Scotland 1: Achnacarry

Lowland – Highland Divide. Author Jrockley Public Domain

In the last week of June this year, Nick and I headed up to the West Highlands of Scotland with our two daughters and grandson for a week at Achnacarry, a site chosen for it’s location in relation to places we wanted to visit.

Fort William within the Lochaber region of Scotland. Author Nilfanion  using Ordnance Survey data Creative Commons

The weather wasn’t particularly hot on the Saturday we drove up there – just as well, considering we had 400 miles to cover – but on our first day there everything changed and we had temperatures of over 30°C for the rest of the week. I’ve been to Scotland lots of times in summer, and never known it to be so hot – especially when weather reports told us that further south, in England, it was much cooler.

We chose to go for self-catering on this occasion and booked a sizeable apartment on the Lochiel Estate at Achnacarry (Achadh na Cairdh in Scottish Gaelic, meaning ‘field of the fish-trap/weir’). Achnacarry consists of a small hamlet, a private estate and a castle, and is located between Loch Lochy and Loch Arkaig in the Lochaber region of the Scottish Highlands (see map(s) above). The estate covers an area of 60,000 acres of beautiful and barren country with abundant wildlife including red and roe deer, foxes, badgers, Scottish wildcats pine martens and otters. Golden eagles, buzzards, peregrine falcons, merlins and sparrowhawks soar overhead and in the rivers and lochs are Atlantic salmon, trout and pike. In fact, the entire Lochaber region is stunningly beautiful, and has become known as ‘The Outdoor Capital of the U.K.

Our apartment was in the old stable block, converted into a number of differently sized apartments. We had one of the two larger ones upstairs (on the right-hand side looking at the front of the building on the first photo below).

There are also a number of holiday cottages for rental on the estate.

Achnacarry has been the ancestral home of the chiefs of the Clan Cameron since 1655. The original castle, built by Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel around that date, was destroyed by government forces following the Battle of Culloden, since the Camerons played a major role in the Jacobite rising of 1745. This fact is well illustrated in the little Cameron Museum on the Estate, a short walk from our apartment, which is well worth a visit. The present Chief of Clan Cameron (traditionally known as ‘Lochiel’) is Donald Cameron, who continues to live in Achnacarry.

The castle we see today was built in 1802. It is on private land and not open to the public other than organised groups, so we could only photograph it from a distance. The first of these two photos (the close-up) is from Wikepedia:

During the Second World War, the castle was used as a Commando Training Depot, not only for British Commandos but for U.S. Army Rangers and similar units from other allied nations – a total of 25, 000 men between 1942 and 1945. The extensive estate was used for some very arduous training. The Cameron family retains close ties with the Commandos and an impressive Commando Memorial can be seen at Spean Bridge, roughly 7 miles from Achnacarry. We passed it on several occasions during the week but didn’t manage to stop and take a close-up photo. This one is from Wikipedia:

The Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge near Achnacarry. Uploaded by Jmb at English Wikipedia Creative Commons

We had a brief walk around a small part of the estate on our first evening there – partly to stretch our legs but also to get a feel for the place. It was getting close to dusk by the time we got out and the light wasn’t too great for photos. But we did snap a few interesting features, in between fighting off swarms of midges! The river is the River Arkaig, which connects Loch Lochy with Loch Arkaig. The story behind the row of crooked birch trees is that  Donald Cameron (‘the Gentle Lochiel’) was planting a long row of birch trees in 1745 when news of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s landing arrived. The trees were left to their own devices and grew in odd directions:

It wasn’t until the day before we left that we took time to have a better look at this stunning estate. We had a long drive home the next day, so we decided to spend the day (another sweltering one!) enjoying the scenery and visiting the Clan Cameron Museum. The museum is only small, but interesting nonetheless, with history of the Cameron Clan, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite uprising, the Commandos and links of the Camerons family to the royal family. The young Lady Catherine, daughter of Donald and Cecil Cameron, founders of the museum, was one of the bridesmaids at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. Catherine is the god-daughter of the Prince of Wales and was six at the wedding.

To finish off, here are a few general views from around the Achnacarry Estate. The second set are of the stunning Chia-aig Waterfall, which features in the 1995 film, ‘Rob Roy’, starring Liam Neeson. We spent ages at this waterfall, as did a few other people that day. It’s certainly a lovely spot in which to linger.

38 thoughts on “Scotland 1: Achnacarry

    1. Thank you, Arv. Yes, there are many beautiful places in Scotland, especially in the Highlands. My first visit was in 1965 and I’ve been many times since then. Not only is the scenery magnificent, there is so much of historical interest up there. As a geologist and a history lover, the Highlands are perfect for me.

  1. That looks an ideal location for reaching the rest of Scotland in all directions. I keep meaning to visit Scotland again and hadn’t considered self-catering, that’s a good idea! Maybe I should look at that place, I have a feeling my mum is part Cameron 🙂

    1. For someone who loves beautiful scenery, like you, this part of Scotland is perfect. It’s ideally situated for so many fabulous sites and we could have done with at least a fortnight there. We’d planned to get out to Skye, but couldn’t fit it in. Perhaps another year… It’s a long way from Cornwall, though, (twice as far as we travelled) and you’d need to stop overnight en route if you went by car. If your mum is part Cameron, this is definitely the area for her.

    1. Thanks, MG. It’s a lovely place to spend some time and none of us wanted to go home after only a week. We visited some great sites and I hope to post at least about some of them. It’s isn’t just for history lovers, either. There’s so much else to see up there.

  2. It was such a lovely place to stay. Thanks for sharing these, Mum. This post brought back some wonderful memories from a great holiday. I might have to post a collection of the pictures I took around the estate as well. 🙂

    1. Yes, we had a glorious week up there, didn’t we, Lou? I haven’t seen any of your photos yet (other than the dragonflies) so it would be lovely to see some on on your posts. ❤

  3. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip despite the heat. I need a little vacation, but know circumstances won’t allow that until sometime next year. Thank you for sharing.

    1. It was a lovely holiday, Jo. The Scottish Highlands are perfect for so many things. We’re all history lovers, and Scotland has so much to offer there. But the scenery, the mountains and lochs are also ideal for campers, hikers, mountain climbers or just sight-seers in general. And there’s plenty of night-life for those who want to have fun. I hope you manage to get away somewhere next year. You have many places in the U.S. that I’d love to see!

      1. Your photos are amazing, makes me feel like I was almost there with you. You know there are so many interesting places to see, people to meet, history to learn. I am always amazed by the people I meet that have never been more than a few miles from their home. I live in a suburb of Chicago and have been to so many great locations and I run into people who have lived in the area all their life and never been downtown. I guess I am too curious. 😃

      2. I know people like that around here, too, Jo. There are many who are happy to stay in their hometown, or go to the same holiday resort, year after year. Unfortunately, with some, it’s a question of finance rather than choice. No one can deny that holidays – and travel in general – costs money. But the travel bug gets to so many of us, and I’m lucky enough to have seen several countries around the world (but only since we’e been old enough to afford it!). I can truly understand your wanting to see some of this big world of ours. One of my youngest son’s colleagues (a Londoner) is based in Chicago, and he loves the place – so that city obviously has a lot to offer! 😀

  4. How delightful…such a wonderful tour…I really do need to visit Scotland…and I am a Cameron(!) Thanks for the history lesson, Millie…sadly, I had no idea…but that’s about to change thanks to you. 🙂

  5. If you’re a Cameron, then this place would be perfect for you! So many Americans visit this area, either to trace their roots or simply because of interest roused by the ‘Outlander’ books. The Camerons have been a powerful force in this part of Scotland for a very long time. As a family, the 3-bedroom (sleeps 6) apartment we stayed in would be ideal for you. And you’d be on Cameron land. What more could a Cameron want? We’d happily go back there again, as we have still so many places to see. 😀

  6. Oh Inese, coming form such a wonderful photographer and travel blogger as you, that comment means so much to me. ❤ It's a long time since I've written one of my 'Travel' posts (and I have dozens waiting to be written up!) but this recent one was on my mind – so, here it is!.
    We weren't expecting to go anywhere this year. This holiday was organised by our two daughters as an extra birthday present to our grandson, Kieran, who was 18 in January. As he was studying for his 'A' levels at the time, the end of June was the earliest they could make it, And what a week it was, with temps of 34 C! We all learned a lot from the trip, especially about Clan Cameron.

    1. If you have learned something new, the trip was worth it 🙂 I have never heard of Achnacarry before. Ah, there are so many places I have never heard about! Your blog is a major source of my knowledge about history of England and Scotland.

  7. It is beautiful round there, Millie; in fact, stunning. I love the look of the estate – we passed by there last year (and visited the Commando Memorial and Arisaig, where the SOE trained). The museum looks and sounds interesting. There is so much to see and do in the area – and tales of Jacobites are almost as numerous as the legendary midges! All the best, Mike.

  8. I had a feeling you might have visited this area, Mike. 😀 I’ve ‘visited’ it briefly in the past when we’ve stayed in Pitlochry or Dalwhinnie, but never actually stayed in the area before. It’s ideal for reaching so many places of interest, and I’ll post about some we visited this June… eventually. We really do want to get across to Skye, but someone suggested we do an island cruise and see several Hebridean islands while we’re at it. We’ll have to have a think about that.

    1. Yes, Scotland is a beautiful country, and I’ve visited many different parts of it over the years. Most of it has the sort of scenery you love, too – mountains, rivers and fabulous lochs. I hope you manage to visit it one day – just as I would love to visit Ukraine! 😀

      1. I would be happy to see you one day in my beautiful country, dear Millie! And I hope I would be able to visit UK too! I would love to meet you in person one day! Thank you so much for your kind help with my book, it seems soon it will be available!

      2. I’d love to meet up with you, too, Ann, so who knows what will come about in the future? What great news about your book! Many congratulations. I’m looking forward to buying a copy. ❤

      3. Your are so sweet, dear Millie! If you let me I would love to send you a copy…I would be honored to give it you as a kind thank you for your great help, I cannot express in words how much I am grateful for your help! If you let me, please send me your postal address via email and I will send it to you as soon as I am able to!

      4. Ann, it would be my pleasure to buy a copy of your book. After all the hard work you have put into it, you need to sell some copies to make it all worthwhile. I hope it does really well for you. ❤

      5. You are the best, dear Millie! I owe you so much! You HELPED me a lot, I am so lucky to meet you, I treasure our friendship and hope to meet you personally one day. Life is full of surprises, so who knows! Thank you so much, my very dear Friend! I also hope to buy one of your books soon, I am so curious about them, however, your writing style has already conquered my soul and heart, as well as your personality! I’d be honored to read your books!

    1. I’ve been absent from my blog for so long, it felt strange coming bask, Cybele. I have missed it though. Last year I did so little writing due to some serious family illnesses, so finishing the third book of my series has been a bit of a rush this year. I agree with you about how wonderful Scotland is, and the Fort William is very special. 😀

  9. Thank you, Jill! It’s great to connect with you, too. ❤ It was a lovely trip, although we could have done with a lot longer than a single week! Still… there's always next year. I've been to Scotland several times and never tire of seeing such beautiful scenery and exploring the amazing history. 😀

  10. I am a Cameron and have known about Achnacharry and its history as a child. I did not know it was possible to stay on the grounds! Thank you so much for the information and this wonderful virtual tour. I will be booking a trip soon!!

  11. You would love this area, Joan. As a Cameron, there is so much that would connect you with the past and events in the lives of the famous Clan Cameron. If you don’t like the idea of an apartment, there are also holiday cottages, I believe. Bookings can be made through the Achnacarry site itself or Sykes Cottages. (I’m not connected to either, by the way! Lol) It”s a fabulous area and we loved it. 😀

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