or easy to take the train from Stirling or Bridge of Allan. You can hire bikes from the bike share schemes in Stirling and Glasgow.
Open your eyes to wildlife
The farm fields, woodlands, Flanders Moss and your immediate surroundings are full of biodiversity. You may be visited by a roe deer especially if you are staying in Ben Lomond or Ben Ledi yurts. There are field mice and bank voles – although shy, we know they are around by the tell-tale empty hazel nuts. We have spotted water voles (Ratty from the Wind in the Willows) here and there are otters on the Goodie Water. Or at your feet on the walkways there may even be a lizard basking in the sun! You will need to go to Argaty Red Kites for close encounters with red squirrels as well as red kites, and perhaps at dusk the family of beavers who were reintroduced in December 2021.
According to the season you will be entertained by birdsong. In April you might catch the pink-footed geese gathering noisily for their journey north to their Arctic breeding grounds, with the swallows arriving from the south. In April, May and June the skies are full of activity. Most evocative for me are the curlew, cuckoo and the skylark, but bird watchers among you will soon gather a long list of sightings. In October it’s time for the geese to return for the winter in their thousands. Our farming practices focus on conserving wildlife especially for the endangered farmland waders – curlew, peewit, oyster catcher and snipe. Late cutting of the hay meadows in July ensures that these ground nesting birds have finished and the chicks are fledged and away.
If you walk over the fields and onto the moss you will be greeted by a host of other creatures. For example, there are brown hares on the fields and there is an owl box in the hedgerow on the edge of the moss which each year is checked for chicks. On mid-summer nights the chicks can sometimes be heard in the box as they wait for their delivery of mice and voles. The organic herbal ley and hay fields are full of wildflowers, grasses and clovers which attract butterflies and bees and a host of insects. The essence of the meadow can be sampled in a jar of Mad Hare Apiary honey from our neighbours.
Poldar Moss – a large area of bog and mosses – is the part of Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve which is on West Moss-side Farm’s land. The best way to experience this wonderful place is to drive or cycle from the farm to the car park and the walkway.
Get really close to the bog and there are lots of interesting and unusual peat plants to see as well as bugs and beasties! Discover the 6’ willow sculpture of a curlew, made by Kate with help from High School students who is out on the bog close to the board walk. Climb the tower to get an eagle’s view of the peat bog. Stop for coffee and cake at The Woodhouse and return the circular route to the village via the Fords of Frew. A cycle of about 7 miles. Alternatively you could complete the Tour de Carse which is about a 20 mile cycle/drive.
Over the summer months when the ground allows Kate will lead bog safaris from the farm.
There are a variety of walks around Thornhill village with a leaflet to guide you.
There are leaflets and maps in the yurt – and there are also bird, flower and wildlife identification books in the kitchen bookshelf.
Imagine, Discover and Enjoy!
Adventure in the great outdoors
Just a short drive brings you to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and breath-taking landscapes for walking, hiking and mountain climbing. A walk immersed in stunning surroundings will be good for the head, heart, body and soul but you’ll need a few days to wind down and relax.
Callander is just 6 miles away where there are many lovely walks, Bracklinn Falls walk is an easy route and is a favourite of Trossachs Yurts’ guests especially after rain! However, check that the bridge has been repaired for the complete circular route. – scheduled for Spring 2022. Why not keep a look out for wild food and do some foraging. There is a Foraging Fortnight each year in August/September with activities and walks organised in the area and we have our very own local forager Jim Raich who offers foraging walks throughout the year.
You are surrounded by local mountains and local munros. Staying in Stuc a’Chroin or Ben Lomond or Ben Ledi yurt? These are three challenging mountains for a good day out. But there are many other shortish climbs and easy walks which will give you stunning views too. Ben A’an and Conic hill are my favourites.
There are many options in the National Park for mountain biking – take a look at these ideas and make sure you stay for a week at Trossachs Yurts!
If you are looking for something gentle and for the whole family, how about the Loch Ard Loop? It is close to Aberfoyle and is a 3.5 mile easy going circuit with beautiful views and reflections of Loch Ard. The forest is a mature pine forest – so you will have the scent of pine resin and plenty of cones for the pockets!
Bikes can be hired in Callander at the Wheels Cycling Centre or in Aberfoyle at Aberfoyle Bike Hire.
For something more challenging, try the Glen Finglas Loop. It is close by the village of Brig o’ Turk, and is a truly wonderful off-road ride for those that have the skills and energy. Although only 15 miles it includes more than 500m of climbing and lots of mini ups and downs. However, the rewards are in the stunning views over forest and mountains and of course the refreshments before and/or afterwards at the Brig o’ Turk Tea Room!
For those adventure seekers looking for an adrenaline rush then Go Ape at Aberfoyle is a zipwire heaven. Home to two of the longest zips in the UK you’ll be flying over trees and waterfalls with seasonal views of the mountains and glens of the Scottish Highlands.
Experiencing the world of our lochs and rivers
If it is the water that attracts you then there are lots of opportunities for paddling on the lochs or down rivers. There are opportunities to try different water sports – canoeing, kayaking or paddle boarding with experienced instructors. Even speed boats are available at Portnellan Organic Farm.
You could spend every day on a different loch open water and wild swimming. If you are new to wild swimming or are training for an event then think about booking a session with Laura Williamson, open-water swim coaching.
Loch Lubnaig just north of Callander, is an excellent choice for all watersport enthusiasts, being open all year to non-motorised water activities. For canoeing and kayaking and swimming, its sheltered position makes it ideal for savouring the tranquillity of one of the National Park’s most beautiful lochs.
Loch Venachar is beautiful too, there is a sailing club and it is well known for pike fishing.
Loch Ard is a wonderful place for canoeing, paddle boarding and kayaking – explore the source of the mighty River Forth at the south end or paddle out to the Eilean Gorm at the top end and spend time with a picnic on the grassy ‘beach’ at Kinlochard. It is a great place to swim from as the water is shallow.
Hire a canoe or for a laugh have a go at Go Country Waterpark.
Art and cultural activities
West Moss-side is the home of the West Moss-side Art Collective, a group of creative artists who come together once a year to host an exhibition/open studio for Forth Valley Art Beat. It returned tentatively for 2021 in a scaled down version. Keep your eyes on the website for news of the next one. It is held in the second week of June. 11th – 19th June 2022.
If you are staying during the week then you can enjoy a wonderful few days visiting artists’ studios all across the Forth Valley. The West Moss-side Centre has a permanent exhibition of our work including willow and natural materials weaver Kate Sankey, landscape painter Graham Tristram, Wildlife artist Darren Rees, art photographer Michael Prince, mixed media artists Charmian Pollok and Jill Sives. Kate is sometimes able to run a workshop for yurt guests making something small from willow or rush or mosses.
If you are an artist or photographer then there is nowhere better to come in Scotland for the variety of scenery, the magical colours and the exceptional light. Michael Prince is an inspiration behind a camera lens and Graham Tristram landscape paintings capture the distances.
During the year there are numerous events and festivals – keep an eye on our Facebook page.
Trossachs yurts is a good place to stay for the Edinburgh Festival as it is an easy ride by train into the city. The festival runs for the last 3 weeks of August.
There is local Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling and a local gallery in Buchlyvie, Greengallery, with an annual Summer Exhibition and Fair in May. Or check out all the artists contributing to Forth Valley Art Beat as many of them are open all year.
If music is your passion then we have our own home grown festival in July – Doune the Rabbit Hole. We can actually hear it from the Trossachs Yurts!
Callander Jazz and Blues Festival is the first weekend in October and if you are looking for traditional Scottish live music then The Lade Inn at Kilmahog, just outside Callander, have sessions every week in the summer, with good food and craft ale too.