Fort William is a lovely town in the western Scottish Highlands, on the shores of Loch Linnhe, and the base for the ones wanting to climb Ben Nevis. On our day in Fort William, we’ve visited two tourist attractions, a museum and a castle, and we’ve done a bit of shopping.
In the old part of the town there are pubs, shops ranging from bookshops to whiskey and, of course, Edinburgh Woollen Mill. It is lovely to visit and you might want to buy a couple of things, I know I did, including some Scottish shortbread, of course.
West Highland Museum is a free museum in the centre of Fort William. It tells the story of the region and its people. It is quite interesting to visit. As usual, I picked a few highlights from my visit.
This is a BSA Airborne WWII paratroopers bicycle. It is a folding bike that was used in the war. Bicycles like this one were used extensively by troops landing on the Normandy beaches on D-Day. This bike was donated by the family of the postmaster. He bought the bike and rode it in the village for years.
It was the first time I’ve seen a Birching table. This one is a modern replica. Amazingly, the last birching in Fort William took place in 1948. A court would decide on this punishment and a doctor had to be present to make sure it was delivered correctly.
This is a 14th century anvil. I do love seeing anvils in the Scottish museum, as they remind me of Gretna Green.
I was excited to discover this memorial pin on display. It was given to John Brown’s relatives by Queen Victoria after his death. That must have been a controversial piece of jewellery.
This is another item I haven’t seen before, a coffin guard. These were used to prevent body snatchers from stealing the corpse of someone who died recently. The bodies were in demand with medical schools, where dissection of dead bodies was important. Usually executed criminals were used for this, but the demand outstripped the supply. The only deterrent was this iron coffin guard. It was placed around the coffin and a heavy iron lid was placed on top. This guard would have been left there until the body was starting to decay, making it unattractive for stealing. As these guards were expensive, the church would buy one and would hire it out.
Some entrepreneurs like Burke and Hare, bypassed this problem in the 1820s, when they decided to murder their victims and sell the bodies to the doctors.
Inverlochy castle is also free to visit and only about 10 minutes by car from the West Highland Museum. The castle is a ruin, but it looks beautiful and with a steam nearby, it is worth a visit.
Two battles were fought here, first one in 1431 between two clans, and the second one during the civil war, in 1645. The original castle dates back to the 13th century. A new Inverlochy castle was built in the Victorian era, now transformed into a hotel.
Have you been to Fort William? West Highland Museum is in Cameron Square, PH33 6AJ, and Inverlochy Castle is in Torlundy, PH33 6SN.