I spent an afternoon in Fort William a few weeks ago. I’d recently read an article which said the drive from Glasgow to Mallaig ranked amongst the best in the world – just don’t stop in Fort William. Well… that’s a bit harsh. Given that the town clings to the shores of Loch Linnhe, the surrounding scenery is pretty stunning.
A wee bit of history about Fort William. According to Wikipedia a ‘Fort was constructed to control the population after Oliver Cromwell’s invasion during the English Civil War and then to suppress the Jacobite uprisings of the 18th Century’. Nowadays, the town is more famous for being the end point of The West Highland Way, a 96 mile walk from Milngavie (just outside Glasgow) to Fort William.
Whilst there, we visited the West Highland Museum. It’s a great wee museum, covering everything from traditional Highland life to the training of commandos during World War Two. But the highlight for me was The Secret Portrait, a fascinating piece of anamorphic art. (I’d never heard of anamorphic art or illusion before. Basically it’s when an image only reveals itself when viewed from a particular angle.)
After the Jacobite defeat and Bonnie Prince Charlie‘s retreat back to France, the English government banned all things Scottish and any reference to a Stuart king. When toasting ‘The King’ – meaning King William – Jacobites would pass their glass over the fingerbowl in a silent toast to ‘the King over the Water’, but the English soon got wise to that and banned fingerbowls from Scottish tables.
But where there’s a will there’s a way. Anamorphic trays were designed with special metal glasses. When viewed from a particular angle, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s image appeared on the goblet. Should the ‘enemy’ arrive on the doorstep, the goblet was removed, revealing only a messy looking tray.
I also popped in to St Andrew’s Episcopal Church on the main street. Silent and peaceful, beautiful and welcoming, it’s definitely worth a visit.