A Tour of Scotland: The Fort William Area and Clan Cameron

We had far too many events planned for this day and included on the itinerary. I also added another location which meant I needed to figure out what would work. So after pondering them, I decided on what was more important to me. The weather was going to be great with some sun, some clouds and just all around nice.

I had learned that getting to the Clan Cameron Museum would take a little trip of about 30 minutes up A82 north to the west from Fort William. The museum didn’t open till 11 am. This meant we had time for other activities.

We decided that we would go visit Old Inverlochy Castle first, then go to the town of Spean Bridge and then the Clan museum. Later in the day we would return to Fort William and do some more exploring and visit the West Highland Museum. We also decided on the Crannog Restaurant right on the edge of Loch Linnhe for our dinner that evening.  The day was planned.

Ashburn House, Fort William

Breakfast was in the lovely large rectangular room of the Asburn House. At one end was a bay window and antiques were set around the room.  There were lavender curtains, tablecloths and even the thick carpet was lavender. The table for two was narrow but longer than I had seen. It made it less crowded for the dishes. William was serving breakfast. He has a breakfast form you fill out with all your breakfast selections and then you place it in the dining room and the next day you get your meal. They assign your table with your room number. We entered a little after 8 am and there were already guests present. Off on the opposite side of this room was a double door to a conservatory filled with windows all around and big comfy leather chairs. books, games and I think movies to look at.  It was the guest room.

Alan and I had the French toast, a fancy version. It had fruit with it and yogurt. Alan also asked for toast and it comes in that metal stand with the slices placed in each section. The pressed coffee was good and warm. I had porridge first and it was very creamy. Again we were in elegant surroundings much like Viewfield in Portree.  I am enjoying my mix of lodgings and find them to be just as much an adventure as the journey.

I decided to start sorting out my stuff which was totally out of control by this time and had items scattered all over the luggage and car. I also needed to get our receipts ready for customs regarding the items we had purchased. I headed out to the car and realized I had forgotten my cell phone. Alan called to me from the window of our room which was rather cute. I told him what I needed.

Ashburn House – Looking out our window to the car park

I was trying to clean up the back seat behind my side of the car. I was throwing stuff into the large luggage on the backseat and it was now a mess and would need to be re-organized. I was also trying to get my papers, research, newly purchased books, flyers into the little roller luggage. I will organize everything Saturday when I get it all packed and ready for the trip back home. Yes we were getting to the end of our journey just a few more days left.

Alan arrived and I stopped cleaning up. We headed to the main highway which is A82 and it is right in front of the Asburn House. Turning north along Loch Linnhe, we headed through town. This takes time for it is a long town with many roundabouts. It is also a very busy narrow street with lots of trucks, cars and businesses all around. Some of the exits on the roundabouts are for business only, so you do have to pay attention.

Old Inverlochy Castle Ruins

Petunia the Navigation system’s name for this trip, took us to the Old Inverlochy Castle ruins and it was awesome. It was quite the castle at one time with turrets on all four sides. I think this is a castle that a child’s imagination would love!

Old Inverlochy Reader Board showing how the castle looked

Reader board about the Old Inverlochy Castle

A lot of the castle was still visible and intact. The Queen had commented that there was not much left and it caused a stir in the press. Some of the turrets were blocked off because they were unstable and you could see they were trying to repair it to make it safe. We wandered the castle and the grounds and Alan inspected things. We got into some mushy ground  thinking the green grass would be nice to walk in. We headed for higher ground up nearer the castle walls.  The walls towered above us.  The River Lochy flows by the castle but the moat is gone. Make sure you search for Old Inverlochy Castle otherwise you find the fancy hotel: https://www.inverlochycastle.co.uk/

The above series of photos is in gallery mode. You will need to be at the blog on the internet to view it properly.

I am reading “Robert Bruce, King of the Scots, by Ronald McNair Scott, 1982.  In it he talks about Robert The Bruce taking Inverlochy castle and Urquhart as well. I have now visited both castles approximately 703 years later, so that is cool!

Robert the Bruce

We headed north and found the Spean Bridge Woolen Mill store and their large car park. We headed into the store which is awesome.  They had the softest plaid scarves but no MacDonald clans in the cashmere which were £40 each.

Spean Bridge Woolen Mill

Spean Bridge Woolen Mill

Alan decided on a book for our older grandchild about Sea monsters. He then decided that the polyester scarves would work for all the grand girls and his daughter.  He picked out colors for them plus one to replace his old scarf I bought him years ago. These were not as pricey as the cashmere ones. We still have one more grandchild to find something for and he is a tough sophisticated 6-year-old. https://www.ewm.co.uk/store-finder/index/storedetail/id/320/

I looked at this cape which had its own scarf and it was a lovely grey but it was a bit heavy in weight. They had sweaters and I was tempted. I did the store twice but couldn’t find anything I wanted.

From Spean Bridge, we gave Petunia the Clan Cameron Museum location and she found it! It would be out in the country and I was not sure about the roads. Along the way to Clan Cameron, we came upon the war memorial and decided to stop. It was a great day with a wonderful view of the Munro Mountains. Lots of people were around for it was a WWII memorial and a tourist bus stop. https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/munros/

WWII Monument

The Plaque Reads: In Memory of the Officers and Men of the Commandos Who Died in the Second World War 1939 to 1945 This Country was their training ground.

WWII Remembrance

There was a remembrance circle filled with the names of soldiers and flowers in their honor. It was sad and sweet at the same time. You never know what you will find on a trip. This was a great surprise.  We were to learn more about the Commando’s of WWII at the Clan Cameron Museum and West Highland Museums.

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/speanbridge/commando/

This area was wide open so I took a series of photos in a circular swept hoping to get all of the beautiful view but I am having trouble figuring it all out. Oh Well! It still gives you an idea of the area and how it all looks. Glen Nevis was among them and is a very odd mountain. It was a volcano that fell in on itself which makes it look massive. I had wanted to visit the Ben Nevis visitor center, east of Fort William, but we just didn’t have the time today. http://ben-nevis.com/visitor-center/visitor-center.php I have a family member who is a mountain buff, so I guess he will just get some pictures. There was a round brass map on a platform that named the mountains. These photos are again in gallery mode so you do have to be at this blog on the internet for it to work best. I think they give a little bit of a view of what the country is like near Spean Bridge and Gairlochy, north of Fort William.

The Map of the Munros

We continued west to Gairlochy and turned north on a single track road that was good and rough in some places. It was beautiful country spreading out before us. There was green fields, forested areas and Loch Lochy to view through the trees.

It took about 15-20 minutes to get to the Clan Cameron Museum. They sure come quick, the other cars, so we did have to be diligent and careful and pull over when needed.  It turned out to be is a nice drive and easy to do.

Clan Cameron Museum

Clan Cameron Sign

We came upon a long white house that is the museum. People were sitting outside at the chairs and table provided for they were serving coffee and tea from a very small machine. Alan purchased an ice cream and bought tickets for the museum.

Clan Cameron Cairn

Gift Shop

I studied their books in the gift shop. I had not spent a great deal of time on the Cameron Clan and decided it was time I educated myself. http://www.clancameronmuseum.co.uk/

I meandered through the museum slowly reading the presentation boards which were very helpful and informative about the Clan history, the history of the Chief’s, the genealogy of the Chief’s. Cameron lands are just below Glengarry and the MacDonalds and Camerons did a lot of intermarrying.

Fancy Clan Cameron Map

Clan Cameron with a better map of the lands

Lineage of Clan Cameron

I returned to the gift shop and bought a Clan Cameron T-shirt, and a scarf.  I decided to get the book The Camerons The History of the Clan Cameron, by John Stewart of Advorlich, 1st published 1974, 1981, 1994, 2001 and 2015. 

Research library

I looked through their little reference and research library noting what was there.  It was very warm outside and the tables and chairs were filled with people so I found refuge in a chair in the research room and continued to study their collection.  I don’t have enough information at this time to identify ancestors but I do recognize some of the names.

The attendant told me where to go to get a photo of the Cameron house that still exists which can be done by walking down to the two gates straight ahead and walking a little down the road. You cannot visit the house because it is privately owned.

She also introduced me to Donald Angus Cameron the XVII Chief of the Clan Cameron. He drove up to the museum and was seated in his car. He was very sweet and nice. He was off to lunch with friends. I was a little bit intimidated. I have never met a Clan Chief before.  I told him that I had spent more time on Clan Donald up until now. but today I was focusing on my Clan Cameron side of my family:  http://www.clancameronmuseum.co.uk/

Alan finished up the museum part and we wandered down to the gate and into the road beyond and turned to see the lovely house in the distance with sheep grazing in front of it. This land is still owned by the Clan Cameron and the Chief lives there. It is a working estate today. The house is privately owned so you cannot visit it at this time. It was built-in about 1804. The Duke of Cumberland’s troops burned the origin homes and castles after the 1745 defeat of the Jacobites.

Clan Cameron Estate privately owned

Clan Cameron Estate, privately owned

We headed back on the road stopping at a few places for photos of Loch Lochy and we could see the Munros to our left. I finally decided on which one was Ben Nevis. It is the knobby one.  So in Scotland you collect mountains by climbing them or Lochs by viewing them and learning their history. This loch is part of the Great Glen of the Highlands.

Loch Lochy

Google Map of the location of the Clan Cameron Museum

The drive back took us down another road on the west side of the river, that was single track but it was all green pastures, farmland and very beautiful. We came out at Neptune’s Stairs which is the Fort William version of the Caledonian Canal.  We could not stop we had other things to do in the town that day.  Since we had seen part of the Canal in Fort Augustus, I gave this destination up.  Here is a little more about this amazing canal system: https://www.scottishcanals.co.uk/locations/neptunes-staircase/

We made it back to the Ashburn House managing the many roundabouts on A82 in Fort William. We needed a rest break.

Around 3 pm we headed up the street to town along Loch Linnhe and today it was very beautiful and warm. Loch Linnhe is a sea loch and it is 31 miles in length. https://www.scotlandinfo.eu/loch-linnhe-scotland/

Fort William must have been very wealthy at one time. The houses are beautiful.

This one is a fancy restaurant – Cruachan Hotel Reception Bar & Restaurant

We passed the West End Highland hotel where we had drinks the night before and proceeded into the town center. I was “popping” (used in an Amsterdam restaurant) into and out of the stores.

Fort William city center

The Highland Bookshop looked like a lovely store to visit so I went inside and looked around.  http://www.highlandbookshop.com/

I was looking for copies of the book: The Clan Ranald of Knoydart & Glengarry, A History of the MacDonalds or MacDonells of Glengarry, by Norman H. MacDonald FSA Scot 1979 or 1998.  They brought me a copy of the The Clan Ranald of Garmoran, A History of the MacDonalds of Clanranald, by Norman H. MacDonald, 2008. I turned them down. In retrospect, I should have bought this book even though it was not the one I was focused on. These books are very hard to find and pricey on the internet because they author self-published so I believe there are limited numbers of books to find. We thanked them for their time and took their advice and went to another store around the corner into a wonderful building filled with old used books. A man sitting at a desk, in a suit,  stood and greeted us. He was surrounded by tall bookcases and a room filled with books crammed in anyplace they would fit. Alan chatted about the book we were searching for. He didn’t have it but knew about the author’s death. I think it was the Ben Nevis Book Corner.

We visited a couple more stores and headed to the West Highland Museum just up the street to the north from the first bookshop in Cameron Square. I thought they were open till 6 pm but was told rather strongly that they closed at 5 pm, she didn’t leave the issue alone. I was unable to verify this till much later and apparently I did mess up the hours. I do believe I saw something online that said 6 pm but I could not find that link.

West Highland Museum, tucked into one of the Cameron Square of the city center

I thoroughly studied the books in their gift shop. The museum was free but we gave a donation. We started at the top floor to see the Highland life information.  They had some of Queen Victoria’s costumes in one room, Jacobite items in another and Highland life in another. This museum was in a large building with many floors and nooks and crannies.  They had things roped off so they could direct our viewing of the exhibits through the building. They have quite a lot of artifacts throughout the building and a reference library (by appointment only but you have to be a member). They do not have a listing or description/summary of their reference library holdings which would be nice on their website:   http://www.westhighlandmuseum.org.uk/

I asked the attendant “where would the harbour be.” Fort William is one of the locations where emigrants came to board ships to go to Canada, Australia and other placed. She growled that “there was never a harbour.”  Sigh!  Yes, I was annoyed, but I have been thinking that perhaps I have an incorrect vision of the emigrants boarding ships. I am beginning to think that the ships came into the bay or loch and there might have been a pier for them with a plank to climb on the ship. Or, they got into smaller boats and were rowed out to the ship that took them to their destination. These places that the emigrants came out of were small unless they were in Glasgow, Greenock or Aberdeen or some other larger city. I am now rethinking my images and we will see what I find out.

The society started boarding windows about 4:30 pm and monitoring the door. They had to unlock it when you wanted to leave. Apparently things are a little rough in Fort William.

We wandered back down the other side of the street checking out more of the shops. There were a lot of closed abandoned stores which made me think the town was a little depressed. I spotted a hardware store. Wow, the first one ever that we visited in Scotland. It was so fun to see the gardening supplies and hardware. Alan found us a nightlight that is for the proper electrical outlet in Scotland. We will get 4 nights out of it for this trip. It was £4.  I think the store was Marshall and Pearsons.

Back outside, we sat down on some benches across from a real estate store and studied the properties listed it was very interesting.

My husband’s camera case was falling apart with the skin separating from the main body. We passed a cellphone accessory store and just on the chance that they might have something we went in. The man greeted us. Alan told him the problem and he went over to the wall behind him and pulled out two camera cases for Alan to try. Alan liked one of them put the cover was not closing. He felt it would loosen over time. He paid the man £10 which was not cheap. The case turned out to be just perfect. Who knew!

We checked out a few more stores. Things close up by 5 pm in Scotland, for some stores, which is a little frustrating but that is what they do.

Very Fancy

Dinner was a 6 pm at the Crannog http://www.crannog.net/ which is situated on Loch Linnhe. We found the street corner to turn down to the busy road. We were still too early at about 5:20 pm. They were not open till 6 pm even though the door was open.

The Crannog Restaurant

Up close

I found a nice bench on the pier and enjoyed the view of the loch and the warm sun. Alan explored. Apparently they have lunch cruises or a variety of cruises. You cruise the loch then return to the restaurant for lunch. That would have been nice but we just didn’t have the time.

Sitting on the dock

Loch Linnhe

About 5:48 pm we went into the restaurant and they seated us. I found a really lovely wine from South Africa – Cannongate – that I liked. Alan got a Glen Spean Pale Blonde beer he liked.

I had salmon fillet which was very good and once again their potatoes are wonderful. Alan had a unique white fish that he liked. Then we topped it off with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch syrup. We can’t seem to get the Scots interested in Chocolate syrup on ice cream?

Looking back

Our walk back was along the other side of the busy road along the loch. At a certain point we were able to climb down to the grass and enjoy the lovely park by Loch Linnhe. I took several pictures of the loch while the sun was going down it was very beautiful. The big hill looming on the western side of the loch started to lose detail on this side as the sun set behind it.

Loch Linnhe evening time

Loch Linnhe park and the hill across shrouded in dark…

Loch Linnhe – the boat dock

We crossed the very busy street carefully and entered the Ashburn House.  Tomorrow we would leave Fort William and drive to Glasgow.  I probably was pushing it on this next leg of our journey. We would stop first at Glencoe, then drive the west side of Loch Lomond, visit Dumbarton Castle and then negotiate Glasgow. It was going to be a challenge.

Time for bed!

About BJ MacDonald

Interested in travel, really into genealogy and researching my family history, classic novels and movies, fantasy and science fiction, photography, history and more... Here is a tip. Make sure you are commenting on the blog you were visiting and the post you were interested in. My blogs are listed by hovering over my pictures and clicking. Clicking one of them will take you back to the correct blog. You can try me here: bjmcdonell@gmail.com
This entry was posted in Cameron, Fort William, Scotland May 2018 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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