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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 risings 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 III. (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 our 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.

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 fire arms, these powder horns went back into production briefly during Victorian times as a fashionable accessory to 'traditional' Highland dress.

Powder horn

The Powder Horn pictured here has the incised date 1698.