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.
Tigh nan Saighdearan was one of a number of small barracks built across the Highlands immediately following the Jacobite uprising of 1745-46, when the government mounted a ruthless campaign of suppression across the Highlands and Islands: and when troops were actively seeking the fugitive Bonnie Prince Charlie. The area around Loch Arkaig was much more populous that it is today, and home to many Camerons who strongly supported the Jacobite cause. The barracks seem to 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.
There is no question that the location is an impressive one. It was also a strategically important one, as it guarded a significant 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
The Barracks In Fiction
The Danger of Life by Ken Lussey (10 May 2019).
It is late 1942. Bob Sutherland's first week in charge of Military Intelligence 11's operations in Scotland is not going smoothly.
An investigation into a murder at the Commando Basic Training Centre in the Highlands takes a dark turn that draws Bob in personally.
Tigh nan Saighdearan plays a central role in the novel.