This article is from the earliest Strathard News magazine in our Archive, Issue 2, May 1986. It was re-published in the Strathard News, Issue 120, November-January 2022, as part of a series entitled ‘Stories from Strathard’.
Little remains of the Inversnaid Garrison today, but we know that the Ruthven Barracks, near Kingussie, were almost an exact parallel. Additional images are by courtesy of The National Library of Scotland (Roy’s Map) and Margaret Neufeld (Plan of Inversnaid Garrison and the picture of Ruthven Barracks).
On the side of the road from Aberfoyle to Inversnaid stand the remains of the Garrison of Inversnaid.
Following the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715, the Government forces spread throughout the Highlands of Scotland and to provide bases from which they could operate it was decided in August of 1717 that a series of forts should be erected at various strategic sites. One of these was Inversnaid which as well as being used to guard the approaches to the Fords of Frew near Kippen (the first point upstream from Stirling at which the Forth could be crossed with any ease) and the Dumbarton to Blair Atholl route via Loch Katrine and Loch Tay was well situated to be used in the control of the turbulent MacGregor clan.
The fort was particularly offensive to the MacGregors and was attacked and destroyed reputedly by Rob Roy himself. Having been re-established it was again captured and destroyed, this time by Rob Roy’s nephew, Gregor MacGregor, during the 1745 Rising.
On October the 15th 1746 William Anne van Keppel, the second Earl of Albermarle, commander in chief of the Government forces in Scotland wrote to the Duke of Newcastle that “the Barrack of Inversnaid at the head of Loch Lomond should be made defensible and capable of containing a company or two; ……would prevent a most licentious Clan (viz) the McGregors, from Robbing, plundering and waste the Country about them, which they have done for many years with impunity.”
Major-General Bland, the commandant of the military district based on Stirling, sent one of his most capable young officers to undertake the rebuilding of the fort and tame the MacGregors. This officer was a member of the 4th or Barrel’s Regiment which had distinguished itself at the Battle of Falkirk the previous January when it was one of three regiments which retreated in good order from the field while others fled panic stricken. At the fateful battle of Culloden on Drummossie Moor near Inverness Barrel’s Regiment suffered more casualties than any other Royal regiment.
Although being involved in such momentous events the young officer sent to Inversnaid was yet to figure in another event with which his name is linked right down to the present day. Twelve years after his sojourn at Inversnaid, on the 13th of September 1759, at the age of thirty two, he died in Canada at the Battle of Quebec.
The young officer sent to rebuild Inversnaid Fort was none other than the future Major-General James Wolfe. Leading Highlanders, the introduction of whom into the British army he was more responsible for than anyone else, he stormed the Heights of Abraham and won a glorious military victory which drove the French from Canada and brought the vast country under British rule.
As the Highlands of Scotland changed after the failure of the 1745 Rising there was no longer the same need for the Inversnaid Fort and it fell into disuse as a military establishment. In 1792 it was visited by Walter Scott who discovered that the military garrison consisted of one aged caretaker who was busily engaged in cutting a crop of barley. The future poet and novelist was told that he could find the fort key under the door. By the 1820s the fort had fallen into almost complete decay and had been abandoned completely by the military authorities.