The 18-metre Glenfinnan Monument commemorates the Jacobite uprising of 1745. It was built on the northern end of Loch Shiel in 1815 and is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
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Review of The Glenfinnan Monument
The Glenfinnan Monument sits at the north-east head of Loch Shiel where it has commanded spectacular views of the Highland landscape since its construction in 1815.
This 18-metre tower was built to commemorate one of the defining moments of the Jacobite uprising of 1745 when Prince Charles Edward Stuart raised his standard in front of the massed ranks of 1,500 supporting clansmen and declared his intent to take the thrones of England and Scotland in the name of his father James Stuart.
This declaration of war marked the start of the Jacobite uprising that would ultimately end at the ill-fated Battle of Culloden, and the monument at Glenfinnan is a fitting tribute to the massacre that followed on that fateful day.
To my mind, the view at the Glenfinnan Monument is one of the most beautiful in Scotland and I’m sure you’ll recognise it from photos on Scotland-themed websites all over the internet.
But seeing a photo and actually experiencing the place are two totally different things, and this is one of Scotland’s attractions that totally lives up to the hype.
There’s a visitor centre nearby that tells the story of the Jacobite uprising and you can also book yourself onto one of their tours that allows you to climb up the inside of the monument to view Loch Shiel from an amazing elevated position.
I don’t think any monument in the world is located in such a beautiful location as this one and you really owe it to yourself to visit it if you’re ever in this part of the Scottish Highlands.
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Things to do at The Glenfinnan Monument
The monument was commissioned by a member of Clan Macdonald of Glenaladale to commemorate the raising of the standard by ‘The Young Pretender’, and in 1835 the statue of the anonymous Highlander was placed at the top of the tower.
The monument has been a renowned Highland landmark ever since which is why today it’s in the care of The National Trust for Scotland who’ve maintained it since taking ownership all the way back in 1938.
The Trust has since built a car park and pathway to the monument so that access can be easily made by people of all abilities, while a visitor centre has been built to educate tourists about the 1745 uprising and the history that led up to that important moment in Scotland’s past.
The centre also includes educational exhibitions and displays about the area as well as a café and gift shop.
The wild landscape of Glenfinnan will no doubt be familiar to fans of Harry Potter as this is the site where the famous Hogwarts Express made its magical journey across the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and lucky tourists can frequently see The Jacobite steam train thundering through on its journey north to Mallaig.
My tip here is to contact West Coast Railways to find out when the next crossing will be so that you can get your camera ready to catch it puffing its way across the viaduct – it’s quite a sight.
Heading back to the tranquil shores of Loch Shiel, if you’d like to explore the loch further you’ll find a rough single-track trail that follows the body of water its entire length if you take the detour that bears left from the monument path.
It’s certainly possible to walk the length of the track but I suggest taking a mountain bike as Loch Shiel is around 17 miles long.
You’ll find more attractions in the Highlands with my Guide to the Best Places to Visit in the Scottish Highlands.
- The view across Loch Shiel is spectacular. This has to be one of, if not the, most picturesque locations in Scotland.
- There are lots of nice walks in the surrounding area but I recommend following the paths that lead under the iconic Glenfinnan viaduct. You might be lucky enough to be there when the Jacobite steam train thunders past.
- The NTS visitor centre has loads of information about the monument and the story of the Jacobite uprising. Go take a look if you’d like to learn about one of the most important events in Scotland’s history.
- There’s not much else in the immediate area so if you need facilities like toilets and snacks your main option is the National Trust Scotland visitor centre.
- You can get unlimited free entry to hundreds of NTS sites like this one if you get an annual membership. Check out the advert below for details.
- After a visit to Glenfinnan you’re spoilt for choice for where to go next. My recommendation is to head east along the A830 past Loch Eil to visit the Ben Nevis distillery before heading to the Ben Nevis visitor centre and following one of the trails up Britain’s most famous mountain.
The Glenfinnan Monument is located at Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel, 18.5 miles west of Fort William on the A830.
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Things to do near the Glenfinnan Monument
- Glenfinnan Viaduct and Loch Shiel Viewpoints. Glenfinnan PH37 4LT. 32-minute walk. A footpath that runs underneath the Glenfinnan viaduct to the Glenfinnan Station Museum. There are two viewpoints along the path, one of which has a stunning panoramic view of Loch Shiel and the other which provides close-up views of the Jacobite Steam Train as it thunders across the viaduct. The footpath is most easily reached from the station museum.
- Glenfinnan Station Museum. Station Road, Glenfinnan PH37 4LT. 16-minute walk. A small museum at Glenfinnan railway station that showcases memorabilia from the iconic West Highland Line. The museum features a dining car that serves food, a converted bunkhouse sleeping car and a restored rail signal box from 1901.
- Glenfinnan Visitor Centre. Lochaber PH37 4LT. 3-minute walk. A visitor centre managed by the National Trust for Scotland that displays exhibits and information about the Jacobite uprising of 1745. The centre has a car park, a café and a gift shop.
- Loch Shiel. 1-minute walk. Loch Shiel is the 4th-longest loch in Scotland at around 12 miles in length. It is surrounded by hills and is a very popular hiking area thanks to the footpaths that follow the water’s edge. The loch has been designated a Special Protection Area due to the number of birds of prey that live in the area including sea eagles, sparrowhawks, ospreys and harriers.
- Loch Eil. 7-minute drive. A land-locked sea loch that joins the northern end of Loch Linnhe. It can be viewed on its northern side by the Jacobite Steam train or by car on the A830. A more pleasurable vantage point is found on the A861 which follows the entire length of the southern edge of the loch.
More places to visit in The Highlands
- Ben Ledi – Stirlingshire: Complete Visitor GuideBen Ledi is an 879-metre high mountain in the lower Scottish Highlands. It can be found 5 miles north-west of the popular country village of Callander in the Trossachs National Park. The Trossachs are famous not just for their mountain ranges but also for their lochs which include the mighty Loch Lomond – one of the most scenic bodies of water in the United Kingdom.
- Muir of Dinnet – Aberdeenshire: Complete Visitor GuideThe Muir of Dinnet is a national nature reserve located on the eastern border of the Cairngorms national park in the Scottish Highlands. The reserve features a wealth of different habitats including heath, woodland and wetland, but it’s perhaps best known for ‘the vat’, a natural gorge formed by glaciers over 10,000 years ago.
- Glen Etive – Inverness: Complete Visitor GuideWhat if I told you there’s a 12-mile stretch of road where you can see those mountains, rivers and forests in a single relatively small area, where gob-smackingly beautiful vistas open up around every corner on a secluded, frequently tourist-free single-track road?
- Faraid Head – Sutherland: Complete Visitor GuideWhile Scotland’s west coast islands usually take first prize for the number of amazing beaches you’ll find (hello Isle of Tiree) you shouldn’t be too quick to discount Scotland’s mainland either, especially in the far north where it’s relatively tourist-free compared to the rest of the country.