On January 31, 1644, Montrose found himself in the middle of the Great Glen near the southern end of Loch Ness with Argyll to the southwest at Inverlochy and Seaforth to the northeast at Inverness. The decision was taken to attack Argyll a quickly as possible.
It was a march of twenty-five to thirty miles down the Great Glen to reach the Campbell forces at Inverlochy. This approach would be heavily watched (and probably contested) so Montose took the daring decision to march in the glens and over passes paralleling the Great Glen to the south. This was a difficult passage in summer but exceptionally rigorous in the winter snows. As it turned out the snow was lighter then usual (although at times Montose’s men were still waist deep in the higher passes). The entire march was completed in thirty-six hours, a rather amazing feat.
While the route is pretty well known, the path of the final approach to Inverlochy is not. Highland traditon has it that Montrose passed to the east of Ben Nevis into the narrow glen of the River Nevis, approaching Inverlochy from the southeast (the red arrow to the right above). Most modern historians, however, believe the approach was along the northern slopes of Ben Nevis which would have Montrose attacking northeast from the Great Glen itself (the red arrow to the left above)
Being a traditionalist I am going to assume the approach through Glen Nevis to be the one used. I think the northern slopes of Ben Nevis would likely be deep in snow, but more importantly, the path along the River Nevis would have a greater chance of catching the Covenanters by surprise. And surprise is largely what happened!
Montrose had screened his force well using advanced parties that prevented Covenenanter scouts from contacting the main body of the army. Apparently whatever encounters did happened were not taken to be a sign of Montrose’s approach but local raiding.
At sunrise on February 2, 1645, the Covenant army was surprised to find the royalist army deploying in to battle array immediately to the east of their position.
In setting up the wargame table, Inverlochy Castle, with heavy woods on the River Lochy side, is situated on the northern edge. Pictured also is the Marquis of Argyll’s private galley on Loch Linnhe to the west of the castle:
The southern edge of the board is marked by the mouth of the River Nevis (the modern location of the village of Inverlochy):
The battle will fought between these landmarks and in the next post I’ll show the battle setup.