Anyone driving the dozen miles along the extremely narrow and in places very twisty single track road that runs along the north shore of remote Loch Arkaig could be forgiven on reaching the end for wondering why the road was built. The presence of the road opens up a large tract of mountainous and otherwise difficult to access country and is very welcome, but in the days before outdoor activities became so important, when most roads were built, it is difficult to see why anyone bothered.
The road concludes in a car park just to the north of the western end of the loch, and from there a gate bars access to a gravel track that continues west. If you walk for a little under half a mile along the gravel track you come to what appears to be the reason why the road along Loch Arkaig was built, though you could be forgiven for walking straight past it without noticing.
Just to the south of the gravel track is a piece of stone wall rising to at most five feet in height. If you look more closely, this forms part of the north gable end of a small rectangular building, whose outline can be traced on the ground.
Welcome to Tigh nan Saighdearan, which translates as "The Soldiers' House" and is sometimes also known as The Old Barracks or Strathan Barracks. If something is described on a map as a "barracks" it gives rise to certain expectations which, frankly, are not completely delivered by Tigh nan Saighdearan. At best this must have been an outpost capable of providing limited accommodation and even more limited security for a small number of government troops.
Most sources give a date of the building for Tigh nan Saighdearan of 1745, though we suspect this must be either rather too early or rather too late. It is easy to imagine the barracks being constructed during the watchful years between the 1715 and the 1745 Jacobite uprisings, and on that basis it could have served as a very remote outpost of the much more significant garrison at what is now known as the Old Fort in Fort William, some thirty miles to the south east. Alternatively, it would be credible to think that the structure might have been built in the years after the demise of the Jacobite uprising in 1746, when the government mounted a ruthless campaign of suppression across the Highlands and Islands.
Either way the location is an impressive one as it guards an extremely important east-west route across the Western Highlands. If you head along Glen Pean, slightly south of west from here, it brings you to the eastern end of Loch Morar and the far end of what is now known as the Road to the Isles. If you head slightly north of west from here you follow Glen Dessary to the eastern end of the sea loch Loch Nevis, which gives access to Knoydart and beyond it to Skye.
Visitor InformationView Location on Map
Grid Ref: NM 982 914