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Stories from around Fort Augustus

Kings House Inn

Reputedly the oldest property in Fort Augustus, although repaired and renovated, the walls are substantially the same as when it was first built.
A “Kings House” which were built every 10 miles along general Wades Roads from 1724 as Inns and Taverns.

The last chief of Glengarry had a grudge against a member of the Clan who was acting as doctor, Doctor Cranachan in the Fort, and on a market day came with his following of five or six stout clansmen to seek vengeance.
After generous treatment at the hands of the junior chief, these devoted followers set upon Doctor Cranachan with clubs and bludgeons as he passed the Inn. But the doctor, besides being a a person who fights with the fists, was an extraordinarily powerful man, and placing his back against the low wall opposite, defied the united efforts of the band till at last one of them climbed up the bank behind and showered down upon his head a savage hail of blows, with the loaded handle of a heavy riding crop.

The Doctor Cranachan was stunned, but in falling, caught the pony tail of one of the leaders of the troop, and held it with so firm a grasp that the man was only freed by his brother severing the pony tail with his knife. Luckily the alarm had been raised, and the guard of the Fort turned out in time to save the doctor,s life.

Alas! For Glengarry, the arm of the law, though impotent enough, was longer than fifty years before,
and the Chief had to pay 2000 (Scots) as compensation for this escapade truly an enormous sum in those days for a case of mere assault and battery.

At the bottom of the brae, the dilapidated building overgrown with ivy, has recently figured in the Royal Academy as the subject of a picture by a well-known artist, and both this and the unpretentious half-timbered cottage opposite were for long the residence of close relations of Sir Robert Peel.

The building of the canal raised the ground level of the nearby properties, Kings Inn was originally a two storey building up until the early 20th century. Now the floor levels have been changed and you will notice it is now a one and a half storey property.

Distance From Abbey Cottage 65 Yards / 60 Metres

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  • Old Kings Inn Fort Augustus
  • Kings Inn Fort Augustus

A Cottage in Fort Augustus

Bean a Phriosan or the Prisoners Landlady

This worthy dame had a large empty cellar under the kitchen floor, into which she used to pop all the moneyed drovers who chanced to pass the way.

Here she plied them with the best of whiskey, but none might leave the cellar untill he had spent the last penny he had possessed.

The charms of this fair Circe must have proved very seductive to the droving fraternity, as she carried on her practices with impunity till a comparatively recent date.

Distance From Abbey Cottage 288 Yards / 263 Metres

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Dowager Lady Lovat and the bell of Kilichuiman

AT the end of May, 1559, the two ladies dowager arrived at Kilichuiman now Fort Augustus by boat on Loch-Ness.

The Lady Dowager Janet Ross expressed a great desire to see the field at Lochy, where her husband was slain in the "Battle of the Shirts”. Her son immediately gathered together 100 men of a convoy, and accompanied his mother to the field.

"After their return, the ladies stayed in the Fort at Kilichuiman, before leaving the ladies ordered the bell of Kilichuiman to be put in to their boat, later to be set up in Glenconventh near Beauly.

Near the middle of the loch they were overtaken by a violent storm, they could neither sail nor row. One of the men recommended throwing the bell into the loch, as they could not carry it back.

This was done, and there presently followed calm and the ladies got safe to shore.

From then on the waters of Loch Ness or more precisely, the water below where the bell was cast became medicinal. Superstitious people call it wine, and send it from a great distance to their cattle when they are sick."

Distance From Abbey Cottage 437 Yards / 400 Metres

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Portrait of Ann Grant - Highland Folk Museum

Mrs Grants Letters from the mountains

Miss Ann MacVicar, moved to Fort Augustus on 25th May 1773 when her father Duncan MacVicar took up his new post as Barrack Master.

While she was here she wrote letters to her friends which were later published as “Letters from the mountains” the Correspondence with her Friends between the Years 1773 and 1803.

On 15th June 1773 Ann wrote of Fort Augustus

LETTER XIX.
TO MISS REID.
Fort Augustus, June 15, 1773.

I WILL describe this place to you, if I can. It is a miniature of New-York as to situation, and upon that you have often heard me descant; only this is on a very small scale.

The village, and remains of the old fort, stand on a little rising ground above the River Oich, a sweet wild murmuring stream, that comes down on the north side from Loch Oich and Glengarry, on the south side, the Tarff steals through deep wooded glens from the Corrieyairack, and wanders, at length, through a meadow low valley, bounded by very steep woody bites, on the garrison side, and a mountain, gentle in its ascent, verdant and cultivated half-way up, on the other, surrounded by rugged rocks, that seem to frown sullenly on the sweet scenes below.

The fort stands on the brink of the loch, near the centre, and the River Oich and River Tarff discharge their pure streams into it on each side. Next to the loch, the Governor has created a most picturesque shrubbery and garden in the dry ditch that surrounds the fort, and has covered the wall with fruit trees, and hid the masked battery with laurels.

That beautiful spot the glacis, is almost an island, the village looks down on it from the west, on the north and south it is enclosed by the River Tarff and River Oich, a bridge crossing each, parallel with the fort, on the east, Loch Ness forms a noble boundary, with its pier, and solitary vessel, which the vastness of the surrounding objects diminishes to a toy.

The fort too appears the prettiest little thing you can imagine. You would suppose some old veteran had built himself a house with a ditch and drawbridge, to remind him of his past exploits. I have not been in it yet, but the barracks form the walls, and they are so white and clean-looking, and the bastions so green and rural, and it is so fancifully planted round with the mountain-ash, you would think the god of seasons Vertumnus commanded here, and had garrisoned the fort with nymphs.

The loch, which opens in a long vista below, reflects this fairy fortress, and still more rural scene, a little to the north, on long fantastic-looking point, at the junction of the River Oich with the loch, stands my father,s house, surrounded with tall ash-trees and gardens. Very near it is that of the commander of this solitary vessel. The serene grandeur of this loch in calm is not be described.

Bold, steep mountains rise on the south side, little retiring bays and sloping woods give variety to the north, and the reflection is so fine, nothing interrupts it for twenty-four miles, at the end of which the loch discharges, through the short rapid river Ness, into the Murray Firth. The immediate scene, in short, is tranquil and beautiful, while the surrounding objects are all rude and majestic.

About half a mile up the smiling meads that border the River Tarff, is the village burying-ground, a place of old renown, where many a soldier sleeps to wake no more.

As I stood at the door in the afternoon, contemplating the scene I have tried to describe, cannon, fired by the fort, and answered by the vessel, announced an approaching funeral. There was a soft shower, or rather heavy mist, which made everything look fresh, but sad. Wreaths of thin clouds came down on the mountains, as if they too wore the veil of sorrow.

The procession came out with muffled drums, and fifes playing a dead march. A fine youth, intimate with the deceased, and much about his age, walked as chief mourner, and seemed greatly affected, so was every creature. You can,t think how touching it was to see a funeral, where every individual seemed sunk in the deepest sorrow. The mournful music, echoed by the rocks, followed the winding of the River Tarff till they reached the grave. I was chilled when the solemn pause ensued, and, when the discharge of muskets announced the close of the ceremony, I felt as if I were suddenly left alone, such is the effect of scenery and music.

Not that entirely, either; but, from having heard, besides, everyone in the place agitated by hopes and fears about the deceased ever since we came here. He was the only son of a person in some employment about the royal household. A strong passion for a military life induced him to enter the regiment, quartered here last winter, as ensign. The superior officer, to whose charge he was entrusted, leaving the place the day before we came, his prodigy went to see him over Corrieyairack.

The captain, on parting with his young friend, discharged his musket, forgetting it had small shot in it, the young man,s knee was shattered, he was carried back, and the amputation found necessary seemed, at first, successful. Sunday night, however, when all was thought secure, the bandages loosened, and he bled to death. He was so much beloved and pitied, that the operation and progress of the cure was every one,s theme. I heard nothing through my vocal floor, but how ensign Taafe was, and what ensign Taafe said, and eulogiums, and regrets. Nobody is so lamented in town, because there people do not think long on any one thing. Adieu. Night will seem long and dismal, but I can write no more.

In 1779 Ann marries Rev James Grant minister of Laggon, she first met James when he filled the office of Chaplin at the Fort.

Ann goes onto write many novels, her most famous “Memoirs of an American lady”.

Distance From Abbey Cottage 451 Yards / 412 Metres

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The Black MacKintosh

It is said that shortly after the opening of the railway, an English lady who had lost her waterproof, asked a porter at the pier if he had seen a black mackintosh anywhere about. “Na, Na," was the brusque response,” there,s na Black Mackintoshes here; we,re a, Red Frasers on this side of the water."

Distance From Abbey Cottage 1127 Yards / 1.0 KM

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Cherry Island Tale of Love

Known in Gaelic as Eilean Mhurich, Maurice,s Islet.

There is a romantic story in connection with the place which, in its main outline, is historically true, though conflicting traditions render the details somewhat obscure. The island in question is artificial, the wooden piles on which it was constructed being easily discernible.

It was built by the Frasers as a fort, and used to be considerably larger, but during the formation of the canal, Loch Ness was raised nine feet, so much of the fort is now beneath the water.

According to the Fraser tradition the tale runs as follows : A chieftain of Glengarry fell madly in love with Lovat,s daughter, and his affections were reciprocated, but owing to a deadly feud between the clans, the Fraser Chief would not hear of an alliance.

One day the lady came to Kilcumein and put up in the castle. News of her arrival having been noised abroad, Glengarry, with his "tail," which of course included the inevitable piper, hastened to press his suit.

When they arrived at the garden opposite the island, the lady implored the keeper of the castle to let them in, and after a brief parley, he consented to admit Glengarry, but without his men.

The Chief hastily cast himself into the water and swam out to the door. Here he found the steps covered with the skin of a newly-killed sheep the remains of the Fraser banquet turned inside out.

Whilst he was endeavouring to scramble out of the water over the slippery hide, one of the, Frasers, thinking to curry favour with his master, treacherously stabbed him in the back. This was the signal for the neighbouring folk to fall upon the ill-fated chieftain,s retainers, seven of whom were slain.

Glengarry,s mutilated body was flung into the Inchnacardoch burn, where it was subsequently found and taken to Auchterawe. The corpses of his seven followers were buried in the green garden, where the outlines of their graves may be traced.

Unfortunately, documentary evidence does not make for the truthfulness of this tale. Not merely was Glengarry at this time married and blessed with a
family, but the lady in question was a close relative of his own.

The Macdonald version is more probable, that Glengarry was invited down to discuss a disputed point with regard to some lands and treacherously slain.

This much is certain that the Chief was done to death, and in punishment for the crime, the king condemned Lovat to forfeit all the lands from " Alt na Criche," the burn on the east of Cherry Island, to Auchterawe, whilst
the descendants of Thomas Fraser who struck the treacherous blow are still numerous in the district, and are known to this day as " Sliochd Thomais nam Murt" or the "Off-spring of Thomas the Murderer.

"The original pathway to the castle started from a point due north of the island, two stones at the margin of the loch mark its commencement, and on a clear day, in a boat, those interested in such things may trace its course beneath the waters of the lake.

Distance From Abbey Cottage 1441 Yards / 1.3 KM

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Corries Cave

This is a curious chasm in the hill-side on the
south of the loch just beyond Glendoe shooting lodge.

Alexander Macdonald nicknamed Corrie, like many another Highland worthy, was a famous sheep-stealer, thief and cattle-lifter. Many exploits have no doubt been fathered on him for which he was in no way responsible, but there is one authentic act of his which has caused the association of this cave with his name the attempt upon the life of the Duke of Cumberland.

Distance From Abbey Cottage 1.5 miles / 2.4 KM

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