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The town of Fort William’s origins are military. The area itself, at the Westernmost end of the Great Glen fault that runs from Inverness, has historically been of great strategic and political importance to the control of the Highlands.

Much of the area’s more renowned military stories revolve around the events leading up to and arising from the Jacobite rising’s of the mid-eighteenth century.

An important episode in this saga was the now infamous Massacre of the MacDonalds at Glencoe, when thirty-six people were slaughtered by soldiers they were housing and feeding, in order to make an example of their Chief’s delay in signing an oath of allegiance to William II. (The museum holds objects and correspondence related to this event, including a facsimile of the letter giving the order for the massacre). For general background, please take a look at the Jacobite section of our website.

As well as holding a wealth of material relating to the Jacobite story, the museum also holds a fascinating collection of clothing, guns, medals, and other paraphernalia relating to the Highland regiments, from the Boer War to the Second World War.

One of newest sections is the Commando Room which tells the story of the Commandos who trained in Lochaber during the Second World War.  Download our Commando leaflet here.


Powder Horn

Keep your powder dry: Powder horns were made from cattle horns, and were most commonly used with eighteenth century muskets. The use of nonferrous metal parts and naturally hollow animal horns ensured that the powder would not be detonated by sparks during storage and loading. Even though they were rendered obsolete by the development of breech-loading […]

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Shields up: The word ‘Targe’ was used for a shield in Old English. Targes in Scotland were usually round and were generally made of wood covered with leather and embossed and studded in brass. The leather on the back covered a thin steel plate attached to an arm strap and a hand grip. The inside […]

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World War One Medal

Dulce et Decorum est … The West Highland Museum has an extensive collection of military medals relating to the Highland Regiments and others, dating from the Waterloo Medal of 1815 to the Crimean and right through to the Second World War. The medal pictured was one of three presented with a large bronze plaque in […]

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Basket Hilt Broadsword

En Guard: Basket-hilts were swords with a basket-shaped guard to protect the hand, and were common throughout Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The most famous of this type in Scotland was the Scottish Claymore, which evolved from the Sinclair hilt sword of German origin. “The bones of an arm and a hand still […]

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