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The History of Glenfinnan
Things To See & Do In Glenfinnan
Places To Visit In Glenfinnan
St Mary & St Finnan Church
Glenfinnan Railway Station & Station Museum
Glenfinnan is a small settlement situated at the head of Loch Shiel in Lochaber, about thirteen miles (21 km) from Fort William on the A830 to Mallaig. The village looks out across Loch Shiel and is serviced by a small railways station on the West Highland Railway Line. Although the village appears scattered along the main road it is well worth spending some time in the area to explore some of the hidden gems, such as St Mary & St Finnan Church (see below) and, if you really want to make the most of the area you can stay at the Prince's House Hotel which is just a short distance off the main road. Below you will find a brief history of Glenfinnan together with a short list of suggested places to visit.
Glenfinnan is best known for it's association with the Jacobite uprising of 1745. Having arrived from the island of Eriskay, in the Western Isles, in a rather small rowing boat, Charles Edward Stuart , better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie ('the Young Pretender' to the throne), met with members of the Clan MacDonald with whom he stayed while small numbers from other local clans began to appear. After only a few days the enthusiastic Prince decided there was sufficient support and, on the 19th of August 1745, he raised the standard claiming the Scottish & English thrones in the name of his father, James Stuart ('the Old Pretender'). This was the start of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, the Bonnie Prince was to return to the area after his brave attempt ended in failure at the Battle of Culloden a year later.
Following Culloden the Highlands were ruthlessly brought under control while troops searched in vain for Bonnie Prince Charlie (who famously managed to escape to France with the help of Flora MacDonald). To further enable the swift movement of troops the road network was improved with more bridges built. By 1815 the Jacobite threat was seen to no longer exist and Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale built his famous memorial tower looking out across the Loch (see below).
Glenfinnan is a great place to base yourself for a touring vacation (see Prince's House Hotel below). There is plenty to see and do in and around the village but within a reasonably short distance are a number of superb places to visit. Fort William and Glen Nevis is less than half an hour away where you will be able to visit the visitor centre before attempting to reach the summit of Ben Nevis (the highest peak in Great Britain). In the other direction is the wonderful Loch Ness and the city of Inverness and the nearby Ardnamurchan peninsula is the most westerly point on the mainland of the United Kingdom. If you want to take a daytrip to Mull or Oban both are possible in the one day but it is strongly advised that you spend at least a couple of days on the Isle of Mull.
Popular activities in the area include walking, fishing, golf and cycling: Golf: Golfers will be happy to learn that the coastal golf course at Traigh is less than an hour away (45 mins). Although the course is only a 9 hole it is well worth the visit if only to witness the wonderful views across to the Small Isles and Skye. You will find a futher 9 hole course at Spean Bridge but if you desperately need a full 18 hole golf course one can be found in nearby Fort William. Cycling: Like most of Scotland the area around Glenfinnan is superb terrain for mountain biking. There are a few local touring routes but they are more suitable for seasoned cyclists.
St Mary & St Finnan Church
Found in the village of Glenfinnan, St Mary & St Finnan Church, pictured to the right, is a lovely Gothic church which was designed by E Welby Pugin (whose father, Augustus Welby Pugin, designed the House of Commons) and consecrated in 1873. Spectacularly situated high above Loch Shiel the church has the most amazing views across the Loch and the surrounding hills. The church is a memorial chapel to the "MacDonalds of Glenaladale". When Prince Charles Edward Stuart first arrived at Glenfinnan it was with the MacDonalds of Glenaladale that he stayed until he raised his father's standard, in August 1745, signalling the start of the '45 Jacobite Rebellion.
The church is in use and is open for Sunday Mass at 1.00 pm (and at 7 pm on Holydays of obligation) but is open to the public throughout the day (sunrise to sunset ). Inside you will find memorial stones to Bonnie Prince Charlie and to various members of the MacDonald family.
St Mary & St Finnan
Tel: 01397 722251
Parish Priest: Rev Donald E. Campbell
Glenfinnan Railway Station & Station Museum
Glenfinnan railway station lies on the Fort William to Mallaig route on the West Highland Railway. Throughout the summer months the line features steam trains seven days a week in (July and August). The train arrives at 11.00 am, stopping for about 20 minutes, and again at 15.10.
The Jacobite is the steam train which features in the Harry Potter movies. It was built in Glasgow in 1947 and is one of only two surviving B1 Class locomotives. During it's original service it was used in London and on the North Eastern Railway eventually being used by British Railways who retired it in 1986, selling it for scrap. Purchased by a small group of London steam train enthusiasts it was restored at a cost of around £250,000 over a period of 25 years. The Jacobite Steam train is extremely popular (see below) and one of the highlights of visiting the area. While you are at Glenfinnan Station you should visit the Station Museum.
The Station Museum opened in 1988 and is housed in a Grade II listed building and provides interpretative information about the construction of the line together with some of the original equipment. In the summer you can grab a bite to eat in the Dining Car (above right), coach No. 3767, which moved to the site in 1992. Booking is essential.
Glenfinnan Railway Station,
Tel: 01397 722 300
The Glenfinnan Aquaduct is a picturesque viaduct on the West Highland Line near to Glenfinnan which would pass for just a stunning view but for the fact that this patch of land will be easily recognised by fans of the Harry Potter movies. The picture at the top of this page shows Harry Potter's Hogwarts' Express crossing the viaduct. Most noticeable in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets the viaduct and train (Jacobite Steam Train) feature in several other Harry Potters and other films such as Ring of Bright Water
Built between the years 1897–1901 by Sir Robert McAlpine this breathtaking piece of late Victorian construction is actually made out of concrete which was rather a new building material at the time, so new in fact that this was one of the first very large structures to utilise it without reinforcement. The viaduct features a total of 21 arches standing up to 100 feet in height over a curved distance of 416 yards. The Glenfinnan Aquaduct is well worth a visit but it is best experienced by catching the Jacobite Steam Train to Mallaig.
The Glenfinnan Monument stands proud at the head of Loch Shiel, a monument to the memory of the clansmen who fought, and died, in the Jacobite cause and the raising of the standard. Built in 1815, financed by Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale, the design is by the Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham (1776–1855). It is topped by an anonymous Highlander in a traditional kilt. Unfortunately Alexander Macdonald died before the monument was complete.
The memorial has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland since 1938 and today you will find the site has a modern visitor centre which provides a wealth of information, exhibitions, tourist shop and cafe/tea rooms.
Prince's House Hotel
Please note this is a NON-SMOKING hotel
Delightful hotel dating back to 1658, set in magnificent scenery on The Road to the Isles. Fully modernised and refurbished to a high standard. Award-winning 2AA Rosette Scottish cuisine. Friendly, personal service. Prince's House is about 400 yards from Glenfinnan railway station. The building used to serve as the staging post on "The Road to the Isles" and was certain to have been one of the very few existing here when Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the standard marking the start of the 1745 Jacobite rising. Ideally placed Prince's House Hotel is just over thriteen miles from Fort William
See Also: Hotels In Fort William