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on Loch Shiel, Glenfinnan, by Fort William, Scotland, PH37 4LT

Historical Notes on Loch Shiel

Loch Shiel and the surrounding areas of Moidart, Sunart, Ardgour and Ardnamurchan are steeped in history.

Many neolithic remains and coffin cairns (resting places for coffins being carried over the mountains towards St. Finan's Isle) are scattered over the surrounding hills. Numerous ruined villages, abandoned for economic reasons or more often because the inhabitants were cleared to make way for sheep, can be found by the keen walker.

Emerging from the hazy mists of time is the occupation of the area by the Picts. Between the late 8th and mid 12th centuries this indigenous race was in continual confrontation with the invading Scandinavians or "Vikings". The Norse occupation of the area is marked by the numerous Scandinavian place-names.

The Norse invaders were ousted from the area in 1120AD by a powerful Celtic-Norse Chief called Somerled. The village of Acharacle was named after the ford in the River Shiel where the Danish Chief Torquil was defeated by Somerled.

Somerled was the grandfather of Donald whose Clan, the MacDonalds or the "sons" of Donald became the powerful race later ruled by the Lords of the Isles. John of Isla, the first Lord of the Isles married Amie MacRuari who, after their separation, built Castle Tioram at the mouth of the River Shiel. Castle Tioram became the stronghold of the MacDonalds of Clan Ranald whose lands went as far north as Knoydart and included the Inner and some of the Outer Hebridean islands.

The MacDonald Clan and its strong connections to the Stewart Kings of Scotland became ardent Jacobites and were powerful supporters of the various attempts to regain the throne of Britain for the exiled King James.

In the Jacobite rising of 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart drew support from several of the MacDonald Chiefs who became Captains of his army.

A few days after landing from a French frigate in Loch nan Uamh, it was from Dalilea on Loch Shiel that the Prince was rowed in Clanranald's galley to Glenaladale, where he had a council of war with some of his officers before leaving the following day for Glenfinnan, where he had pre-arranged for the Clans to gather.

After raising his Standard the army marched south, successfully overthrowing government strongholds on his way. On reaching Derby the Prince was persuaded, very possibly on wrong advice, to return to the north with the ensuing threat of a much larger government force. The two armies met at Culloden outside Inverness in April 1746 when the Jacobites were soundly defeated.

Following Culloden the Highland Clans were severely persecuted by the Redcoats under the direction of the Duke of Cumberland. Several chiefs were executed and their lands forfeited. Prince Charles escaped to France, never to return, dying in Italy a broken man.

This battle was the last to be fought on the British mainland and marked the end of the old clan system and way of life for the Highland people.

The Monument at Glenfinnan was built in 1815 by Alexander MacDonald of Glenaladale, as a tribute to the Clansmen who fought and died in the '45.

For detailed information on local history, contact the Moidart Local History Group

Contact us:
Jim Michie, Marnoch, Roshven, Lochailort, Highland
Tel / Fax 01687 470322 Mobile 07801 537617
Email us - sileas@highlandcruises.co.uk