Inverlochy Castle

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Inverlochy Castle, a ruined feudal stronghold in Kilmonivaig parish, SW Inverness-shire, on the left bank of the Lochy, a little above its influx to salt-water Loch Linnhe, and 2 miles NE of Fort William. Here, according to a fabulous tradition, stood an ancient city where the Pictish kings occasionally resided, where King Achaius in 790 signed a treaty with Charlemagne, whither numbers of Frenchmen and Spaniards resorted, and which was at last destroyed by the Danes, and never thereafter rebuilt. The castle itself is a quadrangular edifice, with round three-story towers at the angles, and measures 30 yards each way within the walls. The towers and ramparts are solidly built of stone and lime, 9 feet thick at the bottom, and 8 above. The towers are not entire, nor are they all equally high. The western or Comyn's Tower is the highest and largest. and does not seem to have been less than 50 feet when entire, whilst the rampart or screen between is from 25 to 30 feet in height. About 12 yards from the exterior walls are the traces of a ditch, which has been from 30 to 40 feet broad. The whole building covers about 1600 square yards; and within the ditch there are 7000, or more than 11/3 acre. From the name of the western tower and other circumstances, it has commonly been supposed that this castle was erected either by Edward I. of England, or by his partisans in the Great Glen, the powerful Comyns, with the assistance of English engineers. More probably, however, it was founded in the latter half of the 15th century by George, second Earl of Huntly, and it seems to have still been in an unfinished state in the time of Charles II.

Near this place, on Sunday, 2 Feb. 1645, a battle was fought between a royalist army under the celebrated Marquis of Montrose, and an army, partly Highland and partly Lowland, under the Marquis of Argyll. Montrose had come up from a winter raid in Argyllshire to attempt the seizure of Inverness, and was marching thither through the eastern part of the Great Glen, when he suddenly learned that Argyll, with a force nearly double his own, was following him. He instantly turned about, made a forced march over the trackless mountains to the foot of Glennevis, and found himself there in the vicinity of Argyll's army, encamped at Inverlochy. He arrived in the evening of the 1st, and lay under arms all night. Argyll, seeing battle to be at hand, and excusing himself on account of some recent contusions he had received, committed his army to the charge of his cousin, Campbell of Auchinbreck, and went on board a galley in the loch. At the dawn of the 2d both armies made preparation for battle. Montrose drew out his force in an extended line. The right wing consisted of a regiment of Irish, under the command of Macdonald, his major-general; the centre, of the Athole men, the Stuarts of Appin, the Macdonalds of Glencoe, and other Highlanders, under the command of Clanranald, M `Lean, and Glengarry; and the left wing, of some Irish, at the head of whom was brave Colonel O'Kean. A body of Irish was placed behind the main body as a reserve, under the command of Colonel James M`Donald, alias O'Neill. The general of Argyll's army arrayed it in a similar manner. The Lowland forces were equally divided, and formed the wings, between which were placed the Highlanders. On a rising-ground behind this line General Campbell drew up a reserve of Highlanders, with a field-piece. Within Inverlochy Castle, which was only about a pistol-shot from the lines, he planted a body of forty or fifty men to protect the place, and to annoy Montrose's men with discharges of musketry. At sunrise Montrose gave orders to advance. The attack was commenced by his left wing, under O'Kean, charging the right wing of Argyll's army. This was immediately followed by a furious assault upon the centre and left wing of Argyll's forces by Montrose's right wing and centre. Argyll's right wing, unable to resist the attack of Montrose's left, turned and fled; which circumstance had such a discouraging effect on the remainder of Argyll's troops, that, after discharging their muskets, the whole of them, including the reserve, took to their heels. The rout became general. An attempt was made by a body of 200 of the dismayed fugitives to throw themselves into Inverlochy Castle; but a party of Montrose's horse prevented them. Others of the fugitives directed their course along the shore of Loch Linnhe, but were all either drowned or killed in the pursuit. The greater part, however, fled to the hills in the direction of Argyllshire, and were chased for 8 miles by Montrose's men. As little resistance was made by the defeated party in their flight, the carnage was very great, being reckoned at nearly 1500 men, or the half of Argyll's army; and many more would have been cut off, had it not been that Montrose did all in his power to save the unresisting fugitives from the fury of his men, who were loth to give quarter to the hated Campbells. Having taken the castle, Montrose not only treated the officers, who were from the Lowlands, with kindness, but gave them their liberty on parole. The loss on the side of Montrose was extremely trifling. The number of wounded, indeed, is not stated, but he had only three privates killed. Immediately after the battle, he sent a messenger to Charles I. with a letter, giving an account of it, and ending thus: ` Give me leave, after I have reduced this country, and conquered from Dan to Beersheba, to say to your majesty, as David's general to his master, Come thou thyself, lest this country be called by my name.' When the king received this letter, the royal and parliamentary commissioners were sitting at Uxbridge, negotiating the terms of a peace; but Charles was induced by it to break off the negotiation-a circumstance which led to his ruin. Scott weaves this battle into his Legend of Montrose.

Modern Inverlochy Castle, 3¼ miles NE of Fort William, is the Scottish seat of William Frederick Scarlett, third Baron Abinger since 1835 (b. 1826; suc. 1861), who holds 39, 414 acres in the shire, valued at £4347 per annum, the Inverlochy estate having been purchased from the Gordon family by his grandfather, the first Lord Abinger, in the early part of the present century. Merely a shooting-box till 1861, it since has been greatly enlarged, being partly in the Scottish Baronial style of architecture, partly a large ornate modern villa, with a round central flag-tower, and a massive square porticoed tower at the principal entrance. The material is white granite, with freestone copings. Queen Victoria paid a visit here in Sept. 1873.—Ord. Sur., sh. 62, 1875.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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