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The ancestral home to the modern (post 1655) Chiefs of Clan Cameron.  The name "Achnacarry" is from the Gaelic named "field (achadh) of the (na) fish-trap/weir (caraidh)."  It is located on the isthmus between Loch Lochy and Loch Arkaig, where Arkaig's waters run out into the south end of Lochy.


Old Achnacarry:

Ewen "Eoghainn MacAilein" Cameron, XIII Chief of Clan Cameron, built the highly disputed Tor Castle (said to have been on Clan Mackintosh lands) in the early 16th century.  Tor Castle would remain the seat of Lochiel until demolished by his great-great-great grandson, Sir Ewen "Dubh" Cameron, XVII Chief.

Sir Ewen wanted a "more convenient" house, which was further removed from Clan Mackintosh, Clan Campbell and the Cromwellian garrison of Inverlochy.  He built Achnacarry somewhere around 1655.  One of the few remaining descriptions relate that Lochiel's seat was "a large house, all built of fir-planks, the handsomest of that kind in Britain."  Sir Ewen's Bard described the home somewhere around 1663 in song as "The generous house of feasting...Pillared hall of princes...Where wine goes round freely in gleaming glasses...Music resounding under its rafters."  Others portrayed "old" Achnacarry as a "man's home," with the feel and look of a grand hunting lodge amidst the West Highlands.

With Sir Ewen's death in the early 18th century his son John became chief of the clan, soon after which his son, Donald would obtain Achnacarry when John went into exile in France after the first Jacobite Uprising.

From Donald Cameron ("The Gentle Lochiel") XIX Chief we find the the best description of the grounds of Achnacarry.  In his marriage contract a requirement was placed in which Lochiel had to build his wife "a the value of 100 pounds sterling at least, with gardens, office houses [privies], lands, other conveniencys."  Donald was planting a long line of beech trees near the banks of the River Arkaig when word of "Bonnie Prince Charlie's" landing arrived in would be the last landscaping done at Achnacarry for years to come.

With the Jacobite army's defeat at the Battle of Culloden the clans retreated into the Highlands, with Donald taking the lead in re-grouping them.  After this last attempt at resistance failed, he and his men took to the mountains.  On May 28th, 1746, Donald watched as 320 men of Bligh's Regiment, under the command of Lt. Colonel Edward Cornwallis and a "body" of Munros, under the command of Munro of Culcairn, burnt Achnacarry to the ground.  Many valued relics and personal possessions were relocated prior, but the great fir-planked "old" Achnacarry was left in ashes.

New Achnacarry:

In 1802 Achnacarry, which had spent the last fifty or so years in ruin, was rebuilt under Donald Cameron, XXII Chief of Clan Cameron as a "Scottish Baronial" style home (it is also commonly referred to as a castle.) In the years after the Uprising Lochiel's descendants had slowly made their way back to the UK, in time paying a huge fine to the Hanoverian government to regain the estates of their ancestors.  This new "mansion house" was rebuilt after a design by the distinguished architect James Gillespie (Graham.)  Its building contractor was Robert Ferguson.  This was a gradual project, which had lengthy periods during which construction was called to a halt altogether.  In order to arrange for its modern construction, the road from Gairlochy to Achnacarry was undertaken by Lochiel in 1809.  Before that time it was not much more than a well worn rural path.  

While visiting Achnacarry in 1837 a Joseph Mitchell, C.E., of Inverness recorded these notes on the residence of Lochiel (now Donald Cameron, XXIII Chief):  "We went through the rooms.  The house had been built some thirty-five years previously, and was all but finished when Lochiel's father became disgusted with the place, left it, and never returned.  We found that the plaster ornaments of the ceiling lay all that time on the floor ready to be fixed, and the doors of the rooms, of beautiful Highland pine, grown brown with age, leaned against the wall ready to be screwed on.  They had remained in this position for thirty-five years.  The present year [1837] Lochiel arranged to have the house completed, which has been done, and is now a handsome residence worthy of the chief..."

During September 1873 Queen Victoria visited Achnacarry, and portions of the estate with Lochiel.  A highlight of this jaunt was when the Queen accompanied the Cameron Chief on a small steamer tour of Loch Arkaig, where she took advantage of the scenery and created some sketches.

In August of 1928 Achnacarry was the chosen secret location for a "peace conference" between the leaders of the free world's oil industry.  Lengthy price wars and the threatening flow of Russian oil had drawn these men together to come to terms in an isolated and relaxing setting.  Their two weeks of discussion and hunting among Lochiel's estate resulted in an impressive seventeen page document that was known as the "Pool Association." Later it became better known as the "As-Is" or "Achnacarry Agreement."  In it these men of industry attempted to solve the era's problem of overproduction with quotas in various world markets.

During World War Two (specifically, from 1942 to 1945) Lochiel vacated Achnacarry, handing it over to the British military.  As many as 25,000 English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, French, Belgian, American, Dutch and Norwegian soldiers would undergo commando "basic training" there.  Achnacarry was known to the soldiers as "Castle Commando."  "Here, in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, fighting men from nearly every land underwent a period of training designed to stretch human stamina to the utmost.  Here, after weeks in which they marveled at how much their own bodies could stand, they finally qualified for the honor of wearing green berets.  They became Commandos." Achnacarry itself was "wounded in action" during the commando's visit; on November 5, 1943 a fire broke out, gutting its entire center and roof.  The roof would be replaced in tin by the military and Lochiel would be somewhat compensated for the loss.  Nevertheless, Achnacarry experienced its second fire at the hands of the British military, this time the seat of Cameron of Lochiel would fortunately manage to survive.

Achnacarry continues to be, in the words of one of the British Commandos himself, "the spiritual headquarters of the Clan Cameron."  During August of 2001 Colonel Sir Donald H. Cameron of Lochiel, XXVI Chief of Clan Cameron (1910-2004) and Lady Margaret  welcomed clansfolk from throughout the world to the latest International Gathering of Clan Cameron at Achnacarry.  When Camerons feel the urge to "come home" their path inevitably leads them to Achnacarry.

The Route to Achnacarry

Beginning in Fort William follow the A82 north into Spean Bridge.  In this small village, immediately after crossing the River Spean, the A82 branches off to the left and rises steeply.  Follow this route, still on the A82, until arriving at the Commando Memorial, above Spean Bridge.
At this time leave the A82 and take the only other road possible, the B8004, to the north-west.  This branch road leads to Mucomir and Gairlochy.  Two miles along the waters of Loch Lochy flow through a scenic channel, cut when the Caledonian Canal was constructed.
Passing over the channel at Mucomir, proceed along the branch road until crossing the Caledonian Canal.  While these lands are rich with Cameron history, the canal in this area is of interest.  The lands here were originally owned by Lochiel, over two hundred years ago.
After crossing the Caledonian Canal a fork in the road presents itself.  To the left is a scenic drive along the high ground above the Canal, ending at Banavie.  The road to Achnacarry requires that visitors bear to the right, onto B8005.  A small sign at the fork directs visitors towards the Clan Cameron Museum.
This road leads north toward a final destination of Achnacarry and Loch Arkaig.  Nevertheless, the breathtaking views of Loch Lochy on the right are worth pulling off the road to take in.
Within a mile or so a sign will be seen on the left: "Clan Cameron Museum."  This is the route to Achnacarry.  Drivers must slow their approach at this time, as to not miss the grand entrance to the Lochiel Estate.

Enter through

The gates to Achnacarry

While the gates are shown closed above, they are usually open to visitors.  Upon entering through there is a winding, wooded drive.  It is narrow - drivers should be alert for oncoming traffic.  After a few minutes a clearing appears, with the Clan Cameron Museum on the left.
Visitors are encouraged to park in the Clan Cameron Museum lot.  After paying a visit to this fine institution a brief stroll down the road (continuing in the same direction past the museum) will yield a beautiful view of the destination of Camerons from throughout the globe


Home to the Camerons of Lochiel and the heart of the Cameron ancestral lands.