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
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
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