Glencoe, perhaps Scotland's most visited glen, has been associated with the mighty Clan Donald since the 14th century, when Angus Og McDonald of Islay bestowed the Glencoe lands on his son Iain Abrach, the ancestor of the Glencoe McDonalds.
The McDonalds of Glencoe held their lands under the feudal superiority of Stewart of Appin, and later the Campbells of Argyll.
By the 17th century, the Earls of Argyll were the acknowledged feudal superiors of Glencoe, however the McDonalds were to pay a high price for their support of the Royalist & Jacobite cause of the Stewarts. In 1690, a year after Bonnie Dundee's failed Jacobite rebellion, Alasdair, the then Glencoe chief was forfeited in all his lands for his support of King James. As is well documented, the same chief paid the ultimate price when he was 'murdered under trust' two years later by the Earl of Argyll's regiment at the Massacre of Glencoe. In 1751 John, great grandson of the massacred chief, became the first Glencoe chief to be recognised as owner of the Glencoe Estate when he received a grant of these lands from Stewart of Appin. The Glencoe Estate consisted of Polvig (now called Invercoe), Carnoch, Tighphuirt, The Mill of Glencoe & Mill Croft, and Glen Leac Na Muidhe, where the former chiefs had their summer home. The area amounted to 2,700 acres, which was relatively small compared to other Highland Estates. The McDonalds of Glencoe continued to own these lands until 1894, when Archibald Burns McDonald put the land up for sale.
It has been said that Donald Alexander Smith (later to become Lord Strathcona) of the Hudsons Bay Co, North America, heard about the sale of the Glencoe estate from a McDonald of Glencoe, whom he had met while on a ship sailing across the Atlantic. A more likely theory is that Lord Strathcona was interested in Glencoe before the sale as he had worked closely during his time at the Hudsons Bay Co, with a son of Archibald McDonald of Glencoe. Archibald himself had emigrated with 100 others during 1815, and many stories of their Glencoe homeland would have been passed on.
Soon after buying the Estate, Lord Strathcona built Glencoe House, a large imposing mansion, which was later to become a hospital in the 1950’s, this continued until 2008, when Glencoe House closed its doors as a hospital for the elderly. In 1935, the Strathcona family sold most of the estate to a number of buyers, retaining a portion for themselves. In 2001 the last remaining part of the Glencoe Estate was put up for sale by the descendants of Lord Strathcona. The land comprised of about 130 acres, including the largest stretch of the River Coe; a half share of the historic Eilean Munde (traditional burial place of the McDonalds of Glencoe); The ruined Old Mill of Glencoe; the Crofters Common Grazings; the last remaining Ancient Woodlands of Glencoe; Fishing rights on Loch Triachtan; plus 8 miles of Salmon netting rights on Loch Leven.
Owing to the historic nature of the land, the sale generated much interest, and was complex. Alistair MacDonald, a descendant of the McDonalds of Glencoe, realized that the only way to save this land was by raising private funds, as government support was highly unlikely. At the eleventh hour, Alistair secured the sum of £105,000 from family & friends by way of unsecured loans, and after careful consideration by the sellers, his bid was accepted; he immediately formed The Glencoe Heritage Trust, who own the land. A worldwide appeal was immediately set up to repay the six donors to ensure that these historic lands never come up for sale again.