Loch Shiel

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Loch Shiel
Glenfinnan monument and Loch Shiel.jpg
Loch Shiel and Glenfinnan monument
Location Lochaber, Highland, Scotland
Coordinates 56°47′08″N 5°35′12″W / 56.78556°N 5.58667°W / 56.78556; -5.58667Coordinates: 56°47′08″N 5°35′12″W / 56.78556°N 5.58667°W / 56.78556; -5.58667
Type freshwater loch
Primary inflows River Finnan, Callop River, River Polloch
Primary outflows River Shiel
Basin countries United Kingdom
Max. length 28 km (17.5 mi)
Surface area 19.6 km2 (7.6 sq mi)
Average depth 41 m (133 ft)
Max. depth 120 m (393 ft)
Water volume 0.8 km3 (0.19 cu mi)
Residence time 1.37 year
Surface elevation 4.6 m (15 ft)
Settlements Glenfinnan, Ardshealach, Acharacle
See Glen Shiel for the much smaller Loch Shiel in Lochalsh.

Loch Shiel (Scottish Gaelic: Loch Seile) is a freshwater loch situated 20 kilometres (12 mi) west of Fort William in the Highland council area of Scotland. At 28-kilometre-long (17 12 mi)[1] it is the 4th longest loch in Scotland, and is the longest to have retained a natural outflow without any regulation of its water level,[2] being 120 m (393 ft) deep.[1] Its nature changes considerably along its length, being deep and enclosed by mountains in the north east and shallow surrounded by bog and rough pasture in the south west, from which end the 4 km River Shiel drains to the sea in Loch Moidart near Castle Tioram.[2]

The surrounding mountains are picturesque but relatively rarely climbed as none quite reaches the 3,000 ft (910 m) required for Munro status.[3] A number of the hills are classified as Corbetts, including Beinn Resipol, Sgùrr Ghiubhsachain and Sgorr Craobh a' Chaorainn on the southern side of the loch; and Beinn Odhar Bheag on the northern side.[4] The area is well wooded compared to the many Highland areas that have suffered from overgrazing. The view of the loch looking south from the Glenfinnan monument, showing wooded hillsides with bare summits rising steeply from a fjord-like loch, has become one of the most famous images of the Scottish Highlands.[2]

Loch Shiel is less that 10 metres above sea level,[3] and was formed at the end of the last ice age when glacial deposits blocked what was formerly a sea loch.[5]

Nature and conservation

Loch Shiel National Scenic Area
Loch Shiel.jpg
Looking north east along the loch.
Location Highland, Scotland
Area 130 square kilometres (50 sq mi)[6]
Established 1981
Governing body Scottish Natural Heritage

Loch Shiel is a Special Protection Area (SPA) due to its importance for breeding black-throated divers,[7] and the area surrounding the loch is also designated as an SPA due to the presence of breeding golden eagles.[8] Other bird species living around the loch include white-tailed sea eagles, red-throated divers, peregrine falcons, sparrowhawks, kestrels, ospreys and hen harrier. Several species of duck are also present, including little grebes, goosanders, red-breasted mergansers, mallards, goldeneyes and tufted ducks.[9] Fish in the loch include salmon, sea trout and brown trout. Fishing rights are controlled by the Lochaber Fisheries Trust, who issue permits for fishing from Acharacle at the south west end of the loch.[10]

There are areas of remnant Caledonian Forest on the islands of the loch such as Eilean Camas and Eilean Ghleann Fhoinainn, as well as at Meall na h-Airigh at the northern end of the loch.[2] There are also areas of oak and alder woodlands (see Celtic rain forest) on the shoreline of the loch which have been designated a Special Area of Conservation by Scottish Natural Heritage, who noted that overgrazing and invasive species were threats to the area.[11] The shoreline of the loch is also home to a population of otters.[11]

Claish Moss, to the south of the loch, is one of the best examples of a raised bog in Britain. The bog has developed over the past 8,000 years, with pollen grains preserved by the peat forming a record of the bog’s plant life since the bog first began to form.[12] The bog is designated as an SAC, and was also formerly a national nature reserve, but was de-designated in 2011 due to poor access for visitors.[13]

The loch gives its name to Loch Shiel National Scenic Area, one of 40 such areas in Scotland, which are defined so as to identify areas of exceptional scenery and to ensure its protection via the planning system by the restriction of certain forms of development.[14] The Loch Shiel NSA covers 13,045 ha,[6] and extends to the summits of the hills on either side of the loch, as well as the hills surrounding Glen Hurich and the monument at Glenfinnan.[15]

History

A ruined medieval chapel found on the largest island, Eilean Fhianain, is dedicated to St. Finan, and may stand on the site of a cell thought to have been built on the island by the saint in the seventh century. The chapel is thought to have been built by Alan MacRuaridh, a chief of Clan Ranald; the clan used the island as a burial place until the end of the sixteenth century. The island continues to be used for burials, and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.[16]

Acharacle, at the south of the Loch, is the site of the 1140 battle in which Somerled defeated the Norse to found the ruling dynasty of Lord of the Isles.[17] During these times, the loch had strategic importance as a communications route through the mountains, as the short River Shiel was easily navigable in ancient times, however is no longer navigable as the depth drops to less than a foot. In the medieval period the loch formed the boundary between the provinces or lordships of Moidart to the west, Ardgour to the east, and Sunart in the south.

Castle Tioram on the tidal island Eilean Tioram in Loch Moidart, is located so as to control access to Loch Shiel, and thus to Lochaber and the Great Glen, from the sea.[18] The castle appears to have originally been a principal stronghold of Clann Ruaidhrí.[19] According to early modern tradition, preserved by the seventeenth-century Sleat History, the castle was erected by Áine Nic Ruaidhrí (fl. 1318–50), and certainly served as the seat of the latter's Clann Raghnaill descendants for centuries.[20]

Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, the poet and supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie, was born and raised in the area.[21] At the start of the Jacobite rising of 1745, the prince disembarked at Loch nan Uamh and was rowed the length of Loch Shiel in order to raise his standard at Glenfinnan.[2] After the defeat of the rising at Culloden a number of prominent Jacobites, including Cameron of Lochiel, hid on the small island of Eilean Mhic Dhomnuill Dhuibh in Loch Shiel.[22]

Transport

Prior to the construction of the A861 road the loch served as a main transport route in the area, linking the communities at the south end of the loch to the West Highland railway line at Glenfinnan. The regular service carrying mail and passengers was operated by David MacBrayne's between 1953 and 1967, ceasing with the construction of the new road between Lochailort and Kinlochmoidart.[23]

The West Highland railway line and the A830 road both pass the northern end of the Loch Shiel at Glenfinnan, whilst the A861 road also runs close to the lochside for about 4 km at the southern end. There are no public roads that run the full length of the loch: a forestry track runs along the southern side between Polloch and Glenfinnan, whilst no tracks or paths exist on the northern side.[3][2] Cruises on the loch are available from Glenfinnan, Acharacle and Polloch.[24]

In popular culture

Loch Shiel was the fictional birthplace of Connor and Duncan MacLeod from the Highlander franchise.

Loch Shiel was the location of the fictional Black Lake near Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films as well as the actual location of the boat scene with Ramirez in The Highlander (1986).[25] The loch was also used in the filming of the movie The Master of Ballantrae starring Errol Flynn.[citation needed]

Gallery

References

  1. ^ a b Murray, John; Pullar, Laurence, eds. (1910). "Lochs of the Shiel Basin". Bathymetrical survey of the Scottish fresh-water lochs. Edinburgh: Edinburgh, Challenger Office. Loch Shiel is one of the larger Scottish fresh-water lochs, having a total length of 17​12 miles. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The special qualities of the National Scenic Areas" (PDF). Scottish Natural Heritage. 2010. Retrieved 2018-05-01. 
  3. ^ a b c Ordnance Survey. Landranger 1:50000. Sheet 40, Mallaig & Glenfinnan.
  4. ^ R. Milne & H. Brown. The Corbetts and Other Scottish Hills. 2002. Published by the Scottish Mountaineering Trust. ISBN 0 907521 71 1.
  5. ^ Tom Weir. The Scottish Lochs. pp. 99-101. Published by Constable and Company, 1980. ISBN 0-09-463270-7
  6. ^ a b "National Scenic Areas - Maps". SNH. 2010-12-20. Retrieved 2018-04-26. 
  7. ^ "Site Details for Loch Shiel SPA". Scottish Natural Heritage. 2018-04-05. Retrieved 2018-04-27. 
  8. ^ "Site Details for Moidart and Ardgour SPA". Scottish Natural Heritage. 2018-04-05. Retrieved 2018-04-27. 
  9. ^ "Loch Shiel Cruises: Wildlife on the Loch". Loch Shiel Cruises. Retrieved 2018-05-01. 
  10. ^ "Loch Shiel". Lochaber Fisheries Trust. Retrieved 2018-05-02. 
  11. ^ a b "Site Details for Loch Moidart and Loch Shiel Woods SAC". Scottish Natural Heritage. 2018-04-05. Retrieved 2018-04-26. 
  12. ^ "Claish Moss Nature Reserve". Scottish Natural Heritage. 2017. Retrieved 2018-04-30. 
  13. ^ "Scottish National Heritage" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  14. ^ "National Scenic Areas". Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 2018-01-17. 
  15. ^ "Map: Loch Shiel National Scenic Area" (PDF). Scottish Natural Heritage. December 2010. Retrieved 2018-04-27. 
  16. ^ "Eilean Fhianain, St Finnan's church and stone crosses". Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 2018-04-27. 
  17. ^ Henderson, Angus (1916), "Ardnamurchan place-names", in Carmichael, E. C., The Celtic Review, 10, William Hodge and Company, pp. 149–168 .
  18. ^ "Castle Tioram: An account of its cultural significance". Historic Scotland. 2006. Archived from the original on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2018-04-30. 
  19. ^ Tabraham, C (2005) [1997]. Scotland's Castles. London: BT Batsford. ISBN 0 7134 8943 X. pp. 29, 111.
  20. ^ Stell, G (2014). "Castle Tioram and the MacDonalds of Clanranald: A Western Seaboard Castle in Context". In Oram, RD. The Lordship of the Isles. The Northern World: North Europe and the Baltic c. 400–1700 AD. Peoples, Economics and Cultures (series vol. 68). pp 273-278
  21. ^ "Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair". BBC ALBA – Bliadhna nan Òran. Retrieved 30 April 2018. 
  22. ^ "Loch Shiel, Eilean Mhic Dhomnuill Dhuibh". Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 2018-05-01. 
  23. ^ "Loch Shiel Cruises: A brief history of boating on Loch Shiel". Loch Shiel Cruises. Retrieved 2018-05-01. 
  24. ^ "Loch Shiel Cruises: Timetable". Loch Shiel Cruises. Retrieved 2018-05-01. 
  25. ^ "The Highlands on Film" (PDF). VisitScotland. Retrieved 2018-05-01. 

See also

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