The Glenfinnan Monument is one of Scotland’s most iconic structures. Standing at the head of Loch Shiel, and framed by the craggy, steep West Highland mountains bounding Moidart and Ardgour, the monument provides a majestic focal point for Glenfinnan’s many visitors and to a turbulent period in Scotland’s history.
It marks the spot where, on the 19th of August 1745, Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, raised the royal standard in his bid to claim the Scottish and the English thrones in the name of his father, James Stuart. A few days earlier Charlie had come ashore a little west of Glenfinnan at Loch nan Uamh where he met a small group of McDonalds who had congregated here to support the Young Pretender.
Over the following days the McDonald’s were joined by a small army of Cameron’s, McPhee’s and MacDonnell’s, which in turn started the rebellion that was to end in failure eight months later at the Battle of Culloden. The stunning memorial, adorned by a statue of an anonymous Highlander in a kilt, was built in 1815 by Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale having been designed by the Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham. Nearly 200 years later and hundreds of Jacobite enthusiasts still gather there each year on the 19th August.
And it is a fitting view, particularly from the little vantage point, which rises behind the National Trust Visitor Centre, who have cared for the monument since 1938. The vista extends along the length of Loch Shiel with mountains such as Sgurr Ghuibsachain and Beinn Odhar Beag climbing steeply on either side, making it one of the finest views in Scotland.
Loch Lochy translates intriguingly from Gaelic as ‘Loch of the Black Goddess’ – a close correlation with water and divinity is not uncommon in the Scottish landscape with the river’s Dee and Don in Aberdeenshire, amongst many others, being a case in point. With a mean depth of 70 metres Loch Lochy is the third deepest loch in Scotland and its 9-mile length is bounded on either bank by steep sided hills such as Druim Ghlaoidh and Meall an Teanga.
The curiously named Battle of the Shirts was contested here in 1544 between the combined forces of Clan Fraser/Clan Grant and Clan Cameron/Clan Donald. It is said that as the day of the battle was so hot both sides tossed aside their plaids and fought in their shirts, hence the name.
Due to it being an integral part of the 60-mile long Caledonian Canal, Loch Lochy bears witness to many thousands of pleasure craft every year and whether sailing the waters or strolling along the banks the likes of roe deer, oystercatcher, grey heron, otter, buzzard and osprey may well be spotted during the changing seasons. And if there is one time to visit it would have to be autumn. At this time the surrounding hills are resplendent in vibrant oranges, reds and browns, which may well be perfectly reflected in the waters of this beautiful loch.