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Excerpt from "Hail to the Chiefs"
by Charles Maclean
Travel + Leisure Magazine
February 2003

Sir Donald Cameron of Lochiel,
Knight of the Thistle
26th Chief of Clan Cameron

If you want the best of the Highlands in one region, Lochaber has it all.  It's as rich and varied in natural beauty - from the oak woods of Loch Sunart to Mallaig, fishing port and gangway to the Inner Hebrides - as it is in historical associations.  Lochaber is, above all, Bonnie Prince Charlie country, and, from earliest times, the homeland of the Camerons.

At the age of 92, the distinguished scholar, soldier, and businessman Cameron of Lochiel smokes half a pack of cigarettes a day and enjoys walking over his 60,000-acre estate in the Lochaber hills.  A true Highland patriarch, he has lived at Achnacarry House, seat of Clan Cameron, for half a century.

The old castle of Achnacarry was burned down by English troops after Culloden to punish the 19th chief, "the Gentle Lochiel," whose support for Bonnie Prince Charlie influenced other Jacobite clans to join the Rising.  It was 40 years before his great-grandson was allowed to buy back the forfeited Cameron lands and rebuild the house.

Since then, every 5 to 10 years, the Camerons hold a clan gathering at Achnacarry, hosted by Lochiel, with Highland games, music, and a shinty match (a no-holds-barred version of field hockey) against the Frasers.  Camerons the world over are awaiting word on when the next will take place.  "It's the overseas people of Highland origin who keep the clan going," Lochiel says.  "They return to the land of their forefathers and feel reassured to find us here."

A decade ago, inspired and enormously helped by his son, Donald, he turned a cottage on the estate into the Clan Cameron Museum.  Every year it attracts thousands of people, come to bone up on Cameron history and to see Bonnie Prince Charlie's magnificent red-and-gold vest and a reward poster that put a 30,000 bounty on his head.

Lochiel encourages visitors to roam his estate in the footsteps of the fugitive prince.  He recommends his own favorite spot above Loch Arkaig, a half-mile hike from Achnacarry, for its stunning wildness, its almost eerie sense of isolation.  On the far shore of the loch you can scramble up to the cave where Bonnie Prince Charlie sheltered, or search for his gold.  Buried for safekeeping by the Gentle Lochiel's brother somewhere among the Lochaber hills, it has yet to be recovered.

CAMERON TERRITORY

Lochaber
(www.host.co.uk)

STAY AT Inverlochy Castle Hotel & Restaurant, Torlundy, Fort William; 888/424-0106 or 44-1397/702-177; www.inverlochycastlehotel.com; doubles from $518.

Old Pines, Spean Bridge, Fort William; 44-1397/712-324; www.oldpines.co.uk; doubles from $251, including five-course dinner and full breakfast.

EAT AT The hotels above.  Pier House Hotel, Port Appin, Argyll; 44-1631/730-302; www.pierhousehotel.co.uk; dinner for two $94.

CHECK OUT Clan Cameron Museum, Achnacarry, Spean Bridge; 44-1397/172-480.  West Highland Museum, Cameron Square, Fort William; 44-1397/702-169.  The Commando Memorial, Achnacarry, Spean Bridge.  The Jacobite steam train that journeys in summer from Fort William to Mallaig (44-1463/239-026; www.westcoastrailway.co.uk).  This is the very locomotive that delivers students to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies.  The walking path along the Caledonian Canal.

CLAN CAMERON WEB SITE www.clan-cameron.org