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Guide to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland
Branch B. From Fort-William to Arisaig and Moidart


Fort-William to Gleufinnan; Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel; Route by Mani-ClachArd, 1.—Prince Charles' Monument; Erection of the Prince's Standard; Loch Shiel, 2.—Kinloch Aylort; Borradale; Landing-Place of the Pretender, 3.—Arisaig; Ferry to Skye, 4.—Castle Tirim; Loch .Moidart, 5.

1. THE Loch-na-Gaul road, as it is called, diverges from the Inverness and Fort-William road about two miles from the latter place, immediately to the east of Inverlochy Castle, and it now crosses the river Lochy by a handsome suspension bridge, whence it proceeds in a straight line to the canal, and the commodious new inn at Bannavie, hard by. At the village of Corpach, about a mile beyond, is an obelisk, the inscription on which, to the memory of Colonel John Cameron of Fassifern, who fell at Waterloo, will be found in the main route. The mountain group, of which the huge bulk of Ben Nevis forms the most prominent member, shews to great advantage from this side of the valley.

The road along Loch Eil side, and as far as Glenfinnan, is an agreeable level, skirting the base of the hills. Winding onwards, we pass rather more than half way up Loch Eil, Fassifern, the house of Sir Duncan Cameron, Bart., surrounded by formal clumps of fir and larch. This gentleman's ancestor, the celebrated Sir Ewen Cameron, distinguished himself as Cromwell's most undaunted and uncompromising opponent in the highlands: his sturdy spirit induced the usurper to construct a fort at Inverlochy, which, in King William's reign, being altered and enlarged, received the name of Fort-William. Sir Ewen, then a young man, signalised himself by a gallant and successful attack on a large detachment of the garrison (quadruple his own force), who had landed on the east side of Loch Eil, to lay waste the lands of his clan, and provide themselves with timber from the extensive forests which bordered the water. Lochiel's handful of men lay in ambuscade, till the soldiers coming ashore had got entangled in the wood, when, by a furious and sudden onset, they, following their adversaries even chin deep, drove them to their boats with the loss of upwards of a hundred of their fellows. Sir Ewen encountered a very powerful English officer, an overmatch for him in strength, who, losing his sword, grappled with the chief, and got him under: but Lochiel's presence of mind did not forsake him; for, grasping the Englishman by the collar, and darting at his extended throat with his teeth, he tore away the bloody morsel, which he used to say was the sweetest he had ever tasted!

2. At the head of Loch Shiel appears a round narrow tower which no traveller can behold with indifference. It was erected by the Iate Mr. Macdonald of Glenaladale, on the identical spot where, upon the 19th of August 1745, Prince Charles Edward first unfurled his standard, in the attempt to regain the throne of his ancestors, so honourable, but so disastrous to his unfortunate adherents ; and it has been surmounted by a colossal statue, by Greenshields, of the unfortunate but chivalrous prince, in the full Highland garb, his extended arm pointing to the south as in the act of addressing his enthusiastic followers. The clan Cameron, to the number of 700, headed by "the gentle Lochiel," and 300 men commanded by .Macdonald of Keppoch, composed the greater part of the little band who commenced this hazardous enterprise. The standard, which was made of red silk, with a white space in the centre, and twice the size of an ordinary pair of colours, was unfurled by the Marquis of Tullibardine, titular Duke of Athole. A bronze tablet within the monument, with an inscription in Latin, English, and Gaelic, records the transaction.

Loch Shiel, which separates Inverness from Argyleshire, is a fresh-water lake, straight, and extremely narrow, but upwards of twenty miles long. It discharges itself by a small streamlet into the sea near Loch Moidart. The adjoining mountains, being the termination of diverging chains, present an interesting irregularity of outline, and a most magnificent disposition in their grouping.

3. Between the comfortable small inn of Glenfinnan, at the head of Loch Shiel, and that at Kinloch Aylort, a distance of ten miles, there is another fresh-water lake, Loch Rannoch, about five miles in length, which is separated from the head of Loch Shiel by a pass of no ordinary grandeur. This loch varies in its breadth, and is adorned with one or two little islets.

By far the finest part of the beautiful ride from Fort-William to Arisaig is that portion between Kinloch Aylort and the house of Borradale, (Macdonald of Glenaladale.) It comprehends a space of only seven miles, but very rarely indeed is such varied or interesting scenery to be met with in so small a compass. With marine landscape are combined woodland glades, and a peculiar richness of vegetation accompanies our footsteps.

It was on the shores of Loch-na-Nuagh, below the house of Borradale, that the Chevalier Charles, in. 1745, first touched the soil he came with purpose to redeem by the sword. He crossed from Borradale to the opposite coast, and walked by Kinloch Moidart to Loch Shiel, where, taking boat, he proceeded up the lake to Glenfinnan, at the entrance of which his Highland friends rendezvoused to tender him their allegiance and make offer of their services.

4. Arisaig consists of a few scattered houses; on the face of the hill above them a neat Roman Catholic chapel has been erected. In the vicinity, Arisaig Cottage (Lord Cranstoun.) The inn is large, but is in had condition. This line of road, owing to the breadth of the ferry to Skye, and the want of piers, has been little frequented since the opening of a communication by Kyle Rhea ; and now the steam-boats have put an end to the ferry from Arisaig to Skye, though boats for passengers, but not for vehicles, can still be had. The steamers call regularly off Arisaig. A road has for some time been in contemplation from Arisaig to ,llalag, at the opening of Loch Nevis, and opposite Armadale, where the passage across would be comparatively short, and better than by the old ferry from Arisaig, which has now been discontinued. In crossing from Skye, it is customary to land near Tray, in South Morar, which shortens the sail to ten miles. From Tray a bad district road, scarcely passable with a gig, leads to the inn at Arisaig, where the parliamentary road from Fort-William terminates.

5. Those whom curiosity may induce to visit the ruins of Castle Tirim, the ancient seat of Clanranald, at the opening of Loch Moidart, will find Arisaig or Kinloch Aylort the best points at which to diverge from the public road. From the former the most convenient method is to be ferried over to the coast of Moidart, landing near a farm-house called Samulaman, whence an easy hour's walk by a country road will bring the traveller to another farm-house, Kyles, on Loch Moidart, and opposite the castle, where a boat can be procured to cross the remaining space, which is about three quarters of a mile. The distance from Kinloch Aylort to Kyles is eleven miles ; a communication is formed betwixt them by a bridle-road, which at Kinloch Moidart joins the parliamentary one to Coranferry. This horse-track keeps by the side of Loch Aylort, a narrow arm of the sea, studded with numerous rocky islets, and along the base of Stachd and Roschbhen, passing about half way to the castle, a farm-house called Iren ; when within half a mile of Samulaman, the road, as already mentioned, strikes across Moidart to Kyles.

The opening of Loch Moidart is occupied by two small islands, (Teona and Rishka,) adorned with birch and larch plantations. At the other extremity of the loch, the low heathy hills skirting which have no interest, stands the mansion of Colonel Robertson Macdonald of Kinloch Moidart.

Castle Tirim is built on a low peninsular rock, sometimes completely surrounded by the sea. Its form is pentagonal, two sides being occupied by buildings, and the others formed by a lofty and very thick wall, enclosing a spacious court. The central part of the castle is three storeys high; and each extremity rises to the height of four storeys with corner watch-turrets. A terrace is carried along the interior of the court wall, and from the promenade thus formed, an occasional view is commanded of the sea and surrounding country; the top of the wall is pierced with a range of musket-holes. All the windows look into the court; the exterior aspect of the castle being that of a continuous dead wall. From this circumstance, its rising also on three sides from the brink of the rock, and containing a well within its walls, Castle Tirim must have been a very secure, as it was a capacious, stronghold. Ranald (son of John of Isla), from whose son, Allan of Moidart, are sprung the families of Glengarry and Clanranald, died in 1386 "in his own mansion of Castle Tirim." Tradition reports it to have been built by a lady—"Bhelvi nighn Khuouari," "Helen, the daughter of Roderick;" and it was burnt in 1715 by Allan of Clanranald, when he set out to join the Earl of Mar, previous to the battle of Sheriffmuir, from a dread that, during his absence with the flower of his clan in the service of the exiled Stuart, it might fall into the hands of his hereditary enemies the Campbells.


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