Wednesday, March 3, 2010


In the course of wasting an unconscionable amount of time today perusing the new Bing aerial imagery not available on Google Earth, I swept over Achanalt on the A832 between Garve and Achnasheen on the way to the west coast from Inverness.

As those familiar with the road will know, Achanalt is little more than a couple of houses, a railway halt, a telephone box and a graveyard containing a memorial to a pioneer aviator which is signposted by the road. (I forget his name but will research who he is and do a subsequent post about him.)

Meanwhile, the thing that caught my attention about Achanalt today is that I was folloing my virtual journey via Bing on the 1881 Ordnance Survey 6 inch map - which you can do via the National Library of Scotland website - and noticed ...

... the Kilcoy Arms Inn.

There is no establishment of that name at Achanalt nowadays. I knew that the big house at Achanalt on the left (going west) was historically a coaching inn and in more recent times has been a B&B and tea room, I seem to recall. But in previous centuries, wayside inns tended to be named more prosaically - like "Achanalt Inn".

So to find a 19th century establishment in such a remote spot with as grandiose a title as "the Kilcoy Arms Inn" strike me as being full of interest. Why was it so called?

My guess - and that's all it is - is that there's a castle called Kilcoy Castle on the Black Isle. Perhaps the owner of the castle was also the owner of this part of Strath Bran and so the inn was named after the local landowner? [EDIT 30 January 2013 - I read in "Guide to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, including Orkney and Zetland" by George and Peter Anderson, 1842, page 563 "Since leaving Strathpeffer, the principal properties through which the road [to Achnasheen] passes belong to ... and Sir Colin Mackenzie of Kilcoy, who became the purchaser of Strath Bran a few years ago."]

Incidentally, on the map above, notice also the reference to the "site of" an apparently disappeared Loch Bran - what was that about? - and the mile post on the railway signifying 31 miles to its terminus at Strome. Lots of interesting stuff to be uncovered from old OS maps! 

Anyway, below is the only picture I ever took of "the Kilcoy" when it was a private house - not very good, the photo was taken in 1984 before this stretch of the A832 was upgraded from single track in the 1990s (I think).

And this picture is at the same spot looking west:-

And finally, to compensate for these indifferent pictures of mine, it would be only fair to showcase the scenery in Strath Bran around Achanalt with this one by -firstlight-

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