loch runs for seventeen miles in a south-westerly direction
from Glenfinnan to Acharacle, passing
through magnificent mountain scenery on either side.
Acharacle village is a good centre for touring this part of
the Western Highlands, where some Gaelic is still
being spoken. The little plain around the southern end of Loch
Shiel is fertile and is the centre of what little population
there is. To the south is Salen, on the shore of Loch Sunart,
while stretching westward towards the islands of CoIl and Muck
is the long Ardnamurchan
peninsula which terminates at the Point of the same name which
is, in fact, the westernmost point of the Scottish mainland.
contains a beautiful little island that had long been sacred.
This is Eilean Fhionain, St. Finan’s Isle. A
ruined chapel on the island was probably built on the site of
the cell used by the saint who sanctified the isle. He was a
contemporary of St. Columba. The Bell of St. Finan’s was
said to rest here, brought by the saint from Ireland. A vantage
point across the clear waters of
the loch is called St. Finan’s Seat.
at the head of the loch, which runs northward into the mountain
cul-de-sac of Sgurr Thuilm (3,164 feet), Stob Cone nan Creac
(2,911 feet) and Sgurr an Utha (2,610 feet), is also named after
the saint. The main A.830 which runs from Fort William, past
Loch Eil and westward to Mallaig, crosses the mouth of this
glen, as does the rail link. When Charles Edward Stuart landed
at Moidart in 1745 he crossed the Dalelea on the north bank
of Loch Shiel where he met and conferred with MacDonald of Glendaladale
and Gordon of Glenbucket, spending the night at the former’s
house. The following morning he and his faithful band of followers
set off up the long miles of the loch in three small boats.
At Glenfinnan, where the party landed in the drizzle that fateful
day is now a splendid monument which was erected by Macdonald
of Glenaladale in 1815 to commemorate the Prince’s meeting
with Lochiel and other
faithful supporters on August 18th, 1745.