Inverlochy – The Ancient Foe – 1645

Situated at the southern end of the Great Glen, Inverlochy Castle lies in Lochaber, a portion of the Highlands under the sway of Clan Cambell. The setting is dominated by Scotland’s Highest mountain, Ben Nevis:

Ben Nevis from Loch Linnhe

After the Battle of Fyvie Montrose was again at Blair Atholl when  Alisdair MacColla rejoined with a substantial force of his Irish and newly recruited highlanders. Maccolla had relieved the Campbell siege of his garrison at Mingary and then continued his raiding and recruiting as he worked his way back to Montrose. Montrose now had an army of nigh on 3000 but it was late December (1644) and with winter hard upon him, it was customary at the time to wait for spring to continue fighting.

MacColla had other ideas. He and other clan leaders made a strong argument for raiding deep into the heart of Cambell territory, Argyll, Lorne, and Lochaber, the very seat of Archibald Cambell’s (Marquis of Argyll) power. Montrose was finally convinced to commit to the endeavor. Obviously anything that weakened the Marquis of Argyll, weakened the Covenant and in turn benefited King Charles, but the risk was high.

The Campbell lands were thought unassailable through the rugged mountains, particularly in winter, but Montrose’s army quickly destroyed that myth. The MacDonalds, in particular, showed no mercy to any man of military age named Cambell and the destruction of life and property was great. By late January of 1645 many of Montrose’s highlanders had left the army, staggering home under the weight of their plunder. He was once again down to a rather lean force of around 1500 men.

A furious Argyll was now again actively engaged in assembling forces to first hem Montrose in and then destroy him. Lord Seaforth had a sizable army (near 5000 men) in Inverness at the northern end of the Great Glen, General Baille was advancing from the southeast with another Covenanter army and  Argyll was concentrating his Cambell forces at Inverlochy. This should bottle up Montrose in the Great Glen and cause him to be brought to a decisive battle at highly unfavorable odds. Once again the Cambells and the MacDonalds would meet each other to settle old scores on a highland battlefield.

I include a couple tunes below, one for each clan group:

MacDonald of the Isles:

The Campbells Are Coming:

I selected solo pipers since that was how the instrument was used before the British Army began to organize pipe and drum bands in the late eighteenth century. I also doubt these tunes existed at the time of Inverlochy.

The piper below is playing the ancient form of the music (the Piobaireachd) in a traditional setting. I picked it because it is a SHORT passage and includes all aspects of the form (ground, doublings, triplings and ground restatement). It is dark and haunting and for me DOES capture the sound of a clan piper at Inverlochy.




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