Ardlair Cave

Uamh Mac An Righ - Charlie's Cave - Cave of the King's Son

Useful Information

Location: Loch Maree, Wester Ross. Northwest of Kinlochewe, on the northern side of Loch Maree, near Ardlair Jetty.
(57.72012, -5.52444)
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyTectonic cave
Light: bring torch
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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This is a boulder cave on the shore of Loch Maree which opens up inside. Boat required as there are no roads on the north east side of the loch.

MacKenzie suggest that this is were Bonnie Prince Charlie sheltered after the defeat at Culloden in 1745. There are also stories of buried gold, which has never been recovered somewhere near Ardlair. The gold was supposed to be used to finance the Princes escape. Another story goes back to 500 years earlier when the cave was occupied by a pretty woman and a very young boy. The girl's name was Flora and the boy's name Ewan. MacKenzie tells the yarn in detail, but to cut a long story short, it turns out that Ewan was the son of King Olaf the Great of Mull and North Argyll.

reprinted from The New Caves of Scotland by Tony Oldham (sous presse). With kind permission.

About a quarter of a mile to the southeast of the present Ardlair House, and rather nearer to the house than a small tarn nestling there beneath the cliffs, is a large cairn or assemblage of enormous rocks, heaped and piled upon each other in fantastic confusion. Ash trees and wild roses, heather and ferns, grow in tangled medley among the debris, and, concealing the interstices, render access extremely difficult. But the persevering searcher will discover a roomy cave, formed by a mighty block of rock lying slant ways over other fallen blocks. The entrance to the cave is well concealed, and can only be got at by climbing on to a ledge that forms a narrow platform in front of it. After groping two or three yards along a low narrow passage a dark chamber is reached in which one can stand upright. The floor is level, and perfectly dry. The cairn is about a hundred and fifty yards from the shore of Loch Maree. This cave is called by old Gairloch people now living "The cave of the king's son".

An old woman named Oighrig (Euphemia) lived near Letterewe with her son Kenneth. They had a goat called Earba {i.e. a roe). The goat failing to yield the usual supply of milk was watched by Kenneth, who with much trouble and difficulty traced her to "the cave of the king's son," about three miles distant from their home. Here the goat held the small platform in front of the entrance, and would not allow Kenneth to climb to it. He went for a rope, and throwing it over the goat's horns secured the animal. A boy now appeared on the scene, and hugged the struggling goat. Kenneth first thought the child a fairy, but he discovered his mistake. A young lady of great beauty came from the cave hearing the cries of the boy. The couple had taken refuge in the cave and would have died from hunger had they not enticed Earba to supply them with her milk. Kenneth reported this to his mother, who seeing the couple must ultimately die of want and cold if they remained there, went and persuaded them to live at the humble cottage near Letterewe. The young lady was Flora, and she told them that the boy's name was Eoghan, or Ewan, but she would not reveal their surnames, so the boy was called Eoghan Mac Gabhar (Ewan the son of the goat). According to the story, it was eventually proven that Ewan was the son of Olaf the Great whose widow was Queen.
(Electric Scotland)