Barge holidays in Scotland afford you an exhilarating immersion into some of the world’s most idyllic scenery. You’ll pass through a countryside that is undeniably magnificent but also largely deserted, apart from a relatively few small towns and villages. There’s an understandable tendency for visitors relaxing on their barge holidays in Scotland to think that this is how things always were, but, in fact, that’s not the case.
Prior to the 18th century, this was a relatively heavily populated landscape dotted with small farms and hamlets. The people were predominantly of Celtic culture, speaking their own language and living in a heavily clan-based society. Loyalty to the clan and its chief was usually far more important than any thoughts of loyalty to a nation or the government in Edinburgh or London.
Today, nowhere is more evocative of times past than Glencoe. On certain itineraries on barge holidays in Scotland you’ll pass close by the town of Fort William. Just a little south of there is Glencoe, which has a very good visitor centre for those looking to learn more about the interesting attractions of the area.
The first thing to strike the visitor is the sheer beauty of the countryside, which offers stunning views in all directions. This is great hiking country, and the surrounding areas are also full of sporting opportunities such as swimming, fishing, cycling and shooting.
However, when you spend some time at the visitor centre some tragic and poignant history of this area will also come to light.
The Bloody History
Glencoe is infamous in Scottish and British history as the site of an appalling massacre with its roots in the deposition of the Catholic James II, in favour of the Protestant William and Mary. In 1692, a detachment of government troops arrived at the dwelling places of the Clan MacDonald in Glencoe, ostensibly to collect taxes. In accordance with Highland traditions of hospitality, the troops, under the command of the pro-government Campbell clan, were offered food and lodgings.
After 10 days of living side-by-side amicably with their hosts, with whom they’d shared many meals, laughs and entertainment, one morning (and entirely without warning) the government troops began to slaughter all of the male MacDonalds, in accordance with a secret government order to punish their late acceptance of the oath of allegiance to William and Mary. In all, 38 men were murdered by those they had welcomed into their homes, and an estimated 40 women and children died of exposure in the countryside as they fled for their lives.
Historians still argue over whether this event was due to direct government orders or simply traditional hatred between the Clan Campbell and Clan MacDonald. Whatever the truthArticle Submission, the result was one of the worst massacres in British history.
Many people who choose barge holidays in Scotland do so with the express hope of learning more about the fascinating history of the country. Glencoe is certainly one site where it is presented in abundance – albeit in such a tragic story.