Monday, May 26, 2014

The highlands and islands of Scotland…(Part 1)

We had a wonderful trip visit the town of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis to conduct a Career Workshop.  Because of all we saw I am going to do this report in multiple parts to include more pictures.  The distance from Glasgow to Stornoway is about 300 miles.  Stornoway is the largest village in the Outer Hebrides – a group of islands off the northwest coast of Scotland.  Scottish Gaelic is the predominant language on many parts of the islands but most people also speak English.

We started in Edinburgh early Thursday morning.  We left Glasgow about noon and took the A82 along the west coast of Loch Lomond, through the Glencoe Valley to Fort Williams to the village of Spean Bridge (just north of Fort William) where we stayed overnight.  One can see the distance we still need to travel to reach Stornoway on Lewis.
We left Edinburgh early Thursday for some appointments in East Kilbride (near Glasgow) and then about noon left the Glasgow area to head up to the Isle of Lewis.  As we reached the Scottish highlands we traveled through Glencoe valley which was the site of the massacre of the McDonalds by the Campbells.

A wee bit of history background as we take this journey to Stornoway and pass through Glencoe…

We reached the Highlands and would love to be able to download the "brain video" we have as we traveled through this beautiful countryside.

This is the Glencoe Valley - the sight of the "Battle of Glencoe".
The King of England and Scotland – James II, a Catholic – was deposed by William III – a Protestant.  The Jacobites in Scotland wanted to return James to the throne but were defeated by the English Government troops in the mid-1690s.  William offered the Jacobite Highland clans a pardon for their role in the uprising provided that their chiefs would swear allegiance to him by the end of 1691.  There was an oath to be taken by the end of the year with harsh repercussions from the new King to those who did not comply.  James finally accepted his fate of exile late that fall and granted that the clan chiefs should take the oath.  Word of James’ decision did not reach the highlands until mid-December. 

Alastair MacIain, the chief of the MacDonalds of Glencoe, set out on December 31, 1691, for Fort William where he intended to give his oath.  Because of “politics” he was told that he would need to go to Inveraray to see Sir Colin Campbell, the sheriff of Argyle to take the oath.  Because of the distance and previous problems between the MacDonalds and Campbells the oath was not communicated to the government in Edinburgh until sometime in January.  A plot was hatched in Edinburgh to eliminate the MacDonald’s of Glencoe.

Apparently led by Secretary of State John Dalrymple, who had a hatred of the Highlanders, the plot sought to eliminate a troublesome clan while making an example for the others to see. Working with Sir Thomas Livingstone, the military commander in Scotland, Dalrymple secured the king's blessing for taking measures against those who had not given the oath in time. In late January, two companies (120 men) of the Earl of Argyle's Regiment of Foot were sent to Glencoe and billeted with the MacDonalds.


Arriving in Glencoe, Campbell and his men were warmly greeted by MacIain and his clan. It appears that Campbell was unaware of his actual mission at this point, and he and men graciously accepted MacIain's hospitality. After peacefully coexisting for two weeks, Campbell received new orders on February 12, 1692.

Signed by Major Robert Duncanson, the orders stated, "You are hereby ordered to fall upon the rebels, the MacDonalds of Glencoe, and put all to the sword under seventy. You are to have a special care that the old fox and his sons do upon no account escape your hands. You are to secure all the avenues that no man escape." Pleased to have an opportunity to exact revenge, Campbell issued orders for his men to attack at 5:00 AM on the 13th. As dawn approached, Campbell's men fell upon the MacDonalds in their villages of Invercoe, Inverrigan, and Achacon.

Campbell's men killed 38 MacDonalds and put their villages to the torch. Those MacDonalds who survived were forced to flee the glen and an additional 40 died from exposure.

That is the background story of the battle of Glencoe…

We traveled through Glencoe, to Fort William, and on to Spean Bridge.  We were truly in the Scottish highlands at this point but too early in the season for the beauty of the heather.  Obviously we will need to make a return trip to part of this area in July or August to see the heather.  The country side is very rugged and somewhat barren.  Near Fort William is Ben Nevis…the tallest mountain in the British Isles 4409 feet.

Ben Nevis is hidden by the clouds.  This is looking back towards Fort William

In Spean Bridge we stopped at the Commando Monument.  This was built in memory of an elite group of soldiers.  In the summer of 1940 Winston Churchill ordered the raising of an elite force of soldiers to raid the enemy coastline of Europe.  This group of soldiers were called Commandos.

During the next five years this group fought in every theatre of war with such success that the word “Commando” became feared by the enemy.  In 1942 the Commando Training Centre was established at Achnacarry in the Scottish Highlands.  The soldiers now included the British Army, the Royal Marines, and the Allied Armies.  Only those who successfully completed the training had the privilege to wear the famous Green Beret.  This distinctive head-dress became a hallmark of the highest standards of military training, self-discipline, endurance, initiative, bravery and courage.  Their motto was “United we Conquer”.

We stayed the night at a B&B in Spean Bridge.  Tomorrow we continue to journey across the Isle of Skye, the ferry at Uig (pronounced "ooig"), and to Stornoway…

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