Tobar nan Ceann Gang

The blog of a bunch of middle aged men trying to stay youthful…!



What or Who  is the Tobar nan Ceann Gang?

During our trip to The Highlands to walk the Corrieyairack Pass between Loch Ness and Laggan we did a spot of wild camping in a forest on the banks of Loch Oich, not far from Loch Ness. After many beers, tales turned to local folklore and a local monument known as ‘The Well of the Seven Heads’ or Tobar nan Ceann as it is known in Gaelic. There were a few differing stories behind the well, but after looking the legend up on the internet, none of them proved to be anything like the real story behind the monument!

The stories of the well, the laughter and the banter, the beers and the forest summed up everything that was great about that first night and led to us light heartedly christening ourselves the “Tober nan Ceann Gang”…!

The real story goes something like this, which has been unashamedly copied direct from another website

Sandwiched between the busy A82 and the genteel waters of Loch Oich is a site that boasts an interesting coalition of water lore and history. The spring itself issues from the bank and runs into the loch. It can be reached by walking through the short tunnel in the stone well house that encloses it. Above the well is a tall needle-like monument that marks a particularly bloody event in local history. Sitting atop the obelisk is a sculpture of a hand holding a large dagger and seven severed heads. If the name doesn’t give the story away then the sculpture that crowns the monument must do so.

The obelisk was erected in 1812 by the then chief of the Clan McDonell to mark an event that took place in the 1660s. History relates that on 25th September 1663,  two members of the Keppoch family – Alexander the thirteenth chief, and his brother Ranald – were brutally murdered by seven assailants. The Keppochs were a branch of the powerful Clan MacDonald and were engaged in an argument with one Alexander MacDougall MacDonald of Inverlair over a piece of land.

Two years later, a Privy Council meeting in Edinburgh issued a letter of “Fire and Sword” against their murderers. Another member of the Keppoch family, Ian Lom (Bald John), with the help of the MacDonalds of Sleat sought “ample and summary vengeance” for the murders by killing and decapitating the seven men. It is said that on his way to Invergarry castle, to present the heads to the chief of Clan MacDonald of Glengarry, Lom stopped at the spring to wash the heads to make them more presentable. Ever since then the spring has been known as Tobar nan Ceann, the Gaelic for Well of the Heads.

Later, the heads were sent to Edinburgh and ordered to be “affixit to the gallowes standing on the Gallowlie between Edinburgh and Leith”. The bodies were said to be buried in a nearby mound and have since been exhumed, thus providing evidence for the truth of the story.