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Local History - Ballachulish & Glencoe

The area has a very rich history, much of it familiar to people the world over. We include here just a few snippets. The local museums and visitors' centres have very interesting displays and information available if you would like to know more.

The 1745 Rising

The historical event most closely associated with the Lochaber area has to be the second Jacobite Rising of 1745. It was at nearly Glenfinnan that Prince Charlie raised his standard to rally the Clans and set out on the romantic but ill-fated quest for the crown of his fathers. Although his dream lay shattered on the moor at Culloden in the spring of 1746, it was undoubtedly the greatest campaign in the history of the Highlands. The story, which started in Lochaber, also ended here. It was among the rugged hills and glens of this district that the fugitive Prince took refuge, protected and sheltered by the loyal Clans until he could be smuggled over to the Isle of Skye by Flora MacDonald, before finally reaching the safety of France and living out his life as an exile around Europe.

It is a humbling thought that despite the fact that so many Highlanders were slain in battle, many more were butchered in the aftermath of Culloden and so many were brought to ruin and lost their lands – and with a price of £30,000 on his head (the equivalent of a Lottery win today) – no-one betrayed their Prince.

The Appin Murder

This event was made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson in his novel Kidnapped. A granite monument to the south of the Ballachulish Bridge marks the spot where James of the Glen was hanged in 1752 for "... a crime of which he was not guilty".

Appin was Stewart country, and after the '45 Rising, the Stewart lands were confiscated by the Government. Colin Campbell of Glenure was the Government Factor in Appin and for years he had been evicting Stewart tenants from their crofts on the more productive lands and replacing them with Campbells.

On the day of the murder, Colin Campbell and his party crossed the Ballachulish ferry armed with eviction orders; yet more Stewarts were to be removed from Appin. They rode along the coast road through Kentallen and it was here that Campbell was shot in the back by an unknown assailant who made his escape without being seen.

At the time of the shooting James of the Glen, who had himself been evicted from his farm in Glen Duror, was sowing oats on his smallholding in Acharn and was the first person encountered by Campbell's servant who had gone looking for help. As an important Campbell had been murdered, James, an outspoken critic of the evictions and a half-brother of the exiled chief of the Stewart clan, was arrested to satisfy the Campbells' need for revenge. James's trial is remembered in the Highlands as a notorious case of legal injustice. At this time, the Campbells were the Hanoverian Government's Scottish agents. The trial took place at Inverary before the Duke of Argyll, the Lord Justice General in Scotland and the Chief of the Campbell clan.

The Duke chose the jury, which included 11 Campbells, and, with no evidence of guilt produced, the inevitable result was that James Stewart was hanged at Ballachulish on 8th November 1752. He was hung at the crossing place on the loch so all who passed there would see him as a warning. His body was chained up and left hanging there under guard for two months until it was reduced to bare bones and started falling apart. The bones were then wired together again and re-hung. It was late the following year before his bones were finally laid to rest. It is generally accepted that the name of the real murderer was known to the leading Stewarts of Appin, and that this secret has been handed down through the generations. Because the outcome was that an innocent man was allowed to hang for a murder he did not commit, it is unlikely that this secret will ever be divulged.

The Massacre of Glencoe, 13 February 1692

This treacherous event, which is never likely to be forgotten, is first recalled whenever the name of Glencoe is mentioned. It was the premeditated, pre-planned annihilation of the MacDonalds of Glencoe – connived at by those in public office as instruments of the Government – and then the treachery under which the attempted massacre was carried out, that caused such shockwaves of disgust and anger throughout Scotland.

The museum in Glencoe village and the National Trust for Scotland Visitors' Centre in the Glen have all the details for those not familiar with this affair and the events leading up to it. The facts record that when the corpses were counted there were only 38. With an estimated 400 MacDonalds living in the Glen, the planned mass annihilation obviously failed. To this day, on 13th February each year, a band of MacDonalds gather in the shadow of the Celtic Cross by the old Bridge of Coe in memory of those who were slaughtered that day. The sad, ironic twist in the history of the Glen is that a clan which had survived extinction by a Government-planned massacre was eventually decimated in 1820 by the advent of the sheep and the resultant clearances.

Further History

The history of Glencoe and Loch Leven spans over 5000 years. Behind the Hotel was a shallow inland loch, now infilled with peat. This peat has preserved the remains of posts or stilts which indicate that people may have lived here in crannogs. (Crannogs were houses built on stilts in shallow water.)

Alternatively,the site could have been a ritual platform, as close by there are the remains of a chambered cairn and further on there is a standing stone. There is evidence of an early flint factory (Neolithic age 4 - 2000 BC) in North Ballachulish. The most significant find (again, found in the woods beside the Hotel) is the "Ballachulish Goddess", a wooden figurine about 4 feet in length found in the 1890s and since dated at 626 BC. The Goddess can be seen in the Scottish Museum in Edinburgh. There are few Viking place names in the area, but the strategic nature of the narrows in front of the Hotel and the fertility of the surrounding areas would surely have made it a must for the Vikings.

More Recent History

The Loch Leven Hotel is located on the northern landing of what was the only way to cross the waters at the meeting of Loch Leven and Loch Linnhe - The Ballachulish Ferry.  The ferry ran between 1912 and 1975 when it was made redundant due to the opening of the present road bridge.  The last turntable ferry "The Glenachulish" was re-located to Glenelg and still, today, offers a wonderfully scenic option from crossing between Skye and the mainland.

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Loch Leven Hotel
Onich, by Fort William
Scotland PH33 6SA

Tel +44 (0)1855 821236
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