Fort Augustus has been inhabited since very early times, the proof in the loch crannog named Cherry Island, an old settlement built on wooden logs with an underwater pathway, situated to the north of the town. This proved to be a good defensive strategy against potential marauders who did not know the whereabouts of the secret link from the land to the settlement.
Further proof of the town's antiquity is its ancient name of Kilcumein, meaning Church of Cumein, the successor of St Columba. Set beside Loch Ness, the town was once part of a chain of military settlements intended to keep the Highlanders in check. General Wade made the village his headquarters in 1724 and in 1729 he started the construction of the new fort in a better tactical location beside the loch. He named it Fort Augustus after William Augustus, the notorious Duke of Cumberland, who was at that time only a boy.
The Jacobite clans recaptured the fort in 1745, only to be retaken soon afterwards by government troops led by the Duke of Cumberland after the Battle of Culloden. Later the fort was rebuilt and used as a Benedictine abbey.
Although the abbey architecturally represents Wade's fort, is the successor to two earlier abbeys, namely that of St. Adrian and denys, which was founded in Hanover in 1645 and St. James of the Scots, which was founded in 1100 at Rosenburg in Bavaria. It later became an important postReformation for Scottish Catholics.
The Caledonian Canal, built by Thomas Telford and opened throughout in 1822, sweeps beside the town through a series of locks. It was initiated with the help of a job creation scheme devised by the London government, after they realised that without creating work for the Highlanders, the continuing losses of manpower through emigration, would soon dry up the flow of recruits for the British army and navy.
The surrounding scenery is witness to the dramatic power of the ancient earth movements, which wrenched and thrust the top part of Scotland sideways.