Old Inverlochy Castle is strategically situated at the south-western end of the Great Glen just north of Fort William on the banks of the River Lochy in Lochaber. The castle is thought to have been built on the site of an ancient Pictish fortress city. The castle dates from the 13th century and served as a feudal strong hold built by the Comyn of Badenoch It was originally constructed in the form of a thick mass masonry (stone and lime) large quadrangular courtyard, approximately 27 metres across, with four three-story round corner towers. The sloping ramparts were thought to be up to 9 metres high and the castle was defended by a moat on three sides and the River Lochy. There was also a parapet at the top of the fortification to protect the wall-walk.
The western tower (Comyn’s Tower), the largest of the towers was in excess of 15 feet the largest. Comyns’s tower provided accommodation, private chambers, storage and defence (serving as the donjon/keep). The kitchen and public buildings, such as the Great Hall, as well as a bake-house and stables ,were located within the courtyard. It now remains as an impressive ruin that bears testament to the former power of ancient families, kingly ambition and clan rivalries.
In 1306, Comyn was murdered on the high altar by Robert the Bruce, in the latter’s successful bid for kingship, in the Kirk (Church) of Greyfriars, in Dumfries. An event that heralded the stripping of the land and properties from the Comyn family after only 28 years, with Robert the Bruce granting the castle to his supporters, the MacDonalds. It was later granted to the Earl of Huntly by King James IV.
Old Inverlochy Castle in Lochaber later became the site of two major battles in 1431 and 1645. In the battle of 1431, the Earl of Mar and Caithness headed the royalist cause against the Highlanders, lead by Donald Balloch and Alasdair Carrach. The Highlanders inflicted a costly defeat on the Royalists and subsequently sacked and pillaged the lands of Clan Cameron and other clans that supported the Royalists.
In 1645, the castle became the focal point of Scottish Civil Wars, where a Royalist army, under the command of Marquis of Montrose, led a successful surprise attack on Earl of Argylls’ men camped at Inverlochy, the latter army losing over a thousand men.
In the 19th century, the ownership of Old Inverlochy Castle was acquired by the Scarlett family, who later built the new Inverlochy Castle, before passing the care of Old Inverlochy Castle onto Historic Scotland.
The castle is well worth a visit to take in the atmosphere of this once impressive castle. There are three informative interpretation boards on site, one focussing on the external structure of the castle, another on the public and private facilities offered by the Castle and another on key events in the history of the castle.
You can either drive directly to the site or take a circular walk from the site of the Old Fort in Fort William along the banks of the River Lochy to the castle.
A great way to spend a few hours whilst visiting Fort William and its environs.