About 20 minutes outside of Inverness lies Dunlichity graveyard and church. This relatively unknown graveyard is steeped in Scottish history. Dunlichity still bears the scars of hundreds of years of war and conflict. The walls are marked by the Jacobite’s swords, and the graves are peppered with 19th century bullet holes. It truly is a fascinating place.
A Sacred Burial Ground
For centuries Dunlichity Graveyard has been the burial place for not only the MacGillivrays but other adjacent Clan Chattan families. As well as being a sacred burial ground Dunlichity has also been an important gathering place through the centuries. The churchyard has acted as a rallying point in times of war and as a social centre during times of peace.
The Marks of a Thousand Jacobite Swords
Dunlichity’s most famous association is perhaps with the Jacobite rebellion. The Jacobite soldiers stopped at Dunlichity Graveyard on their way to Culloden. The walls still bear the grooves where they sharpened their broad swords! I would tell you exactly where to find these marks, however that would spoil the fun. We enjoyed searching the walls looking for the remnants of the warriors preparation!
An Ancient Site
The church you see today was built in 1759 to replace a much older building of which part of the original walls remain. However, Dunlichity has actually been a site of Christian worship since the 7th century. The original church was dedicated to St. Finan, an early evangelist of the Celtic Christian Church. A statue of the saint was kept at Dunlichity until 1643, when it was taken to Inverness and destroyed during the reformation.
MacGilllvray Burial Enclosure
The first thing you notice at the entrance to Dunlichity Graveyard (besides its stunning location) is the MacGilllvray burial enclosure. The present MacGillivray Enclosure dates to 1968 and replaced a smaller one containing only the graves of John Lachlan (1782-1852), Chief and 10th laird of Dunmaglass and his wife Jane Walcott. The present larger walled enclosure now extends to include additional graves and markers memorialising members of three further important local MacGillivray families.
The Bullet Holed Gravestone
The graveyard itself has many interesting grave slabs and stones. A number of these are covered in moss and lichen which only adds to the atmosphere of this sacred spot. On the south wall of the graveyard sits an 1820 watch-house. These were used as a measure to protect against graverobbing which was rife during the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the gravestones still bears the remnants of a botched robbery. Two bullet holes remain from when watchmen once had to take aim and fire at opportunistic graverobbers! See if you can find them!
The Three Lochs Circuit
A visit to Dunlichity Graveyard can be incorporated into a longer walk around three neighbouring lochs. It is a scenic and peaceful walk through varied and quiet countryside, taking in three distinct lochs and Dunlichity Churchyard. The walk begins at the eastern end of Loch Duntelchaig, however there is also a small carpark right beside the graveyard if you are pushed for time. You can find more information on the walk here. The surrounding lochs are also fantastic places for a spot of wild swimming or paddle boarding.
Dunlichity Churchyard is perhaps one of the Highland’s lesser known gems. Its association with the Jacobite rebellion, its battle scars from the sharpening of swords and the wayward bullets of watchmen, and its beautiful scenic locations make it well worth a visit.
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