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Derek and Lucy bring Glencoe’s Highland history to life

Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands is famous – or notorious perhaps – as the site of a 17th century massacre which claimed the lives of 38 clan members.

But this beautiful place has many other stories to tell and Derek Alexander and Lucy Doogan from the National Trust for Scotland are determined to tell them.

Derek, 54, the head of archaeology at National Trust for Scotland, is leading the team unearthing the valley’s early settlements and piecing together the story of its inhabitants. Lucy, 30, introduces visitors to the turf house at the Glencoe visitor centre, an authentic replica of a building whose remains were found during an excavation at Achtriochtan at the top of the glen.

The thing they both share is a passion for the place and its stories.

Lucy, who was born and bred in Glencoe and has a degree in Gaelic and Celtic studies from The University of Glasgow, helped gather stone for the turf house’s floor and passed bundles of heather to the master thatcher who made its roof.

Her family has lived in the area for “a long, long time”. Indeed, she believes one of her relatives may have been among the clansmen killed during the infamous Glencoe massacre.

Lucy is glad to be back in the Highlands doing a job that connects with her passion for Scottish culture. She said, “I just think we’ve got such a rich culture of folklore and storytelling, song and poetry. There’s a wealth of stories and there’s a lot we can learn from them.”

For Derek, Glencoe is a paradox: a place relatively unexplored in archeological terms despite being “probably the most famous glen in Scotland”. The first excavation at Achtriochtan in 2018 uncovered the remains of several buildings, but there is much more work to be done.

He said, “We’ve only just scratched the surface. We want to get more people out of their cars and help them explore the history of the place and the people who lived here.”

It is possible archeologists will find artefacts from Glencoe’s darkest day. Derek said, “They will be hard to find because a massacre is an ephemeral event. But we know houses were burned and some people were executed. So there may be musket balls, for example.”

Glencoe is just one of hundreds of incredible places across the UK that took part in National Lottery Open Week. Running between 18th-26th March 2023, it was our way of thanking players like you for helping support amazing historic buildings and heritage sites up and down the country. Visit to find out more.

Originally published 15th February 2023. Updated 27th March 2023.

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