Arisaig House lies some two miles southeast of the village of Arisaig in Lochaber, and is located to the south of the A830 road, part of the Road to the Isles, a historic route which connects the town of Fort William to the port of Mallaig.
Located in the Highlands, the area of Lochaber is relatively isolated and lightly populated. During World War II, it was requisitioned for use by the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and became a no-go area when SOE established its first training base at Inverailort Castle. SOE later transferred its operations to Arisaig House, and Inverailort became a Commando training school.
Arisaig House became an SOE Special Training School, designated STS21. It functioned as a finishing school, and specialised in Commando skills, providing the final stage of training for agents destined to serve in the field. Many other local buildings were requisitioned for use by SOE, to accommodate and train the men and women preparing to serve as agents.
The area around Arisaig was critical to the paramilitary training of some 3,000 agents, and with only one access road, was easy to seal off as a Special Protected Area, and keep secure from unwanted attention. Although it had the advantage of remoteness and distance to keep prying eyes away, it was also convenient for legitimate visitors to reach, as it was served by a railway line. Security was rigorously maintained, with even locals being required to have passes for movement into and out of the protected area.
After the war, Arisaig House was returned to its owners, and remained part of the Arisaig Estate until it was sold during the 1970s. The privately owned house has a number of self-catering holiday cottages located within its grounds
The Land, Sea and Islands Centre at Arisaig features an SOE exhibition amongst its displays.
The following description accompanied the 2005 picture of the house:
Building finished around 1939 of this second Arisaig House. This one was built as a replacement for an older house burnt to the ground around 1935. Requisitioned by the army before the owners could move in, it became the Staff HQ for the SOE in the Moidart/South Morar area and also acted as a training centre for agents going into occupied Europe. The team that assassinated Reinhardt Heydrich trained here before going to Prague. Released back to the owners after the war it remained the HQ of Arisaig Estate until sold in the 1970s.
A memorial to Czechoslovakians who both trained and were trained in the surrounding are was announced in 2009. The Czechoslovakians were in Arisaig in the early 1940s as trainers and trainees in the Special Operations Executive. Created in the Czech Republic by sculptor Josef Vajce, the foundation stone for the memorial was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI during a recent visit to the Republic.
Czechs were billeted mainly at Traigh House, Camusdarach Lodge and Garramore House, while other nationalities were accommodated in Morar Lodge and Inverailort Castle near Lochailort. They were trained to use explosives, silent killing methods and how to sabotage railways. Once their training had been completed, they would be parachuted behind enemy lines to carry out a secret war against Nazi Germany.
The memorial site lies on the seaward side of Arisaig village, opposite Café Rhu. Shrubs and rocks screen the location from the the nearby café and road, while an explanatory plaque is mounted nearby.
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