The name Ballachulish (in Gaelic, Baile a’ chaolais) means “settlement on the strait”. The strait in question is Caolas Mag Phadraig – Peter or Patrick’s narrows, at the mouth of Loch Leven.
The village is split in three – North Ballachulish, South Ballachulish and Ballachulish Village and the divide was naturally around the loch at its narrowest point where a passenger ferry used to carry those wishing passage to the north across the loch. In 1975 the current Ballachulish Bridge was opened which now links both sides of the loch, removing the need for a ferry or a 17 mile de-tour via Kinlochleven!
In the late 1600’s slate was quarried for the first time in the area and it soon became the area’s main industry. These days, you can walk around the old quarry site and enjoy wonderful views of the area from the vantage points along the cliff top.
On entering the village you will notice a large slate slab engraved with ‘Ballachulish’. This has been erected in honour of the dedicated village GP Dr Lachlan Grant who served the local community in the 1900’s. In 1903 the Ballachulish slate quarry, who employed the Doctor, decided to dispense with his services. The slate workers who had their weekly wages docked to pay for the services of the Doctor were unhappy with this decision and decided that they would employ Dr Grant themselves and refused to pay the company’s levy. The company’s response was to threaten dismissal and to seek a Court of Session interdict banning Dr Grant from practising in the area. However the workers continued their support of the young Doctor. The result was a 12 month lock-out which caused hardship in the area and some men had to seek work elsewhere. However help came from Keir Hardie who travelled north to address a mass meeting before returning to Westminster to raise support in Parliament. The company finally conceded defeat and the men returned to work with all their conditions met and Dr Grant was reinstated.
Learn about the history of Ballachulish from Pre1800 to the current day on the Ballachulish Timeline