The hidden history of Loch Arkaig

Glen Mailie (Photo: Rare Breed Photography)

The area surrounding Loch Arkaig is cloaked in mystery and steeped in history.

Linking back to the original wildwood which formed after the last ice age 8,000 years ago, Loch Arkaig Pine Forest consists of two areas of native Caledonian pine, oak and birch woodland - around 2,500 acres (or 2,500 football pitches). This makes it a very significant fragment of ancient pinewood.

Sadly the forest has been degraded. A direct result of hundreds of years of exploitation which includes the clear-felling of ancient woodland in the 18th century, the planting of non-native conifers in the 1970s and overgrazing by sheep and deer.

Loch Arkaig coins
(Photo: P Formby/WTML)

Loch of ages

Legend has it that somewhere buried deep in the woods is a treasure chest of gold brought over from France to support the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Destined for Bonnie Prince Charlie whose allies reputedly hid out in these woods, he fled before the gold reached him. Gold coins found in the forest in 1850 support this fascinating tale.

The loch itself is rumoured to have its very own water horse or kelpie, although there have been no documented sightings since 1857.

Commandos at Loch Arkaig, Wikimedia Commons
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Going commando

The UK's very first Commando units formed during the Second World War, were stationed at nearby Achnacarry House and used the pine forest as a training ground. Huge swathes of the forest were damaged in a fire started during training operations in the glen in 1942. Hundreds of bleached white skeletons of Scots pine trees still scatter the hillside today.

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