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Loch Shiel and Glenfinnan Viaduct

On the way up to Inverness with the good lady’s blogfriend Peggy we stopped off at Glenfinnan to view Loch Shiel, the Glenfinnan Monument and the railway viaduct.

Loch Shiel from near the monument:-

Loch Shiel from Level of Loch

Loch Shiel from viewpoint. The monument is at the centre of the photo:-

Loch Shiel from Viewpoint

Glenfinnan Viaduct from viewpoint (about 180 degrees from above photo):-

Glenfinnan Viaduct from Viewpoint

Glenfinnan Viaduct close-up:-

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Flemington by Violet Jacob

In Flemington and Tales from Angus, Canongate, 2013, 291 p, including 16 p introduction, 1 p each Acknowledgements, Note on the Text and Author’s Note, 14 p Notes and 6 p Glossary.

Another from the 100 Best Scottish books list. Again from a local (well, 9 miles away) library. The novel was first published in 1911.

 Flemington and Tales from Angus cover

As soon as the years in which this is set, 1745-6, are discovered certain expectations might arise, a focus on Bonnie Prince Charlie or his entourage, following the rising tide of his fortunes from the standard raising at Glenfinnan through his initial triumphs to Edinburgh and on down to England before the fatal loss of nerve at Derby and thence to his downfall. Jacob, however, is more subtle than this. The events of that last Jacobite rebellion are present here, to be sure, (the Battle of Prestonpans – here rendered as Preston Pans – the advance to and retreat from Derby, the Battles of Falkirk and of Drummossie Moor, otherwise known as Culloden, the bloody and vengeful aftermath of that final battle on British soil) but they occur offstage. Jacob’s focus is relentlessly on individuals, not the broad sweep of history or “great events”. Though the Duke of Cumberland does appear in Flemington’s pages as a character (and not in a flattering portrait) the Young Chevalier never does, except as the driving force for the dilemma into which our titular protagonist falls. The action takes place exclusively in the county of Angus and specifically in the area linking the towns of Forfar, Brechin and Montrose. It is in Montrose harbour that the sole military engagement described in the book – a fictionalisation of a very minor naval incident in the ’45 rebellion – takes place.

To prevent his mother compromising Prince Charlie, protagonist Archibald Flemington’s father was badly used by the Old Pretender in exile at St Germain. Archie was subsequently orphaned and put in the care of his grandmother who, due to those earlier experiences, is now a full supporter of the Hanoverian dynasty. Flemington is a painter but also a government spy trying to discern the plans of the rebel James Logie; to which end he turns up at the door of Logie’s brother, a retired judge. While Flemington is still undercover Logie reveals to him a personal confidence – unrelated to any Jacobite sympathies. This engenders in Flemington a sympathy for Logie which he will not thereafter compromise and so the central tragedy of the story unfolds.

The novel is full of well-drawn and memorable characters: Flemington; his grandmother; Skirlin’ Wattie, the no-legged bagpiper who travels about on a cart drawn by dogs; Callander, the Government Army officer who is dutiful to a fault. Despite his confidence granted to Flemington, James Logie is a shadowier character, though his brother Balnillo is portrayed in all his preposterousness. Wattie is the only one who speaks broad Scots. The context provides clarity enough but the glossary is there if needed.

One chapter begins, “April is slow in Scotland, distrustful of her own identity, timid of her own powers. Half dazed from the long winter sleep, she is often bewildered, and cannot remember whether she belongs to winter or to spring.” How true – especially redolent when reading it in Scotland, in April, and the passage is characteristic of Jacob’s writing which is especially strong on landscape description.

Flemington is an illustration on an individual human scale of the dislocations and traumas, the disruptions, which a Civil War brings in its train and of how character can both resist circumstances and be a victim of them.

I took the precaution of not reading the introduction before the story. Wisely, as the usual spoilers in such things were present.

Pedant’s corner:- I found the reference to English parents strange in a passage contrasting the thoughts of a Scots woman who had spent a long time in France with those who hadn’t. Also mentioned were English dragoons at Culloden. (I haven’t checked. Any dragoons may have been English, though certainly a large part of Cumberland’s army was Scots.) Dulness with one ‘l’?

Commando Memorial

From Glenfinnan we motored back then on up to Spean Bridge where the memorial to the commandos is located. It was is this area, Achnacarry to be precise, where the first commandos did their training. The inscription on the top of the plinth reads “United We Conquer” and on the plaque “In memory of the men of the Commandos who died in the Second World War 1939-45. This country was their training ground.”

The setting is stunning, with magnificent views of the Nevis range of mountains. Note the snow patches still – even in the middle of June.

Hard by the Memorial is a poignant circular area where relatives, friends, old soldiers may leave mementoes, photographs and tributes to the fallen, some of whom are very recent.

Glenfinnan (Gleann Fhionghain)

The day after our train journey we made the trip to Glenfinnan (or Gleann Fhionghain) by road. It was there, at the head of Loch Shiel, that the standard of Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart (aka The Young Pretender or, more commonly, Bonnie Prince Charlie) was raised in 1745 to start the doomed enterprise that was the Jacobite Rebellion which became known as the ’45 and ended at Culloden, the last battle to be fought on British soil.

In 1815 a monument was erected in memory of the clansmen who fought and died. It is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. Being members, we took in the Visitor Centre and climbed the monument. That’s a bit scary. The stairs are steep, headroom is limited and the space at the top isn’t large. The views from the top are brilliant though.

The good lady nicked some of these photos before I got to them.

This is the monument from the approach path:-

Loch Shiel from the top of the monument:-

Glenfinnan Viaduct from the monument:-

The vilage of Glenfinnan’s War Memorial is situated in a recess by the road on the way up to the village from the monument to the station.

It’s a dignified figure of a soldier with bowed head. His rifle is apparently wooden. The names are on the rear for some obscure reason.

More From the West Highland Line

I forgot to include this photo of an old North British Railway Signboard at Glenfinnan Station in my previous post. The posters are modern of course.

Glenfinnan was the only long stop between Fort William and Mallaig.

This is the sea loch, Loch Ailort (Loch Ailleart) after which the next town and station up the line, Lochailort, are named:-

First proper sea view. I think this is Loch nan Uamh – looking towards the Sound of Arisaig:-

The next station, Arisaig, has a unique claim to fame as the sign on the station wall attests. The stop was a short one but handy for me to take the photo.

Glenfinnan Viaduct from Train

The most iconic piece of railway scenery on the West Highland Line between Fort William and Mallaig is the Glenfinnan Viaduct which was apparently the first entirely built of concrete – by Robert McAlpine, thereafter known as “Concrete Bob.”

Here it is as viewed as from the Hogwarts Express on the outward leg.

There are great views of Loch Shiel from the viaduct. This photo was taken just after crossing it:-

The train stopped at Glenfinnan Station for about fifteen minutes to exchange tokens for the single track with a Scotrail train. If you had time you could have a meal in the restaurant car in the Station precincts.

Return journey – shows viaduct and locomotive. Someone is ignoring the “Do not lean out of the window” signs!

View down into Glenfinnan from train:-

Hills at Glenfinnan:-

Loch Shiel from viaduct:-

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