The last of four purpose built fortified barracks to be constructed as a result of the Jacobite rebellions, Bernera Barracks near Glenelg was designed to support a garrison of 120 men to ensure control of the crossing to the Isle of Skye. Started following the 1719 revolt, it soon became militarily irrelevant as the local populace became increasingly Protestant.
Bernera Barracks, near Glenelg, was built between 1719 and 1723 and was the last of four facilities constructed to garrison Government troops at strategic points through the Highlands in response to the Jacobite threat. Just over thirty years earlier, on 5 November 1688, William of Orange landed with an army at Brixham starting a popular uprising against the Catholic James VII (II of England) that resulted in his overthrow. Known as the Glorious Revolution William and his wife, Mary Stuart (daughter of James VII), were invited to become joint monarchs subject to constitutional limitations. Protestant England embraced the new rulers but reaction in Scotland to the new regime was mixed. Although the Scottish Government supported William and Mary, amongst both Protestant and Catholic circles there was reluctance to displace the Stuart dynasty which had ruled Scotland for over 300 years. Almost immediately the first Jacobite rebellion ignited (April 1689) led by John Graham, Viscount Dundee. Supported by Irish troops and Highland Clans he had military success at the Battle of Killiecrankie. A number of further battles were fought but the uprising was ultimately defused by the offer of a general amnesty to any clans who had participated provided they took an oath of allegiance. But with the Act of Settlement (1701) and the Act of Union (1707) - which respectively barred Catholics from the throne and merged the English/Scottish Governments - the Highland Clans once again became disaffected. With the succession (in 1714) of the first of the Hanoverian monarchs, George I, discontent turned into rebellion in the form of the 1715 Jacobite uprising.
Known as ‘the fifteen’, the rebellion was swiftly dealt with but to prevent re-occurrence, as well as to enforce the new Disarming Act (1716) - which banned broadswords, muskets and other weapons of war being held by the Highland clans - the Government commissioned new infantry barracks. The intent was for these facilities to augment the main Governmental fortresses at Fort William and Inverness Castle (re-named Fort George) plus those at Edinburgh and Stirling castles. The barracks were located at Inversnaid in proximity to Loch Lomond, Kiliwhimen (now Fort Augustus) and Ruthven. However, in 1719 a further Jacobite rebellion occurred in 1719 centred on Eilean Donan Castle. Although defeated at the Battle of Glenshiel, an additional barracks was added at Bernera near Glenelg in order to secure the crossing to the Isle of Skye.
Bernera Barracks were construction from stone plundered from the nearby Glenelg brochs. The structure was designed by Andrews Jelfe and John Lambertus Romer, both members of the Board of Ordnance, and the construction was overseen by Sir Patrick Strachan. Once completed the building consisted of two three-storey barrack buildings both capable of accommodating 60 soldiers (each block had two rooms on each floor with ten men in each). A protecting curtain wall, that included the walls of the blocks themselves, provided a rectangular enclosure and was provided with musket-loops for defensive purposes. Two turrets supported domestic functions. Officer accommodation was provided separate from the facility in Glenelg.
The final Jacobite rebellion, the 1745 uprising led by Prince Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), commenced in July 1745 and culminated in the Battle of Culloden (1746). By this time Bernera had become militarily irrelevant with the garrison having been significantly reduced as the local populace became increasingly Protestant. By 1797 the facility had been abandoned and was left to become derelict.
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Bernera Barracks remains superficially complete but the ruins have been sealed off as they are structurally unstable. Nevertheless the exterior can be viewed from the adjacent path.
Bernera Barracks. The barracks are structurally unstable and therefore there is no access. The barracks at Ruthven are a similar design and are open to the public.
Reconstructed Accommodation. A reconstruction at Corgarff Castle but the configuration, a Government standard, would have been similar at Ruthven. The men were assigned two to a bed with five beds per room plus additional individual beds for the Non-Commissioned Officers.
Bernera Barracks are very near Glenelg but are not signposted. Car parking in the immediate vicinity is limited and is best achieved by using the waterfront parking facilities and walking through Glenelg.