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Well of the Seven Heads, The


(Tobar nan Ceann)

An unusual and somewhat grisly roadside monument on the northwestern shore of Loch Oich in the Great Glen, The Well of the Seven Heads is situated 1¼ miles (2 km) south of Invergarry. The B-listed monument comprises an obelisk of polished ashlar, topped by seven carved stone heads together with a hand containing a dagger, set on a square base, which bears text in four languages (Latin, English, Gaelic and French) explaining its origin. The monument commemorates summary justice meted out against the murderers of the Chief of the MacDonalds of Keppoch on the orders of Lord MacDonell of Glengarry, with the support of Sir James MacDonald of Sleat. Alexander MacDonald of Keppoch and his brother Ranald were stabbed to death on 25th September 1663. The killers were Alexander Macdonald of Inverlair and his six sons, the feud was perhaps over land, perhaps because MacDonald of Keppoch was a young, reforming and remote chief, who had been educated in France. There was certainly considerable local support for the murder. However, two years later, with Sir James MacDonald having gained approval from the Privy Council in Edinburgh, it was Iain Lom (Bald Iain) MacDonald, the Keppoch Bard, who sought "ample and summary vengeance" for the crime by killing and decapitating the seven murderers. Taking the heads to show to Lord MacDonell at Invergarry Castle, Iain Lom thought he had better clean the blood from them and stopped at this well, which became known as the Well of the Heads (Tobar nan Ceann in Gaelic). The heads were later sent to Edinburgh where they were "affixit to the gallowes" between Edinburgh and Leith. The monument was erected above the well in 1812 by Colonel Alasdair MacDonell of Glengarry (1773 - 1828).

Visitors can follow steps down to the entrance to a tunnel beneath the monument, where water still emerges and falls into Loch Oich.


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