ANNUAL CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL IN THE WEST HIGHLANDS OF SCOTLAND
APRIL 20th-23rd 2017
The village of Glenfinnan on the northern shores of Loch Shiel, is a vibrant Highland community inextricably linked to the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie's fight for the British throne. This was the site where he rallied his supporters and set out for battle in 1745, and the monument built some 70 years later in memory of the clansmen who fought for the cause, is one of the most photographed scenes in Scotland.
Equally striking are the imposing arches of the famous Glenfinnan viaduct which carry the railway across the glen. Its elegance is such that its contemporary admirers declared it to look “as if built by fairies”. Warner Bros.’ location researchers obviously had the same impression when they decided to make it a prominent feature of their Harry Potter films. In addition to being Robert McAlpine’s concrete masterpiece, the viaduct is now known to many as “the Harry Potter Bridge” which takes student wizard and witches aboard the Hogwarts Express to the famous School of Wizardry conjured up for the world’s amusement by J.K Rowling.
At the south end of the loch, by the stone bridge across the river Shiel, lies romantic, remote Acharacle – a dispersed settlement that serves as the main centre for a huge area of Moidart and Ardnamurchan, the beautiful peninsula which stands out towards the sea as the most westerly point of the UK mainland.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Loch Shiel was indeed a lifeline for the people of Acharacle who relied on the steamers to carry passengers and mail to Glenfinnan and the railway station there, which linked this distant Highland community to the rest of the country. The steamers ceased to operate by 1960, but cruises on Loch Shiel still run from the Glenfinnan House Hotel in Summer. For further information see www.highlandcruises.co.uk.
Acharacle today lies on a loop of road that extends from Ardgour to the east through Strontian and Salen. This route was first built in the early 1800s by Thomas Telford; the road that continues north to meet the A830 from Fort William to Mallaig, was only finished in the 1960s.
Strontian appears as a white-painted oasis on an inlet in the sea-loch, Loch Sunart. The village is a local centre in an otherwise sparsely populated area, and manages to combine a relaxed atmosphere and remote feel with a modern set of facilities.
Strontian was established in 1724 to provide accommodation for lead miners. We know the mines were still in operation in 1790 because they led to Strontian's unique claim to fame: the discovery of a completely new element, later named Strontium after the village!