Glenfinnan owes its growth to three factors: the road, the railway and the Jacobites. Though not in that order, as the Jacobites were here first! It was here that Bonnie Prince Charlie first raised his standard on 19 August 1745. Read full story...
Shortly afterwards, Glenfinnan experienced its first major growth in population as a direct result of the MacDonalds of Glenaladale who built an inn in 1754 which later became their seat (Glenfinnan House). This family also built the monument and the Stage House Inn (now the Prince's House) in 1815, the farmhouse and steadings in l861, and the church in 1871. They were also the sole employers.
Thomas Telford came next. The Commissioners for Highland Roads and Bridges asked him to build what was originally called the Loch na Gaul road from Fort William to Rhu, Arisaig - the main point of embarkation to the Hebrides. This road was started in 1872 and completed in 1875. It has since become better known as the Road to the Isles and now ends at Mallaig.
In the years up to 1901, Sir Robert McAlpine took on a huge civil engineering challenge with the building of the West Highland Extension Railway from Fort William west to Mallaig, though that was not the originally intended destination. One of the largest structures on the railway is the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This is 416 yards long and made up of 21 arches, the tallest of which is 100ft high. What is less obvious from a distance is that the viaduct is also curved, leading the track round the head of the River Finnan valley.
Another considerable impact on the community was the establishment of the steamship service in 1901 based at the south-west end of the loch at Acharacle. This boat transported passengers, cargo and mails, stopping at five piers en route. This was co-ordinated to fit with the train times at Glenfinnan Station, thus resulting in Glenfinnan being the "jumping off place" for Ardnamurchan, Moidart and Sunart.
Through the ages, as in most of the Highlands, population was dictated by the stocking capacity of the pastures and hills and as that commodity was limited (now even more so) it is unlikely that the population exceeded 40 souls until the middle 1800s. A century later, thanks to easy transport, people can now commute to Fort William or elsewhere with the result that the Glenfinnan population has reached 100 this year.