Old Inverlochy Castle
After our visit to Spean Bridge Commando Memorial, we headed south to Fort William. It was amazing how much the town had changed since we was last here, 13 years ago. Old Inverlochy Castle was our destination, a 13th-century medieval castle on the shores of the River Lochy.
Pulling into the car park, my wife's eyes lit up at the nearby Highland Soap Company shop, we had a wee look in there first before heading over to the ruin of Old Inverlochy Castle.
We couldn't believe our bad luck, Drumin Castle the day before had been closed, and today so was Old Inverlochy Castle. The entire site was fenced off with metal railings, I wonder if the storms we had earlier in the year have damaged many of these ancient castles (Auchindoun Castle was also closed when we visited a few weeks earlier).
Castle layout / design
Despite the fence, we could still get a good view of this very classic-looking castle, with its square design with four large circular corner towers. Although the moat is long gone, the obvious signs of man-made earthworks are apparent, and the ground squelched underfoot as we gingerly made our way around, trying to avoid the mud.
Old Inverlochy Castle is famous for being left unaltered since before the Scottish Wars of Independence. The size and thickness of the round towers are impressive, with only one still being at its original height - The Comyn Tower - standing at 7.6 m / 25 ft high. The curtain wall joining each tower is 3 metres thick and is a great example of castellated and domestic architecture in Scottish castles.
The castle had two entrances, one from the River Lochy on the northwest side, a "Watergate" and a land bridge from the south east over the moat. The quadrangular courtyard would have originally included a Great Hall at the north west corner, next to Comyn's tower which would have been the castle's primary keep. Timber buildings for stables and workshops also would have filled this protected inner area of the castle.
The most important inhabitants would have resided in the accommodations provided in each of the towers.
Old Inverlochy Castle history
Old Inverlochy Castle was an important focal point in Scottish history, with the first and second battles of Inverlochy. Here is a brief history of these fantastic ruins.
1270s - Inverlochy Castle was built by John Comyn who was the Lord of Badenoch and Lochaber, and Chief of the powerful Clan Comyn. Archaeological evidencepoints to a much earlier Pictish fort and settlement that existed here prior to the castle which was destroyed by Viking invaders. John Comyn was a rival to Robert the Bruce for the Scottish crown. The Comyn family also built Castle Roy near Nethy Bridge.
1307 - Robert the Bruce won the Scottish throne in 1306, the following year he successfully captured Inverlochy Castle and burned it. The ruined castle was left empty for the next 120 years.
1431 - The castle came into the ownership of Alexander Macdonald, Lord of the Isles when his men successfully defeated the larger army of King James I at the first Battle of Inverlochy.
1505 - King James IV charges Alexander Gordon, the 3rd Earl of Huntly with the repair of the castle to be used as a garrison for the Royal army. William Gordon his brother became the master of Inverlochy but was killed in a battle at Flodden.
1645 - James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose attacked Inverlochy Castle during the Scottish Civil Wars (1642-1649). The royalist army won via a surprise attack by traversing the mountains. This second Battle of Inverlochy on the 2nd of February 1645 saw the deaths of 1300 Clan Campbell defenders.
In the years proceeding this historic battle, the castle was abandoned for a new wooden fort built by Oliver Cromwell, located nearer to the mouth of River Lochy and Loch Linnhe. A stone fort soon replaced this and was named after King William III. The modern town of Fort William gets its name from this new fort.
1873 - Lord Abinger orders repairs to the castle, including restoration of loops and battlements, for the arrival of Queen Victoria. Unfortunately, the Queen was not impressed with the ruin, complaining "There is little left of it to see".
Old Inverlochy Castle is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.
The castle is positioned at the western end of Great Glen, and in conjunction with the River Lochy made it a supremely strategic location. Whoever controlled this castle controlled a vast area in western Scotland.
The modern town of Fort William is an absolutely fantastic base to see some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. Known as the "Outdoor Capital of the UK" many activities are available including hiking, skiing and nature trails.
The Jacobite steam train is extremely popular with tourists, not only because it is a beautiful route through the Scottish countryside, but also for featuring in the Harry Potter film franchise as the Hogwarts Express!
Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Britain also exists a short distance from Fort William.
Inverlochy Castle Hotel
Although they share a similar name, the hotel is not part of the medieval castle. Inverlochy Castle Hotel lies to the east and was built in 1863 by William Scarlett, 3rd Baron Abinger.
Queen Victoria famously spent a week at the mansion in 1873, commenting "I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot".
Joseph Hobbs the Canadian owner of the Ben Nevis Distillery purchased the house in 1944, but his daughter-in-law is credited with the creation of the stunning hotel that exists today. It was voted #17 for the best hotel in Europe in 2001.
A controlling share was recently bought by Mr King Chong Chai, a Malaysian businessman.
Historic Environment Scotland
The castle today is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, a Scottish charity dedicated to the many ancient buildings throughout Scotland.
How old is Inverlochy Castle?
Old Inverlochy Castle is about 750 years old.
Nearby attractions at Old Inverlochy Castle
Road to the Isles
Clan Cameron Museum
West Highland Museum
Glencoe, and the walk to Ralston Cairn.
Jacobite Steam Train
How to get to Old Inverlochy Castle
Firstly, be aware that Old Inverlochy Castle and Inverlochy Castle Hotel are two completely different places, it can be confusing seeing the signs for both along the same stretch of road leading into Fort William.
We arrived from the north along the A82, just after the Esso garage we saw the familiar brown tourist sign for a right turn to the castle. A short distance along this road you will see another brown sign and a right turn taking you across a small bridge. The south western end of the castle can be seen directly ahead, but follow the road to the right, there is a large car park at the Highland Soap Company building.
Despite the Castle being closed for repairs when we visited, it was still a nice little walk around the perimeter of this impressive-looking castle ruin. We will return one day when the castle has reopened and I will update this article with some internal images.
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25th of September 2022 @ 13:32:09
I am from South Africa and have a painting of the Castle painted by W Norton. Unfortunately not dated. Beautifull castle though