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Achnacarry Castle

Castle (Medieval), Military Camp (Second World War)

Site Name Achnacarry Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval), Military Camp (Second World War)

Alternative Name(s) Achnacarry House

Canmore ID 23732

Site Number NN18NE 2

NGR NN 1750 8797

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Kilmallie
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Lochaber
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Archaeology Notes

NN18NE 2 1750 8797

(NN 1740 8794) Achnacarry House (NR)

(Remains of)

OS 6"map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., (1903).

See also NN18NE 9.

The first castle at Achnacarry was built towards the end of the 17th century by Sir Ewan Cameron, 17th chief, to which he removed from Tor Castle. (NN17NW 2) It was burned by the Hanoverian soldiers after Culloden. Lord Macaulay described it as "a large pile built entirely of fir wood and considered in the Highlands a superb palace", but there is reason to doubt that it was composed entirely of wood as the ruin of a stone building near the stables of the present Achnacarry Castle is reputed to be part of the old castle. The present Lochiel, K.T., however, considers these ruins to be earlier than this as they have turned the beech avenue, planted shortly before Culloden, slightly out of line, and that the site of the 17th century Achnacarry Castle was elsewhere and its site has disappeared entirely, any stone it may have possessed in its construction having been taken away and re-used (MacCulloch 1938).

The present castle is an imposing square structure, in the modern castellated style (Anderson 1834), of early 19th century date (MacCulloch 1938).

G Anderson 1834; D B MacCulloch 1938.

The remains of Achnacarry House, 140.0m west of the present mansion, consist solely of an ivy-covered chimney, built of dressed stone of mixed sizes, well mortared together. It is in good condition and shows signs of having been restored and rebuilt in part. It measures 4.0m by 1.3m, and is about 8.0m in height.

From the arrangement of the four fireplaces, each with a separate flue, it can be seen that the chimney was centrally placed, the building extending to NE and SW of it, of two storeys, and probably of timber construction. The chimney is complete in itself showing no evidence of adjoining walls, but in the SE end is a small wooden beam to which a timber frame may have been secured.

One of the fireplaces had a wooden lintel.

The avenue of trees would appear to lead directly up to the site of the house and no further and no turn in the line could be observed.

Visited by OS (A S P), 12 July 1961.

The remains of Achnacarry House, as described by Phillips, are at NN 1750 8797.

Visited by OS(NKB) 11 May 1970.


Archaeological Evaluation (8 May 2014 - 9 May 2014)

NN 1776 8786 (centred on) An evaluation of two WW2 era shooting butts at the former Commando Basic Training Camp was undertaken 8–9 May 2014, in coordination with Lochaber Archaeological Society, as part of a project to highlight the pivotal role that the estate and other parts of Lochaber played in the wartime training of 25,000 elite troops. Prior to the

evaluation, the Lochaber Archaeological Society had been conducting a systematic metal detector survey of the camp grounds.

The pair of mounds had been built against the NW-facing wall of the walled garden at Achnacarry Castle (NN18NE 9.03), forming part of the Commando training grounds. A slot trench was excavated through one mound. This aimed to prove that extensive bullet marks in the wall above the mounds marked the location of firing practice on the camp. The excavation, which uncovered substantial spent rounds, hessian bag fragments and remains

of the target bases, revealed that the structure had been built up repeatedly as a shooting butt for fired rounds. An assessment of the different kinds of ammunition recovered, which included mostly .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) bullets as well as 0.455 revolver bullets, .38 revolver bullets, .303 rifle cartridges, and 9mm pistol bullets and cartridges, was made by a local firearms specialist.

A survey was also undertaken of a previously unidentified building (NN18NE 2) foundation to the SW of Achnacarry Castle. The foundation, which was exposed and recorded, has been identified as the site of a guard room.

Report: Highland HER, OASIS and RCAHMS (intended)

Lynn Fraser and Mary Peteranna – Ross and Cromarty Archaeological Services

(Source: DES)

Funder: Lochaber Archaeological Society


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