The iconic Glenfinnan Monument stands at the head of Loch Shiel, framed by the hills and woods of Moidart, Ardgour and Lochaber. The Monument was erected in 1815 by Alexander MacDonald of Glenaladale as a tribute to the loyal Jacobites who rallied behind Bonnie Prince Charlie in his attempt to regain the British crown for the Stuarts in the 1745 uprising.
Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his Standard (a banner of red and white silk, reputed to have been sewn by the women of nearby Dalilea) at Glenfinnan on 19th August 1745 with the loyal support of Highland chiefs and clans of MacDonalds (including Clanranald, Morar and Keppoch) and Camerons of Lochiel and the ‘Seven Men of Moidart’. The raising of the Standard marked support for the declaration of 1743 proclaiming Charles’s father as James VIII as the King of Scotland, England and Ireland and Charles Edward Stuart as his prince regent.
This ceremony took place on a rocky knoll, 300 metres north of the Monument in the hills behind Glenfinnan Church. An inscription carved into the rock marks the spot and is identified by The Flag of Scotland (Saint Andrew’s Cross).
The Monument is built of rubble masonry, circular with a basal diameter of 4 metres and extending to a height of 18.3 metres. Architectural features include a Tudor Gothic doorway, a spiral stairway, narrow slit windows, an external platform and the statue of a Highlander (the latter added in 1830). It was originally enclosed by a low wall, which was later replaced by a more ornate, octagonal faceted perimeter wall. The tower was originally joined to a two-storey bothy ( the ‘shooting box’); this was later removed by Angus MacDonald, the son of the original patron of the Monument during restoration work.
The perimeter wall supports three cast iron commemorative panels in parallel scripts of Gaelic, Latin and English on the outside and a marble panel on the inside. The marble panel commemorates those lost in the Jacobite Cause and the patron of the Monument, Alexander MacDonald, who died in the year of its completion The perimeter wall encloses a small open space with benches around the edges and an interesting collection of emblematic plants representing the supporting clans. Clan plants were worn as badges on bonnets to identify Clan affiliation. A white rose was reputed to have been picked by Bonnie Prince Charles at Fassfern House on the banks o Loch Eil and pinned to his blue bonnet. The white cockade (a knotted white ribbon or cloth) became a symbol of allegiance to the Jacobite cause.
If you are able bodied, it is well worth climbing to the top of the Monument, but note that he tower is described as unsuitable for the infirmed and those with a poor sense of balance. Considerable care is required in climbing the stone, spirally arranged, uneven steps and the platform is entered through a small open hatch.
The views are spectacular from the platform, with views across Loch Shiel and the surrounding hills to the west, to the Lochaber hills and Glenfinnan Viaduct to the east, to the pine forest and hills of Ardgour to the south and to St Finnan’s Church and the Glenfinnan Hotel to the north. The statute of the Highlander (possible representing Bonnie Prince Charlie) is impressive in its full Highland dress and encrusted with yellow, brown, green and oranges crustiose lichens. The Highland dress and tartan was later to be outlawed on account of its affiliation with the 1745 Uprising.
The National Trust for Scotland Visitor Centre contains a gift shop, café and an exhibition centre. The latter contains various interpretation boards detailing the Stuarts claim to fame, the life of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the 1745 Uprising. There are some interactive displays outlining the key events and places in the life of Bonnie Prince Charlie and in the 1745 Uprising.
There is also a moving audio presentation on the events of 19th August 1745 as the Prince arrives by row boat at Glenfinnan and awaits anxiously for the arrival of support from the Highlanders.
The scene of the Raising of the Standard on 19th August 1745 is depicted in a large, glass-cased diorama.
Mounted on the wall there is an original basket hilted sword and replicate shield (targe) and dagger (dirk).
There is also a recording of a pipe composition by Hugh MacCallum to commemorate the 250 anniversary of the Raising of the Standard, composed in 1995.
The National Trust of Scotland Visitor Centre and Monument provide an interesting, evocative and thought-provoking context to this historically important event that was to have major repercussions for the kingly aspiration of the Stuarts and on the day to day life of the Highlanders.
It is well worth a visit. There is an admission charge.