Glenfinnan Monument remembers those lost in the Jacobite cause

In the early afternoon of 19 August 1745 a young man stepped from a small rowing boat onto the shore of Loch Shiel at Glenfinnan and set in motion a chain of events which changed the world.

Glenfinnan Monument at the head of Loch Shiel in Lochaber

Photograph by: Paul Tomkins/VisitScotlandGlenfinnan Monument at the head of Loch Shiel

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, forever known in folklore as “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, had arrived in Scotland to begin the catastrophic 1745 rebellion which ultimately led to the decimation of the Highlands and scattering of Scots around the world.

At first the Young Pretender was met by just a small group of around 200 MacDonalds but by the end of the day they were joined by some 1,000 men of the Clan Cameron from Achnacarry, closely followed by about 300 Macdonnells and MacPhees.

Encouraged by the response to his call to arms the Prince climbed a small hill overlooking the north end of the loch and raised the Royal Standard to stake his family’s claim to the British throne.

Despite an initial series of military successes the dream was shattered within a year at Culloden and the Highland way of life changed for ever.

The Prince returned to the area again during his daring escape from the Duke of Cumberland’s redcoats. On 20 September 1746 he boarded a French frigate, which had navigated up the loch close to where he had landed just a few months earlier, and sailed into exile and legend.

Bonnie Prince Charlie Entering the Ballroom at Holyroodhouse by John Pettie

Bonnie Prince Charlie by John Pettie

Today, an impressive 60ft (18m) memorial tower commemorates the raising of the standard. It was commissioned by Alexander Macdonald of Glendale and designed by renowned architect James Gillespie Graham in 1815, some 70 years after the event when the Jacobite cause was no longer a political threat to the British government.

About 20 years later it was topped with the statue of an anonymous highlander and since 1938 the Glenfinnan Monument has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.

Every year thousands of visitors flock to the site which sparked one of the most bloody periods in Scottish history which has been romanticised in books and on film.

There is a dedicated visitor centre providing information and a permanent exhibition about the Prince’s campaign from Glenfinnan to Derby and back to the final defeat at Culloden.