Tale of the Last Clansman Trail

Murder, mystery and intrigue all combine to make the perfect recipe for a great novel. This is never truer than when fiction is based on fact. The Last Clansman Trail provides visitors with a wonderful look into some of the rather intriguing facts of Scottish history.

The Last Clansman Trail in Scotland takes visitors back to 14 May, 1752 when three men on horseback and a fourth one on foot were journeying through the Wood of Lettermore about a mile to the west of South Ballachulish. Their journey was abruptly interrupted when a shot rang out, sending one of the horsemen to the ground. The horseman, Colin Campbell of Glenure, died a short while later in his friend’s arms. The murder had been an assassination, and the darkly clad figure seen making his getaway on the hillside not far from the scene of the murder could not be clearly identified. The incident came to be known as the Appin Murder and later became one of the most notorious events at the time. Its notorious nature had more to do with the fact that the person hanged for the event underwent an extremely unfair trial than it did with the fact that Colin Campbell was a humane estate manager at a time when the government was extremely cruel. After the Jacobite rebellion, estates belonging to Jacobite sympathizers were confiscated by the government while certain Jacobites where heavily persecuted and hunted. Shortly after the murder, James Stewart of Acharn was arrested as an accomplice to the murder. James Stewart’s land had just come under the management of Colin Campbell but it was Allan Breck Stewart who had actually voiced threats against Colin Campbell and who was suspected of being the actual murderer. However, Allan Breck disappeared, assumed to have fled to France, so James Stewart was put on trial for the murder.

The trial was a gross miscarriage of justice, with 11 of the 15 Jury members being Campbells. Despite the complete absence of evidence against him, James Stewart was found guilty and hanged from a scaffold overlooking the Ballachulish Bridge on 8 November, 1752. His body was left here for four years before it was discreetly buried near the Keil chapel. The events made for a good story, and famous author Robert Louis Stevenson later saw fit to base two of his novels – “Kidnapped” and “Catriona” – on it. Despite the fact that certain details were changed for dramatic effect in the novels, reading them makes for a great introduction to the Last Clansman Trail. Several of the key locations in both the book and the actual murder have been marked out on the trail. Visitors can not only enjoy the spectacular surroundings, but find out where the murder took place, where James Stewart was hung, where he was born and where he was buried. Perhaps you can even try to solve the mystery of who really did it for yourself! Either way, the Last Clansman Trail in Scotland makes for a great detour when visiting this part of the country.