Highland Archaeology Week, 8th October 2006


The walk, from Loch Moidart to Dalilea, will speculatively retrace the first steps of Bonnie Prince Charlie on Scottish soil in July 1745. It will go from “The Seven Men of Moidart” by way of Kinlochmoidart House and Brunery, finally crossing the hill to Dalilea.

The quotes and notes below follow the sequence of the walk – mainly focusing on Bonnie Prince Charlie (with occasional diversions) - and are mostly taken from the Moidart Local History Group web site www.moidart.org.uk

The Seven Men of Moidart trees (see below) were planted in the C19th. The Limekiln opposite the parking area was constructed in C19 for agricultural and building purposes.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

“On 16 July 1745, the two ships (Du Teillay and Elizabeth) set out from Belle-Ile for Britain. With Charles on the Du Teillay were the seven companions who were later to become known in Jacobite folklore as the Seven Men of Moidart. They were the elderly and rather unwell William Murray, Marquis of Tullibardine, recognised by the Jacobites as the Second Duke of Atholl though he had been attainted for his part in the 1715 rising and as a result it was his brother James whom the British government recognised as succeeding the first Duke in 1724; Colonel Francis Strickland, the only Englishman in the group, a member of an old Westmorland Jacobite family; Aeneas Macdonald, the expedition's banker, who had been intending to go to Scotland on his own business affairs and was with some difficulty persuaded to accompany Charles in order to win over his brother Donald of Kinlochmoidart and his many relatives; and four Irishmen - Sir Thomas Sheridan, a veteran of the Battle of the Boyne and now over seventy; George Kelly; Sir John Macdonald, an elderly man, fond of the bottle, who had served in the French cavalry in Spain; and Colonel John William O'Sullivan, who had fought in the French army and was the only one present who would play an important part in the campaign they were setting out to conduct” (1)

“When Bonnie Prince Charlie came to Kinlochmoidart he was supported by all the Kinlochmoidart MacDonalds”. (2) “A pibroch was composed by John MacIntyre of Ulgary, Glenmoidart, Thaing mo Righ air Tir am Muideart - My King has Landed in Moidart”. (3)

“While Charles stayed at Borrodale, most of his company stayed at Kinlochmoidart, six miles to the south……When Clanranald had gathered about a hundred of his men, Charles joined the others at Kinlochmoidart. Meanwhile Lochiel was also gathering his men, and so was Alexander Macdonald of Keppoch……” (1)

Episcopalian Church: The foundation stone of St Finan’s church was laid by Mrs Sarah Robertson-Macdonald of Kinlochmoidart in 1857. Conjecture has it that the Princes Walk from St Finans to Kinlochmoidart House was constructed at the same time, to commemorate the visit of the Prince just over 100 years earlier.

Kinlochmoidart House: The current house was constructed in 1884 at a cost of just over £9,000. When Bonnie Prince Charlie came to Kinlochmoidart, Kinlochmoidart House was two removed from the present structure. The original house that the Prince knew was destroyed by Captain Fergusson in 1746 as a reprisal for the insurrection and the estate was forfeited by the Macdonald of the day. It was returned to the family in 1782 and a new house was built. The walled garden from this property still remains to this day. As a post-script let it be noted that in 1787 "At the coming of age of John MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart, when the estate had been returned, old John MacDonald of Morar gave a big party with a bonfire to which all the natives came and all became very happy, many of them throwing their bonnets and even some of their clothes in the fire to express their joy” (4)

“On 18 August 1745 Charles with his followers left Kinlochmoidart ….. and went to Glenaladale….on the morning of the 19th they moved north-east up to the head of Loch Shiel to Glenfinnan….”(1)

If the Prince and his party followed the most likely route from Kinlochmoidart House, they would have left by the east drive. In those days this was the main road to Loch Shiel and the new road up the glen from Kinlochmoidart Bridge (1804) would not yet have been built; neither would the canalised section (1805) of the river be in place – see the meanders of the old river bed in the fields to the south. At Brunery, the party would have had to ford the River near the site of the current Brunery Bridge (1779). Only ten years after the Prince had passed this way, Neilson who was doing a survey of the area wrote:

”When I came to the head of Loch Moidart, I found the houses Situated on the North side of a River that empties itself into the Loch, and which was so Swelled with the Rains that were told it was impassable, But there being no Shelter on this side, and the Rain continuing, I being Still on foot was persuaded by my Guide to attempt to cross it, and which we accordingly did fastened in one another’s arms after the Custom of the Inhabitants, though the Stream was excessively rapid, and covered us to the Breast.” (7)

Having forded the Moidart, (and nowadays there is no way of telling whether it was in spate or not) the Prince’s party would have gone south across the hill to Dalilea on Loch Shiel. On the way, they might have seen some of the coffin cairns marking the route to the burial ground on St Finnan’s Isle. There are traces of villages and agricultural occupation along this route too, particularly to the east of the track. It should not be forgotten that Kinlochmoidart had an extensive population in the past and a schedule of Macdonald men who rose and fought for the Prince includes over 50 from the area.

"Though such places as Gaskan, Annat and Druminlaoigh on the Moidart side had suffered considerable depopulation there were still about a hundred MacDonald males above twenty five years of age in the district besides MacEacherns, MacIsaacs and MacVarishes, while the Jacobite clans Cameron and Macpherson were well represented on the Argyll side, the sheep run craze having not yet become so effective as to create many clearances in the Ardnamurchan and Morvern areas.…” (4)

There is also a contemporary reference to Torr a Bhreitheimh which appears about half along the track to Dalilea, as follows:

"At an early age there was a small property cutting like a wedge into the Kinlochmoidart estate, and reserved by Clanranald for his Moidart bailiff or "maor". It is called Lochans, and was held for several generations by the same family of McIsaacs. All minor disputes amongst the natives were referred to the bailiff for settlement, and all questions connected with land, such as the disposal of vacant farms, or payment of rent, came under his cognisance. At stated intervals he held court in open air, sometimes near Leadnacloiche, but more frequently at Torr-na-breith, a spot situated midway between Brunery and Dalelea". (5)

When he arrived at Dalilea, the Prince would have passed close to the house of one of his most fervent supporters.

 “Angus Beg, son of Alexander Macdonald, Minister of Dalelea, succeeded his father as Minister although subsequently he joined the Catholic Church some time before the '45. He joined Clanranald as a Captain at Culloden and escaped afterwards making his way back to Moidart where he skulked in the hills for two years. When the Act of Indemnity was passed, he returned to Dalelea where he lived quietly for some years before dying. He was succeeded at Dalelea by his son Allan who had several children, one of which was Alexander Macdonald the "banker" (see later), who built the present Dalelea House”. (5)

MacDonald the banker built the current Dalilea House at about the beginning of the nineteenth century. He was described as a person of “great energy, and possessed undoubted talents for business, receiving a lucrative appointment in the bank at Callander”. (5) Subsequently Dalilea House had an extra storey built by Lord Howard of Glossop, by then the owner of the Loch Shiel Estate.

From Dalilea, the Prince’s party were met by some boats and taken up to Glenaladale, halfway up the Loch, the next morning proceeding to Glenfinnan.

“Loch Shiel monument at Glenfinnan was erected in 1815 by Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale, marking the spot "where, on Monday 19th August 1745, a day of mist and rain, the royal standard of King James the Eighth was raised by his gallant son, Prince Charles Edward Stuart". (6)


(1) Charles Edward Stuart. The life and times of Bonnie Prince Charlie by David Daiches

(2) Kinlochmoidart House, Stephen Jefferson.

(3) Inverailort, A Short History, Iain Thornber.

(4) Bonnalie/Impey papers

(5) Moidart or Among the Clanranalds, Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts

(6) The Highlands of Scotland, W Douglas Simpson

(7) Second Report to the Commissioners and Trustees for Improving Fisheries and Manufactures in Scotland, Richard Neilson. 1755