Inversnaid: waterfalls and wars

Inversnaid, on the east shore of Loch Lomond, is the site of a magnificent waterfall. Its Gaelic name is Inbhir Snàthaid. Inbhir means a confluence of rivers, estuary or the mouth of a water course and is common in place names. Inbhir Nis (Inverness), Inbhir Aora (Inveraray), Inbhir Uaraidh (Inverurie) and Inbhir Chluaidh (Inverclyde) are all well known examples.

The Snàthaid element of the name means ‘needle’ and it’s easy to see why Inversnaid was named as it was. The waterfall plunges from the narrow Arklet Water into Loch Lomond many feet below. It is spectacular, especially after a spell of wet weather which happens regularly. Seen from the loch, this torrent of falling water could certainly look like a needle.

But Inversnaid is also well known as the site of a garrison for British Government troops. It was crucial to the Government’s attempts to control Jacobite sympathisers following the 1715 Jacobite Rising which sought to regain the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland for the House of Stuart. A revolution in 1688 ousted Catholic James II and VII and put Protestant William of Orange and his wife Mary (James’s daughter) on the throne. Following James’s death in 1701, his son James III and VIII continued the cause. Fearing a rising of James’s supporters, the British Government took pre-emptive action by arresting leading Jacobites in England. But in September 1715, the Earl of Mar raised the Stuart standard at Braemar anyway and signalled the start of the largest of the five Jacobite Risings.There’s more about the 1715 rising in the National Library of Scotland’s description of its Game of Crowns exhibition.

The Inversnaid Garrison, built in 1718-19, was in an important strategic position overlooking two fords on a key route linking Dumbarton, via Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine and Loch Tay, with the main road between Dunkeld and Inverness.

A plan of the Inversnaid Garrison from 1719.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (CC-BY)

The garrison at Inversnaid is thought to have been largely destroyed during the 1745 rebellion, but was rebuilt and continued in military use until the late 18th century. After that, it fell into disrepair and the land was eventually returned to its original owner, the Duke of Montrose. Now, the remains of the Garrison form part of the farm buildings on the site.

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