Willie’s View: Passing By Dalwhinnie

Willie Shand © passing by dalwhinnie

This week, Willie traces a route used by centuries of travellers, passing by Dalwhinnie.

Heading north on the A9, I always feel good when I reach Dalwhinnie. I’m either about to turn west for the likes of Morar or Kintail or north for Inverness, Ullapool and beyond.

Travellers have passed Dalwhinnie for countless centuries, crossing the high pass through Drumochter.

At Drumochter, the present A9 rises 1,508 feet above sea level making the drive through the exposed landscape much less appealing in mid-winter.

passing by drumochterHeading towards the Drumochter Pass. Photo by Willie Shand.

The village of Dalwhinnie appears plonked in the middle of nowhere. It lies watched over by its famous distillery.

Long before the A9 was ever built, and before even General Wade’s earlier military road, folk would come to Dalwhinnie – the “dell of meeting”, to try and resolve their disputes.

None maybe more worthy of note than the day Cameron of Lochiel and Atholl came to settle their differences.

passing by dalwhinnie

Views of Loch Garry from the A9. Photo by Willie Shand.

They had both agreed to meet accompanied with no more than two men each.

Uneasy with this, Cameron consulted a local seer who warned him it was a trick and told him if he went alone he wouldn’t be returning.

Safety First

To be on the safe side , he decided to take along 200 of his clansmen and hid them on the heathery hillside.

The two parties met and Cameron saw Atholl with only two men. Cameron felt really ashamed of himself for distrusting him.

As the men sat down to talk through their dispute, Atholl say things weren’t going his way.

He gave a signal and out of nowhere his men suddenly appeared. Cameron was quite taken aback. When he asked the meaning of it, Atholl told him, “these are Atholl sheep coming to eat Lochaber grass”!

passing by dalwhinnie

Highest point on Britain’s rail network. Photo by Willie Shand.

The seer was right enough. And, unlike, Atholl’s men, Cameron lived to tell the tale.

Turning west now, and another couple of hours should see me in Mallaig.



Read why writing for the “Friend” gives Willie’s travels a purpose.

Willie Shand