5 Must-see historic sites in Glencoe
There are so many amazing historical sites in Glencoe and the surrounding area. Each artefact or location makes for the perfect sightseeing opportunity and there’s something for everyone. That’s why we’ve decided to let you in on our favourite five, which are pretty much right on the doorstep.
The Ballachulish Goddess
Did you know that one of Scotland’s most mysterious artefacts comes from right here in Ballachulish?!
Back in November 1880, a team of builders were excavating the grounds of Alltshellach House, when, to their amazement they uncovered a wooden sculpture lying face down in a peat bog. Heaving the figure from a depth of 6ft, the workmen were then shocked to come face to face with a life-size young woman carved from alder with pearl-like pebbles for eyes.
The Ballachulish Goddess is one of a kind in Scotland and nobody knows her origin or reason for being, but what we do know is that she is over 2,500 years old, and when she was originally carved, her wood (being alder) would have been vibrant orange in colour. What a head turner!
The ‘James of the Glens’ Monument
The assassination of Colin “Red Fox” Campbell in 1752 resulted in one of Scotland’s worst miscarriages of justice, where James Stewart (James of the Glens) was hanged for the crime, right here next to the Woodlands Estate.
Not only was James Stewart wrongfully executed, his body remained hanging at an elevated and visible position, forcing folk going about their daily lives to see his rotting corpse!
The story of the “Appin Murder” captivated the entire nation and was immortalised in Robert Louis Stevenson’s historical novel, Kidnapped, where Stevenson was so transfixed with the story that it is said he penned the entire novel in a matter of days.
Thankfully, there’s no such sights to be seen at Woodlands these days, but a memorial stands in the exact spot where poor James of the Glens was hanged, and we highly recommend taking the short stroll and reading all about this horrifying event.
The Island Graveyard on Eilean Mundas
Talk about resting in peace! Emerging from the inky waters of Loch Leven is possibly THE most serene resting place on earth, the tiny island of Eilean Mundas.
One of several small islands peppered along the loch, Eilean Mundas served as a graveyard for local members of Clan Cameron, MacDonald and Stewart since the 7th Century. Even during times of Clan conflict (of which there were many!), the clans peacefully shared the island and helped maintain the graveyard.
If there were any quarrels to be had, the neighbouring island of Eilean na Comhairle (the Isle of Discussion), was used as a space to make peace. Once the quarrel had been resolved a fire would be lit to let the people of Ballachulish and Glencoe know that calm had been restored.
There are over 300 graves on Eilean Mundas and the last person to be buried on the island was Christina MacDonald Sharp who made the journey across Loch Leven in 1972. The island takes its name from St Mundas, who settled here beneath the shelter of the frowning mountains back in the 7th Century.
Built way back in the 14th Century, Castle Stalker is the ancient fortress of Clan Stewart and was strategically built on a tidal islet on Loch Laich.
Castle Stalker is said to be one of the best-preserved medieval tower houses to survive in western Scotland, and it’s well worth the twenty-minute drive to Port Appin where you can take in the incredible view of the castle and loch. If you’d like to get a little closer, you’ll have to time your trip so that you arrive at low tide. You can also book a guided boat tour to get up close and personal with the four-storey stronghold.
There’s many a myth and legend connected with Castle Stalker. Among the tales is the story of little baby Donald Stewart, who was hidden in the castle to save his life during a clan stramash in 1520. Baby Donald grew up to be the feared Donald of the Hammers!
Another interesting tale from the castle’s wild history comes from the 17th century when the Stewarts lost a drunken wager meaning their stronghold became the property of the Campbells of Airds! Thankfully for the Stewarts it was later reclaimed.
The Massacre of Glencoe
In February 1692, government troops were warmly welcomed into the homes of members of Clan MacDonald the length and breadth of the glen. Little did the MacDonalds know that the troops would go onto savagely kill 38 members of their clan as they lay sleeping in their beds.
Some survivors managed to avoid the attack and attempted to escape through the snow, meaning a far higher number of the clan lost their lives, not to mention the hundreds of cattle and horses that were also slaughtered in the massacre.
Exactly how one of Scotland’s most dreadful moments in history came to be is incredibly complex, but is succinctly put in this blog by Graham at Hidden Scotland.
Visitors to the area can go and spend a few minutes reflecting on the massacre at the Massacre of Glencoe Memorial in the village of Glencoe. This celtic cross monument was erected in 1883 to commemorate those who lost their lives in the attack.