Lochailort is only a small village at the head of Loch Ailort but nevertheless has a railway station and Hotel, the Lochailort Inn. At the junction in the village the road in to the Rough Bounds of Moidart turns off and gives access out to the Ardnamurchan peninsula, the most westerly point of the British Mainland.
Lochailort is of interest because of Inverailort Castle, used by the top-secret Special Operations Executive (SOE) for commando training in the second world war. In the autumn of 1940 the first recruits began to arrive at Inverailort, SOE’s initial Highland training HQ.
Here, far from prying eyes, they absorbed essential paramilitary skills; how to survive in the wild, how to handle weapons and explosives, how to wage guerrilla war and how to kill silently. To teach them came a legendary duo from Shanghai, men used to policing the toughest and roughest city of its day - Major Bill Fairbairn and Captain Eric Sykes, who jointly invented the famous double-edged commando knife.
This exotic duo were not the only bizarre characters at Inverailort. Its visitors’ book, which still survives, features the name of Kim Philby, Moscow’s most loyal and notorious British agent, who spent a few days there in 1940. Ironically, subversive war was an art he’d learned from Stalin’s Comintern. Now it was unknowingly harnessed to Britain’s war effort. SOE eventually transferred its Scottish training HQ to Arisaig and Inverailort became a commando training school.
The house has now fallen into disprepair following the death of the last occupant Mrs Cameron-Head.
Glenuig is a small croftiing comunity some eight miles off the Road to the Isles, but is well worth a detour for the lovely beach that can be accessed by taking the small road past the Glenuig Inn.
Also of interest just a short distance on from the beach is the old township of Smirisary which still shows the remains of many of the old crofts that formed the settlement.
- The Road to the Isles
- A 830
- Fort William to Mallaig