Achallader Castle

Achallader Castle, Highlands (Caisteal Achaladair)

~ History ~

1000's ~'Be mac an Fhleistear a cheud a thog smuid's a thug goil air uisge ann an Gleann Urchaidh'.

Fletcher was the first to raise smoke and boil water in Glen Orchy, says the old proverb. In fact this small clan, one of the group descended from the third son of King Kenneth McAlpin, seems to have settled first at Drimfearn in Glen Aray and then in Glen. As the name suggests, they supplemented their subsistence farming by arrow making from the birch trees natural to the Glen.

With others bordering Rannoch, the Fletchers found the McIains of Glencoe difficult neighbours. They solved the problem by signing a bond of Manrent with the Stewarts of Appin - that is an agreement that offence to either would be defended by both.

1222 ~ Despite the Fletchers inhabiting Glenorchy the land is  bestowed on the MacGregors by King Alexander II, as a reward for their assistance in the conquest of Argyll.

1359 ~ The MacGregor line of chiefs end in the birth of a daughter, Mariota, who marries John, son of Sir Colin Campbell of Lochawe, and the Glen is granted to her and her husband by Royal Charter.

A close bond of friendship between clan MacGregor and clan Fletcher develops,

a Fletcher having saved the life of Rob Roy. But when the MacGregors are driven from Glenorchy in 1432, the Fletchers are permitted to remain.

1497 ~ The Fletchers take part in one of the fiercest clan fights ever joining the side of the Maclarens, together with Stewart of Appin, against the MacDonalds.

The Maclarens are raiding the MacDonald country, and driving off some of the MacDonald's cattle when they are overtaken at Achallader by the MacDonalds.

The Maclarens are outnumbered, and so Stewarts and Fletchers come to their assistance. During the battle Donald MacDonald of Keppoch and Dugald Stewart of Appin are both slain.

The Stewarts of Appin thereafter enter into a bond of friendship with the Fletchers, in gratitude for their assistance, and this bond is sealed by an oath on the dirk.

1587 ~ Although the MacGregors are the ruling Clan of the area, Sir Duncan Campbell of Glen Orchy acquires the castle and surrounding lands through treachary and betrayal of the Chief of the Mcinleisters of the Clan Fletcher.

Sir Duncan Campbell, the Black Laird of Glenorchy, had been appointed by the King to keep the peace between the feuding clans in Argyll and Perthshire.

He is accordingly authorised to maintain a large force of armed retainers, in order to give strength to his purpose. He has the reputation of preferring to stir up trouble rather than quell it, and he is more interested in the plundering and acquisition of lands. Inevitably he has among his armies a number of lawless men, not even of Highland blood, who pick fights with anyone at a word from their master. This is how so much territory comes into the hands of Sir Duncan, and he had his eyes set on Achallader for some long time. He makes a pretence at friendship with MacInleister, although he is secretly determined to have his lands, in spite of Fletcher's consistent refusal to sell to the Laird.

Campbell makes his plans. He leaves Finlarig Castle one evening with a number of his men, and by dawn he is in the vicinity of Achallader. He deploys his band of followers behind a small hill, and orders three of his hired 'strangers' to tether their horses in a cornfield which belong to Fletcher. He then withdraws to await developments. Fletcher soon discovers the trespassers, and orders them off his land. The 'strangers' laugh derisively and stay where they are, not attempting to move their animals. The Fletcher chieftain tries once more, but when the men again ignore his remonstrations, he loses his temper, pulls one of the iron stakes from the ground, to which the horses are tethered, and throws it with all his might at one of the intruders. The man falls dead, and at this point Sir Duncan 'happened to come along' and professes great shock and surprise at the incident. He shows great concern at the predicament of his dear friend, Fletcher, but in spite of his friendship he feels obliged to report the fact that Fletcher had murdered an officer in the discharge of his duty. He is very much afraid, he tells Fletcher, that when the King learns of the matter he will surely order Fletcher to be hanged and his lands forfeit. He suggests that Fletcher should take refuge with some friends in Rannoch until the danger of discovery has passed, and says that he (Campbell) would turn a blind eye to his escape. To avoid forfeiture of Fletcher's lands, Campbell suggested that he should help matters by agreeing to their conveyance to himself, and says they could be re-conveyed to Fletcher when the whole thing has blown over. Fletcher, having regard to the dilemma in which he finds himself, is therefore prevailed to convey his lands to Campbell, who forthwith lodges the document in the Registry Office in Edinburgh. Of course, when Fletcher later wants his property back Campbell will have none of the idea.

Sir Duncan Campbell does allow the Fletchers to stay on at Achallader, as tenants.

1600 ~ Sir Duncan Campbell adds a tower to the Castle of Achallader, at a cost of some thousand merks.

1603 ~ The MacGregors burn the castle.

1646 ~ The MacGregors return and again burn the castle, only for the Earl to have it rebuilt.

1683 ~ A Commission for the settlement of the Scottish Highlands, led by Sir William Drummond of Cromlix stays at the castle, welcoming, among others McIain, the future victim, with his clan, of the massacre of Glencoe.

1689 ~ With William of Orange and Queen Mary now reigning, the McIain’s return from the Jacobite victory at Killiecrankie over the English Red Coats. They are then defeated the following month at Dunkeld and pull down what they can of the castle.

It is never restored.

1691 ~ The Jacobite leaders, including Alasdair MacIain of Glencoe, are summoned to the castle by John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane, and after much deliberation sign the Treaty of Achallader, having accepted financial compensation in return for promising to halt their fight to restore the exiled James VII to the throne. It is a requirement that all the clan chiefs should sign an oath of loyalty to King William by

1st January 1692 and nearly all comply by the deadline. MacIain finally decided to do likewise but set off late from Glencoe and a series of events follow which delay him and prompt government forces to use this as an excuse to set an example to this potentially rebellious clansmen.

1692 ~ The Glencoe Massacre followed on 13 February 1692. MacIain is killed but his wife and sons manage to escape the carnage.

1745 ~ Archibald Fletcher of Crannach is assessed to provide one man for the militia to counter the Jacobite advance. Not only is he in his seventies, but also opposed in religion and politics to the House of Hanover. Happily, a substitute presents himself to answer this call to arms in his place, the young poet Donnchaidh Ban, enthusiastic for King George and a life of adventure.

Archibald provids him with kilt and a family sword with instructions that he should take the greatest care of it. Donnchaidh's enthusiasm does not outlast the first engagement and he reappeares in Glen Orchy in his usual good humour to ask for his pay, but without the precious sword. Archibald's fury is described as 'an old man raging like a badger in his lair'.

1746 ~ The Fletchers gradually acquire land in Perthshire and Argyll. The chief moves to Dunans in Glendaruel, taking with him the door of Achallader Castle.


Achallader Farm

3.5 miles north of Bridge of Orchy.




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Achallader Castle is a ruined 16th-century Tower House under the shadow of Beinn Achaladair, near Loch Tulla. Its name is from Gaelic, meaning field of hard water.

The castle formerly rose to three storeys, well defended by shot-holes. Now only two walls, one with a trace of corbelling, remain, sheltering the farm buildings of Achallader Farm.

The castle was built by Angus Macinleister, first chief of the Fletchers.