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.

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 gripped this sword when it was found."

Basket hilt broadsword

The sword pictured is a Basket Hilt Broadsword from the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century which was found in Craig-guannach, a cave at the end of Loch Treig, not far from Fort William, in 1880. The basket hilt, however, was not a great deal of use for the owner of this particular weapon, as the bones of an arm and a hand were still gripping the sword when it was found.