The Scottish Highlands as a region is now world famous for its extraordinary landscape and its appeal for travellers as a place for fresh air, down-to-earth hospitality, and a wealth of outdoor pursuits - from hill-walking and golf to white-water rafting and mountain-biking. Inverness on the east coast, for example, is in 2010 the fastest growing city in the United Kingdom, as people flock to take advantage of the many benefits living in the Highlands has to offer.
The interest in the Highlands as a destination of choice for tourists and house-movers is a relatively recent one, however. It was not until the Victorian era, when Victoria and Albert made frequent trips to Balmoral and visits to the Highlands became fashionable among Victorian society, that the area as a whole received much attention from tourists from other parts of the UK and beyond.
The rugged landscape and geographical isolation of much of the Scottish Highlands made it a relatively inaccessible place for much of its political and cultural history. With this, however, came the evolution of its own very unique traditions, cultural life, and folklore. Click an image for further details.
'The Appin Murder' as it is called, was one of the most notorious and contentious murders in Scottish social and political history.
After the 1745 Jacobite rising (see our Jacobite section), Colin Campbell of Glenure was the Crown factor (representative) appointed to manage the forfeited estate of Ardsheil. He received assistance from James Stewart, the exiled Stewart of Ardsheil's natural brother and his representative in Appin.
Glenure and James came into conflict over evictions on the Ardshiel estate which James believed he had prevented through a court order. Glenure however managed to have the decision reversed. On 14th May 1752, the day before the evictions were to proceed, Glenure was shot in the back while travelling through the woods of Lettermore on the Appin side of Loch Linnhe.
Traditionally there were three guns in Appin and Glencoe believed capable of Killing Glenure. The one used, a long Spanish gun, was called 'an t-Slinneanach'. Long after the murder, the gun pictured was discovered in a glen close to Lettermore and identified by the old Laird of Ballachulish as the 'black gun of misfortune'. It found its way to Dalness House and was ultimately presented to the West Highland Museum. There are 4 guns in Scotland that are purported to be the Appin murder weapon. This is one.
The need to hang someone for the crime was urgent. Without any evidence, James of the Glen was arrested as instigator of the murder of Glenure, and Alan Breck Stewart was accused of the actual killing. Alan Breck escaped to France while James was brought to trial at the circuit court in Inverary.
Unable to counteract neither the perjuries and distortions of the prosecution witness, nor the bias of the court, James was sentenced to death. It has never been in doubt that he did not commit the crime, but who did remains a mystery. On 8 November, 1752, James of the Glen was hanged on a small hill near Ballachulish, just outside Fort William. The body was hung in chains and left as a warning to the neighbourhood. A guard of fifteen soldiers was detailed to watch the body and prevent its removal. The guard duty did not cease until 1754.