Scotland

Glenfinnan Viaduct
A few decades ago you could have confidently said that most people came to Glenfinnan to view the Jacobite memorial (aka The Glenfinnan Monument). I’m not sure that’s the case any longer. Though certainly many people come to the Monument, many also make their way to Glenfinnan to view the historic railway viaduct, drawn by the Glenfinnan association with the Harry Potter series of films.

A few decades ago you could have confidently said that most people came to Glenfinnan to view the Jacobite memorial (aka The Glenfinnan Monument). I’m not sure that’s the case any longer. Though certainly many people come to the Monument, many also make their way to Glenfinnan to view the historic railway viaduct, drawn by the Glenfinnan association with the Harry Potter series of films.

The viaduct describes a huge arc across the glen, well inland of the Monument but still within sight of the loch.

The viaduct was built as part of the West Highland Railway project to between Fort William and Mallaig, a route that today is known as the Road to the Isles. The section to Mallaig was officially known as the West Highland Extension Railway.

The engineers were Robert MacAlpine and Sons, who built to a design by architects Simpson and Wilson. MacAlpine decided to build the viaduct from concrete, as a cheaper alternative to stone or steel. The viaduct curves 240 metres and reaches 30 metres above the streambed below it.

The arches are on a 15-metre span (50 feet). The design is completely utilitarian; there is no decoration or ornamentation at all; a rarity among Victorian engineering projects!

A tradition says that a horse and cart fell into one of the hollow piers and were buried when concrete was poured into the space. This is apparently untrue, though may indeed be true of the Loch nan Uamh Viaduct further west.

The Viaduct from above

It seems quite likely that the great curve of the viaduct was placed to give the best possible view to the striking Glenfinnan Monument on the loch shore.

There is a viewing area for the viaduct off a path behind Glenfinnan station museum, but perhaps even better are the viewing area for the Monument itself, behind the visitor centre, or indeed, the top of the Monument itself gives excellent views up the glen to the viaduct.

For the ultimate experience, though, you can take the Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig. The train makes daily trips during the summer months.

Our Verdict:
The viaduct is in a quite exceptional setting, just up the glen from the head of Loch Shiel. It truly is one of the most beautiful locations in all of the Highlands.

Glenfinnan Monument
If there is a more beautifully situated monument in Britain than the Glenfinnan Monument, I have yet to see it. This striking stone tower stands in isolated splendour on the shore of Loch Shiel, close to the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard on 19 August 1745.

If there is a more beautifully situated monument in Britain than the Glenfinnan Monument, I have yet to see it. This striking stone tower stands in isolated splendour on the shore of Loch Shiel, close to the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard on 19 August 1745.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart was the son of James VIII of Scotland and II of England. He had been raised in exile, but raised with the firm belief that his father deserved to be the rightful king of England and Scotland. He also believed, wrongly as it turned out, that huge numbers of English and Scots were ready to support his father’s cause.

The Prince set sail from France in a hired ship, the De Tallay, and landed at Eriskay. From there he sailed to Loch nan Uamh, about 15 miles west of Glenfinnan. He anticipated a large welcome from the Highland clans, but was disappointed by the low numbers of supporters ready to welcome him. However, the grand moment was yet to come.

Word was sent to Jacobite supporters across the Highlands and in Edinburgh that the Prince had arrived. Supporters were called to Glenfinnan for the raising of the Stuart standard. The act of raising a standard was a symbolic one; it had no real significance except that it gave notice to the Prince’s supporters and his enemies that he officially claimed the throne for his father, and called on all who supported him to join his army.

The view from the Glenfinnan viewpoint
Accounts of the day are somewhat difficult to unravel. Almost certainly the standard was not raised where the monument now stands; more likely a small hill nearby was used, possibly the same hill that now offers a viewing platform for the monument and the viaduct further up the glen.

As for the monument itself, it was built in 1815 by Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale, a local landowner, whose father’s cousin was the chief with whom the prince stayed the night before the standard was raised.

Macdonald himself died the same year the Monument was built, after a life given to pleasurable pursuits and too much drinking. Much of his life seems to have been given over to the grand, theatrical gesture – much like the prince he sought to commemorate.

Approaching the monument
Macdonald hired James Gillespie Graham, one of the leading architects of early 19th-century Scotland, to design a classically inspired column with Tudor Gothic decorative elements. Macdonald family tradition says that Graham used William Miller of Fort William as his master mason for the job.

The column is entered by a porticoed doorway in the base, which gives onto an internal spiral stair. The stair leads to a platform surmounted by a huge statue of a man in Highland dress. Though the statue may represent Bonnie Prince Charlie, it may equally be meant to represent a generic Highland chief. Interestingly, the monument did not initially have a statue on top; that was added during a second phase of work in the 1830s. It was designed by sculptor John Greenshields.

The base of the statue is surrounded by a low stone wall, into which are set plaques detailing the purpose of the monument in three languages; Latin, Gaelic, and English.

Though you can climb the monument and look out over Loch Shiel from the top, by far the best way to get the full impact of the Glenfinnan Monument is to climb the low hill behind the visitor centre. This hill, which may be the very one where the prince’s standard was raised, gives you wonderful views over the loch and the monument below, and up the glen to the viaduct.

Our Verdict
One of Scotland’s truly iconic sights; come in the early morning and see the mist rolling across the head of the loch, shrouding the memorial on its slender column.

The Bonnie Prince
Charlie memorial

The original memorial tablet

The tower entrance,
Glen Shiel beyond

Prince’s Walk, Kinlochmoidart
A circular walk following an avenue of trees planted to commemorate the week that Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed at Kinlochmoidart House when he launched the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. The walk passes through beautiful woodland and beside a secluded 19th-century church.

A circular walk following an avenue of trees planted to commemorate the week that Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed at Kinlochmoidart House when he launched the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. The walk passes through beautiful woodland and beside a secluded 19th-century church.

History

When Bonnie Prince Charlie launched his 1745 attempt to wrest the British throne from George II, he landed at Loch nan Uamh (see our Road to the Isles article for more) and was met by a core group of Jacobite supporters. The clan chiefs needed time to gather their men and spread the word about the rebellion, so they proposed to meet again at Glenfinnan and raise the Prince’s standard.

While the Prince waited to see if the clans would answer his call, he crossed to Glenuig, in Moidart, and was met there by the locals, who danced a reel in delight at his arrival. Prince Charlie went on to Kinlochmoidart House, where he stayed for a week.

Donald MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart helped the Prince prepare letters asking for support. MacDonald was aided in advising the Prince by John Murray of Broughton, who later said that the Prince asked MacDonald to deliver the letters and the lord of Kinlochmoidart refused unless he was named as the Prince’s aide-de-camp. Prince Charlie had no choice but to agree.

This story must be taken with a grain of salt as it seems Murray had a distrust of Highlanders and may have put the tale about for his own interests. Whatever the truth of the story, Prince Charlie stayed at Kinlochmoidart House until the 18 August, when he left for Glenfinnan and the raising of the royal standard.

St Finan’s Church

As for Donald MacDonald of Linlochmoidart, he was captured while delivering messages on the Prince’s behalf, imprisoned in Carlisle, and executed on 18 October 1746. After the Battle of Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland had Kinlochmoidart House burned to the ground.

Just up the road a row of 7 beech trees was planted to represent the Seven Men of Moidart who landed with the Prince in 1745. The originals are gone now, but a new row of 7 trees has been planted.

In 1882 a new Kinlochmoidart House was built in Scottish Baronial style by a brewer named Robert Stewart. Beside the house, a long avenue of trees was planted to commemorate the connection of Kinlochmoidart with Bonnie Prince Charlie. The avenue is known as Prince Charlie’s Walk and forms part of a circular walk taking in views if the 19th-century house, St Finan’s Church, and a very old stone bridge.

The walk is about 1 3/4 miles long and should take no more than 1 hour. Park just off the A861 at the church.

Walk Details

The walk starts at St Finan’s Church, built in 1858 by the then owner of the Moidart Estate, Robertson MacDonald, on a shelf of land offering views over Loch Moidart. The trail then joins the avenue of trees planted in the Prince’s honour before crossing in front of Kinlochmoidart House.

Just as it seems you are going to drop in on the house owners unexpectedly the trail turns left of the house and wends its way uphill to a small crag. There are marker arrows guiding you through very pleasant woodland, over a small stream, near the remains of a walled garden, and across a wooden footbridge. Look for the peculiar metal deer silhouettes, used for target practice! Follow signs marked ‘woodland walk’ to another set of signs marked ‘MacKenzie Walk’.

There are excellent views of Glen Moidart along the trail, and beautiful old pine trees for shelter. Just before the trail loops back to the main road you cross a very old stone bridge. It takes almost as long to write the directions as it does to take the walk; it is essentially just a circular loop around Kinlochmoidart House, following the memorial avenue of trees above the house and looping back to the parking area by the 19th-century church.

What is appealing about the Prince’s Walk is both the beautiful Highland surroundings, with wonderful colours in the Autumn, and the sense of following in the footsteps of history. Though Prince Charlie did not tread the ‘Prince’s Walk’, he would have seen the same scenery and perhaps marvelled at the beauty of the Highlands as a modern visitor certainly will.

Kinlochmoidart House

Approaching the House

The old ruined bridge

West Highland Museum
Set in the historic heart of Fort William, this small museum boasts displays on local industries, the Caledonian Canal, and the Jacobite rebellions.

Set in the historic heart of Fort William, this small museum boasts displays on local industries, the Caledonian Canal, and the Jacobite rebellions.

The museum covers the rich history of the West Highlands, starting with the ‘fort’ of Fort William itself. The Fort display is set in a fascinating room built from wooden panels rescued from the governor’s room at the fort. Among the objects on display are rather unpleasant thumb-cuffs, used to incapacitate a prisoner.

The Jacobite Collection
Not surprisingly, one of the largest exhibits at the museum covers the Jacobite cause. The museum has a very large collection of items related to Bonnie Prince Charlie and his failed rebellion in 1745. See clothing, glass, furniture, Jacobite miniatures, and a fascinating ‘secret portrait’ of Prince Charlie that could only be seen when reflected in a viewing cylinder or a goblet of wine.

Other Jacobite relics include Bonnie Prince Charlie’s waistcoat, sword, jacket, bonnet, even shoe buckles. One sad exhibit is the prince’s death mask. There is also a handmade fan, produced in September 1745 for a ball at Holyrood to celebrate the Jacobite capture of Edinburgh. These fans were painted on paper, mounted on Chinese ivory sticks, and handed out to all ladies in attendance at the ball.

There is far more to see at the museum than Jacobite paraphernalia. There is a huge array of artefacts from the rich cultural heritage of the West Highland region. See charms used by local residents, and brooches thought to keep evil spirits at bay. One fascinating exhibit is The Appin Gun, thought to be the rifle used to kill Colin Campbell of Glenure in a celebrated murder case in 1752.

There are large collections on the military presence in the Highlands after the Jacobite rebellions, archaeological finds from the area, and a very large collection of Victoriana. See a ‘beetle-wing’ dress made in India for the daughter of a crofter from Skye. One popular item is a brooch worn by John Brown, Queen Victoria’s personal servant. The brooch is part of a set given by the queen to Brown on the occasion of her fourth daughter’s wedding.

The museum houses a very large archive of books, many on Highland folklore and literature, plus games, pastimes, and sporting equipment.

Road to the Isles
The ‘Road to the Isles’ connects Fort William to the Skye ferry at Mallaig. From Fort William take the A82 (stop to view Neptune’s Staircase at Banavie – a flight of 8 locks, part of the Caledonian Canal). This is a scenic countryside route 46 miles long. Turn left on A830 which leads to the end of the road at Mallaig. This route passes the Glenfinnan Monument, sandy beaches, and beautiful coastline before it reaches Mallaig, where you can catch a ferry to the Isle of Skye.

The ‘Road to the Isles’ connects Fort William to the Skye ferry at Mallaig. From Fort William take the A82 (stop to view Neptune’s Staircase at Banavie – a flight of 8 locks, part of the Caledonian Canal). This is a scenic countryside route 46 miles long. Turn left on A830 which leads to the end of the road at Mallaig. This route passes the Glenfinnan Monument, sandy beaches, and beautiful coastline before it reaches Mallaig, where you can catch a ferry to the Isle of Skye.

Origins of ‘the Road to the Isles’

The ‘Road to the Isles’ is a bit of a nebulous concept. The ‘road’ is based on a traditional Scottish folk tune, with words by the Celtic poet Kenneth Macleod. The lyrics describe the lure of the Western Isles, as a traveller is called home from Perthshire, westward across the Highlands past Loch Rannoch, Lochaber, Shiel, Ailort, Morar, Skye, and the Skerries before reaching the Lews on the Isle of Lewis.

So popular did the song become that the final leg of the main tourist route westward from Fort William to Mallaig, where ferries leave for the Isle of Skye, became popularly known as ‘The Road to the Isles’. Now, brown tourist signs point travellers west along the A830 as it runs along the northern shore of Loch Eil, past the Glenfinnan Monument at the head of Loch Shiel, and follows the route of the Jacobite Express steam train along the northern edge of Loch Ailort and Loch nan Uamh before turning north to Mallaig and the Skye ferry.

Fort William

The largest town in the south west Highlands and a popular centre for walkers and outdoor enthusiasts. Fort William grew up around a military fort established by Oliver Cromwell around 1655. The West Highland Museum, in the centre of Fort William, tells the story of the Highland way of life, and holds a wonderful collection of Jacobite relics. From Fort William follow the A82 north and branch off to watch boats passing through locks on the Caledonian Canal.

Neptune’s Staircase, on the Caledonian Canal

Neptune’s Staircase

The Caledonian Canal links the east coast of Scotland at Inverness to the west coast at Corpach. Beginning in 1803 famed Scottish engineer Thomas Telford built a series of 8 locks at the south western end of the canal, creating the longest staircase lock in Britain. Neptune’s Staircase raises boats 64 feet over 1080 feet length. Each lock gate weighs some 22 tons and takes at least 3 lock-keepers to operate. It takes boats 90 minutes to pass through all 8 locks.

Old Inverlochy Castle

On the banks of the River Lochy, just a mile or so from Fort William stands Inverlochy Castle, built by the Comyn family, and one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland. When the Comyns lost the struggle for the Scottish throne to Rober Bruce, Inverlochy fell to the king. There was a battle here in 1431 when Highlanders under the Lord of the Isles defeated a royal army led by the Earl of Mar. A second battle took place in 1645 when the Marquis of Montrose defeated a Covenanter army led by the Earl of Argyll.

Glenfinnan Monument

At Glenfinnan a monument stands by the shore of Loch Shiel, marking the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard to launch the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. You can climb a spiral stair inside the monument for wonderful views down the loch and inland to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, built in 1897. The viaduct carries the steam train from Fort William to Mallaig, known as the Jacobite Express. After crossing the Viaduct the train stops at Glenfinnan Station, known to filmgoers as Hogwarts station in the Harry Potter films.

Prince Charlie’s Cairn

From Glenfinnan, the road follows the shore of Loch nan Uamh, where Bonnie Prince Charlie came ashore to launch his ultimately futile attempt to seize the British crown in 1745. By a twist of fate, it was also from Loch nan Uamh that the Prince finally took ship to escape over the seas to France and safety after the failed rebellion ended in tears at Culloden. A small, lonely cairn stands by the shore of the loch, as a memorial to the Prince and the Stewart cause.

Mallaig

From Loch nan Uamh the Road to the Isles curves north to finally end at Mallaig. This is where the West Highland railway line terminates, and where the ‘Road to the Isles’ ends. Unlike many settlements, we know exactly when Mallaig began. It was founded in the 1840s when Lord Lovat urged his tenants on the North Morar Estate to move off the land they had tilled for centuries and make a fresh start fishing off the west coast.

The fishing industry is still a part of Mallaig life, but it was the arrival of the railway and the growth of Mallaig as a ferry port that really put the town ‘on the map’. The area has a tradition for smoked kippers, but only 1 traditional smokehouse now remains, and the area is a popular destination for tourists to enjoy the more relaxed Highland lifestyle and the wonderful scenery.

Old Inverlochy Castle

The Glenfinnan Monument

The Glenfinnan Viaduct

Old Inverlochy Castle
Inverlochy Castle is a ruined medieval fortress on the banks of the River Lochy about a mile north east of Fort William. One of Scotland’s earliest stone castles, the 13th-century fortress was built by the powerful Comyn family. The castle is in the form of a square with round towers at the corners.

Inverlochy Castle is a ruined medieval fortress on the banks of the River Lochy about a mile north east of Fort William. One of Scotland’s earliest stone castles, the 13th-century fortress was built by the powerful Comyn family. The castle is in the form of a square with round towers at the corners.

History

Inverlochy Castle was built where the River Lochy empties into Loch Linnhe around 1280 by the ‘Red’ Comyns, lords of Lorn and Badenoch. The location was perfect to control the western end of the Great Glen; a counterpart of Inverness Castle at the eastern end of the glen. The Comyns built a quadrangular fortress with a curtain wall over 3 metres thick, with a round tower at each corner. A wide moat protected three sides of the site, leaving the fourth side to be defended by the river itself. There were two entrances at opposite ends, protected by barbicans.

Though empty now, the inner courtyard was originally crowded with timber buildings, providing stables and workshops. Residences were in the corner towers, and the large northwest tower housed the Comyn lords. The Comyn Tower stands three storeys high, with a storage area in the basement and the lord’s private quarters above.

This tower is one of the highlights of Inverlochy; it still stands to its full height. Indeed, one of the surprising features of the castle as a whole is that it has been so little altered over the centuries. Perhaps it lost military importance before it could undergo the inevitable transformation of changing styles. In any case, Inverlochy is one of the most complete 13th-century castles in Scotland.

The Comyns

The ‘Red’ branch of the Comyn dynasty controlled vast swaths of northern Scotland and maintained castles at Ruthven and Lochindorb. The ‘Black’ Comyn lords held the earldom of Buchan, with their major castle at Balvenie.

The Comyns were close allies of the Balliols, a loyalty that would eventually bring disaster when the Balliols fought with Robert Bruce for the right to rule. In 1306 John Comyn was murdered by Bruce at Dumfries. When Bruce became king he made it a priority to destroy Comyn power in the north. Bruce’s armies defeated the Comyns at Inverurie in 1308 and Inverlochy fell into the king’s hands.

What happened to the castle then is not clear, for despite the fact that the Comyn Tower still stands to the parapet level, and the structure of the castle has hardly changed at all over 7 centuries, Inverlochy is a ruin, and trees grow within the rubble of the crumbling walls. It is an incredibly romantic place, with shady trees leading to the river bank. But it was not always peaceful here.

The Battles of Inverlochy

In 1431 a royal army under the Earl of Mar occupied Inverlochy shortly before meeting a force of Highland clansmen under Alexander Macdonald, Lord of the Isles. The Highlanders were victorious, and the royal army was put to flight.

Then in 1645, the Marquis of Montrose led another royal army to attack an army of Covenanters led by the Earl of Argyll. Montrose surprised the Covenanters by leading his men on a surprise march over Ben Nevis to attack and defeat Argyll’s force. A decade later it was the turn of Oliver Cromwell’s English troops; they built an artillery fort just south of the medieval castle, next to the River Nevis. From those humble beginnings developed the modern town of Fort William.

Getting There

The castle is in a partly ruinous state, though the location beside the river is lovely. The castle site can be reached off the main A82 road north from Fort William towards Spean Bridge, just before the junction with the A830 (the Road to the Isles). The Great Glen Way trail passes within metres of the site. The site is accessible at any time – and hopefully, you’ll have better weather when you visit than we did!

You might wonder why it is called ‘Old Inverlochy Castle’. That’s to distinguish the site from Inverlochy Castle, a nearby luxury hotel.

Castle Tioram
This picturesque castle ruin stands on a rocky islet near the south shore of Loch Moidart. It was an important power base for Clanranald, part of the MacDonald clan. Tioram was an important centre in the medieval Lordship of the Isles, and tradition suggests that it was built by Amie MicRuari, wife of John of Islay, Lord of the Isles.

This picturesque castle ruin stands on a rocky islet near the south shore of Loch Moidart. It was an important power base for Clanranald, part of the MacDonald clan. Tioram was an important centre in the medieval Lordship of the Isles, and tradition suggests that it was built by Amie MicRuari, wife of John of Islay, Lord of the Isles.

That would put the origins of Tioram in the early years of the 14th century. An examination of the architecture suggests a much earlier date, however, no later than the early 13th century.

The first construction at Tioram was a simple curtain wall, which we can see today. Within the 13th-century wall, an internal tower was built sometime in the 15th century. At the same time, the curtain wall was raised considerably.

Further construction took place in the 16th century when the hall was extended and a second tower added. The spacious internal chambers and the large windows suggest that by this time the castle was primarily intended as an impressive showpiece rather than a purely defensive building.

The castle atop its rocky tor

Tioram acted as an administrative centre of Garmoran, ruled by Clanranald. The location, seemingly so remote and isolated today, was actually well situated for controlling the busy shipping lanes between the south Hebridean islands and Skye.

In 1544 Mary of Guise, the Queen Regent, ordered a siege of Tioram. The siege was carried out under the command of the Earls of Huntly and Argyll. Repairs in the 19th century discovered cannonballs from 1544 still embedded in the castle walls. In the 1650s Oliver Cromwell occupied Tioram briefly as part of his attempt to subdue the Catholic Highlanders.

Tioram was reoccupied by the 12th Chief, John, a terrifying and bizarre character who enjoyed shooting anything in sight from the highest turret of the castle – including his own clansmen! John was said to be followed about by a spectral black frog, which disappeared from legend after the laird’s death.

When Allan, 14th chief of Clanranald, went to France to join the court in exile of James Stuart (the Old Pretender) in 1692, William III ordered Tioram seized and garrisoned with royal troops. Strangely, Allan was pardoned and returned to Scotland in 1697, but rather than take possession of Tioram once more he chose to build a new fortress at Ormacleit on South Uist.

The tower top and turrets

Tioram Castle was held for the king until 1715 when it was captured by Clanranald supporters as part of the Jacobite rising. The clansmen appear to have burned the castle to prevent it being used by royal troops again.

The slighting of Tioram was only a partial success, for Tioram was used as an artillery store during the 1745 Jacobite Rising. French cannon intended for Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army was stored there, but only some of the guns ever made their way to the prince’s army, because the impoverished Clanranald could not find enough horses to carry the heavy guns to the Stuart army. The castle was never again used and remains today a romantic and very picturesque ruin.

Note
There is a parking area at the end of the road, and a path leads from there along the loch shore to the castle. The castle is joined to the mainland by a narrow neck of land which allows access at most times, but when the tide is at its highest you may need rubber boots to get across the strait! Please take care; the castle walls are in a very poor state, and the castle should not be entered.

Our verdict:
Wow! A fabulously scenic and romantic ruin in an unforgettable location.

Clan Cameron Museum
This small museum recounts in vivid detail the history of the clan, its involvement with the Jacobite rebellion, and the story of the Cameron Highlanders.

This small museum recounts in vivid detail the history of the clan, its involvement with the Jacobite rebellion, and the story of the Cameron Highlanders.

The museum is housed in a restored 17th-century bothy. The bothy was badly damaged by government troops after the failure of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s 1745 rebellion. The bothy stands near Achnacarry Castle, the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan Cameron. The castle is a Scottish baronial mansion built in 1802 for the 22nd Chief and is not open to the public.

The museum traces the long history of Clan Cameron from its origins in the 14th century, down to the present day, with historic costumes, ancient weapons and objects from everyday life, plus old photographs and paintings. There are also displays covering important events in the history of the clan, spanning 27 generations. See the boots worn by the 17th Chief at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689.

Learn about the foundation of the Cameron Highlanders Regiment, and how Achnacarry served as a training centre for Commandos during World War Two. The 79th Cameron Highlanders were raised in 1793 by Major Alan Cameron of Erracht., and most of the volunteers came from Lochaber and northern Argyll. See a Cameron of Erracht regimental kilt worn at Dunkirk; one of the last times a kilt was worn in battle by a British soldier. Outside the museum is an artillery piece captured by the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders at the Battle of Loos.

One of the largest exhibitions covers the 2 major Jacobite Risings in 1715 and 1745, in which the clan played a major role. One of the prize exhibits is a waistcoat worn by Bonnie Prince Charlie, and a Jacobite ring with a secret compartment that holds a portrait of the Prince. Another Jacobite relic is a Lochiel Bible, which has all references to King George blacked out.

There are a reading room and extensive clan archives, which will prove invaluable for tracing genealogy. And of course, you can purchase Clan Cameron tartans and gifts with the clan crest in a small gift shop on the site. Outside the museum is a ‘living cairn’ built with stones from clan members around the world.

The museum is usually closed from October to April but can be opened by special arrangement. You do NOT have to be connected with Clan Cameron to visit the museum and enjoy learning about its fascinating history!

Glen Coe
Glencoe offers over 4,000 acres (5665.5ha) of magnificent Highland landscape bisected with climbing and walking trails. The dramatic and beautiful mountain area was the site of the 1692 massacre of the MacDonalds by the Campbells.

Glencoe offers over 4,000 acres (5665.5ha) of magnificent Highland landscape bisected with climbing and walking trails. The dramatic and beautiful mountain area was the site of the 1692 massacre of the MacDonalds by the Campbells.

There is walking information in Visitor Centre (guided walks available). A well-marked footpath ascends Buachaille Etive Beag, one of Scotland’s most popular mountains for climbers.

Mythology
Fingal, the legendary Celtic hero of myth and legend was said to live in Glencoe. Fingal was the leader of the Feinn, a band of heroic warriors. Though Fingal may not be a real person, the name lives on in several place names around the glen, such as Dun-Fionn, ‘the hill of Fingal’ on the north, or Sgor nam Fiannaidh (rock of the Feinn). Finn’s son was Ossian, or Oisin, sometimes known as Fionn mac Cumhail, which was later anglicised as Finn McCool. The name ‘coe’ may refer to the river Cona, where Ossian was said to have been born.

Fingal was said to have defeated the Viking leader Erragon of Sora, but the Viking influence could not be held at bay for long. The descendants of Erregon became the MacDougall clan, and the MacDougalls held control over Glencoe from the 11th century. The clan built a strong base of power in western Scotland, but in 1308 they ‘backed the wrong horse’, or in this case, the wrong contender for the Scottish throne. The clan threw in their lot with the Balliol family against Robert Bruce. After Bruce gained the throne he awarded Glencoe to Angus Og, chief of the MacDonald clan.

Looking down the glen
The MacDonalds held the glen until 1501 when conflict broke out between the MacDonalds and the Campbells of Argyll. There was fault on both sides; the MacDonalds stole Campbell cattle, and the Campbells kept trying to annex MacDonald territory. The conflict carried on into the 17th century, when the clans found themselves on opposite sides of the Wars of the Covenant.

The Campbells supported the government, while the MacDonalds allied with the Royalist cause. To put it in simple terms, the MacDonalds represented the traditional Highland way of life, while the Campbells represented Scottish ties to England and government control. The centuries long conflict came to head in one of the most infamous episodes in Scottish history.

The Glencoe Massacre
On 27 August 1691 William III offered a pardon to all Highland clans who had raided their neighbouring clans or fought against the crown. It was a pardon with a very important condition; clan leaders had to take an oath of allegiance by 1 January 1692 or face a penalty of death.

A Fatal Mistake
The chief of Clan MacDonald was MacIain of Glencoe. He did not want to take the oath of allegiance, but felt he had no choice. However, he made a fatal mistake; he went to Inverlochy, outside Fort William, to take the oath, when he should have gone to Inveraray. When he arrived in Inverlochy to find the royal representative gone, he left for Inveraray, but did not arrive until 6 January. He took the oath and returned to Glencoe, thinking he had assured the safety of his clan.

In a sequence of events that even now is open to interpretation, the government assembled a force of 130 men with orders to exterminate the entire MacDonald clan. As fortune would have it the government force was commanded by Captain Robert Campbell of Glen Lyon. Campbell marched his men to Glencoe and asked the MacDonalds for quarter. The MacDonalds opened their home to the government troops, and for 10 days they entertained them. On 12 February orders reached Captain Campbell to kill every MacDonald under the age of 70. In the early hours of the next morning the Campbell troops rose stealthily from their beds and slew their hosts.

Forty MacDonalds were slain in the initial attack, and the rest escaped into the bitter winter snow, only to die of exposure amid the Glencoe hills.

A lonely dwelling cowers
beaneath a snowy peak
The massacre was not the largest loss of life in the long and bloody history of clan warfare, far from it. But it was the nature of the attack that still stirs feelings; turning unexpectedly on those who had opened their homes to old enemies and treated them as friends.

A monument to those who died in the attack stands in Glencoe village. Maclain was buried on the island of Eilean Munde, in Loch Leven. Signal Rock, near the Clachaig Inn, marks the spot where the order to begin the Massacre was given.

The first road through the glen itself was built in 1785 as part of government attempts to control the Highland clans. Population declined over the next century as the Highland Clearances forced people out in favour of sheep.

In 1935 the National Trust for Scotland bought over 12,000 acres of the glen to protect it from commercial exploitation. The Trust’s holdings were extended gradually over the following decades until today it owns much of the glen and the surrounding area.

Visiting
Glencoe village lies at the western edge of the glen, and a mile further west is Ballachulish. Both settlements have facilities for visitors and accommodation options. There is an official visitor centre at the western end of the glen, with information on footpaths and local outdoor activities.

There are 3 official campsites in the glen, and wild camping is allowed in some areas. Perhaps the most popular place to stay (at least for determined climbers) is the Clachaig Inn and its nearby campground, about 3 miles from Glencoe village. Between the inn and the village is a hostel run by the Scottish Youth Hostel association. About 1 mile from the eastern head of the glen is the Kings House Hotel, a historic coaching inn.

The development of the West Highland Way long distance trail has led to a large increase in the number of walkers in recent years. The trail follows the route of the old military road over Rannoch Moor and descends the glen along the Devil’s Staircase down the glen.

On the east side of the glen is the Glencoe ski area, sometimes called White Corries.

Armadale Castle Gardens and Museum of the Isles
An award-winning museum is set within the grounds of historic Armadale Castle, home of Clan Donald. The museum tells the story of Clan Donald and its role in the history of the Isle of Skye, with six galleries spanning 1500 years of clan history.

An award-winning museum is set within the grounds of historic Armadale Castle, home of Clan Donald. The museum tells the story of Clan Donald and its role in the history of the Isle of Skye, with six galleries spanning 1500 years of clan history.

The MacDonalds, or Clan Donald, were Lords of the Isles, and their kingdom covered a vast area of western Scotland, taking in the Western Isles and the Isle of Skye, and territory on the Scottish mainland. Clan Donald played a pivotal role in the history of the Highlands, from clan warfare to the Jacobite Rising, and the eventual breakdown of the traditional clan system. The museum has a large archive section, which will be of aid to people researching their family history.

Clan Donald came to Skye in the 15th century and held castles at Duntulm, Knock, Dunscaith, and Armadale. From around 1650 the clan chiefs began to stay at Armadale, and the mansion house later became a dower house for the widows of clan chiefs.

Perhaps the most famous visitor to the old mansion house at Armadale was Flora MacDonald, known for her role in helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape capture. She was married at Armadale Castle in 1750. Later visitors included Samuel Johnson and his biographer, James Boswell, who visited in 1773 as part of their famous journey through the Western Isles.

A new mansion house was built in 1790 and extended in 1815 to form the present Armadale Castle. The architect was James Graham, who created a wonderful Gothic fantasy castle, a statement of the clan’s wealth and prestige. Unfortunately, the castle was gutted by fire in 1855. Most of the mansion was destroyed.

The central section was rebuilt, leaving the remainder a picturesque ruin. The MacDonald family moved to a smaller house on the estate in 1925, and today the remains of Armadale Castle are only a romantic facade, set within a beautiful garden.

The gardens are magnificent. They extend to roughly 40 acres and include 200-year-old trees looking down on a lush carpet of bluebells, orchids, and wildflowers. The gardens are a sheltered haven for plants from around the world, including birch from the Himalayas, New Zealand giant daisies, and the colourful Chilean Fire Bush (Embothrium).

The remarkably lush gardens are the result of a mild climate, aided by the warm Gulf Stream. There are terraced walks, woodland trails, and quiet streams running through one of the most peaceful gardens you can imagine.

Ruins of the chapel

The bridge leading to the castle ruins

Wooden bridge on a woodland trail

Garden: Forty acres of trees, shrubs and flowers grace this sheltered location. Plantings date back 200 years. Enjoy water gardens, a variety of walking trails and the chance to see local wildlife.