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
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.
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;
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