The Search for Dun Bonnets Cave (Outlander)

girl inside Dun Bonnets Cave entrance

Bonaid Odhair Cave is more popularly known as Dun Bonnets Cave. This hidden highland cave is where James Fraser 9th of Foyers (Chief of the Fraser Clan) hid for seven years after the Battle of Culloden in 1745.  The cave is notoriously difficult to find but armed with all the information we could gather we set off on our quest.

The walk to Dun Bonnets Cave

Dunbonnet’s Cave History

When James Fraser went missing after the Battle of Culloden a massive manhunt ensued. He managed to find refuge in a small cave, and despite the danger, the locals would secretly take him food, water and beer while making sure they were not seen by the Red Coats.  The locals nicknamed him Dun Bonnet due to the coloured hat he wore.  This alias allowed them to talk about him right under the noses of the Read Coat soldiers.

On one occasion a boy was caught by the Red Coats taking a cask of beer to James Fraser in his cave. The boy refused to tell them where he was going so the soldiers cut off his hands.  The spot where this happened is called “The Cask’s Leap”.  On another occasion, James Fraser was looking out from his cave when he saw a Red Coat following a servant girl who was bringing him some supplies.  Fraser shot him dead and buried him in the field where he fell.  Despite a few close calls he was never found in his cave.

Stone wall and field where Red Coat was shot dead by Dun Bonnet

Outlander

Popular TV serious Outlander draws upon the history of Dun Bonnets cave in season 3.  One of the series main character’s James Fraser is loosely based on the real chief of the Fraser Clan and he spends time hiding from the Red Coats in a small cave following the Battle of Culloden.  The small cave in Outlander is eerily similar to the real Dun Bonnets cave, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone spending 7 years of their life confined to its narrow walls! Poor Jamie! 

Where is Dun Bonnets cave?

Dun Bonnets Cave is located on the Eastern Shores of Loch Ness, a mile West of the Falls of Foyers.  It’s hidden deep into the woods and the cave is high up in the rocks.  It certainly makes a good hiding place as it’s so difficult to find. We set off unsure whether we would be able to locate this highland hideaway.

We parked at the Falls of Foyers main car park and followed the road uphill by foot.  You get a glimpse of the Lower Falls of Foyers on your right as you walk up the path.  Take a second right turn, passed a few houses then over a small bridge. From here you can see the Upper Falls of Foyers. The flow of the waterfall can vary dramatically depending on what day you visit (see the two pictures below of the same waterfall just days apart).  

Continue along the path and through some trees.  The path forks into two. Bear left and follow the path until you reach a stone wall.  Follow the wall along to the right.  The field on your left is where the Red Coat was shot dead by James Fraser and buried.  Eventually the wall will come to a fence and at this point you turn right and scramble up the rocks. 

The cave is in this area. I am standing above the cave in the picture below and have marked the cave entrance. Further down I have made a rough map of how to get there and the cave location (marked by red X on the map below).  It takes 30-40 minutes to walk there but can take a bit longer trying to find the cave.  Finding it is all part of the fun.

Entering Dun Bonnets Cave

The entrance to the cave is narrow, and we had to manoeuvre ourselves to get inside. There used to be second floor to the cave, but this collapsed a long time ago and only one floor remains.  I imagine when James Fraser lived there the trees would not have been as tall as he was able to see to the field and keep a look out for the Red Coats.  Now the trees are tall and overgrown, obscuring the views to the fields and beyond.

It is an adventure to find the exact location of the cave. Some of the rocks on the descent to the cave have steep edges so its important to be careful when scrambling up and down them.  The cave’s hidden location is exactly why James Fraser chose it as his refuge nearly 300 years ago.  If finding it was easy then the cave would lose its mystique and become just another cave.

If you’re patient on your search you will be rewarded with one of the most important caves in Scotland’s history. Will you be one of the few who get to stand within its walls?  Happy hunting!

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