Day 2 Highlands, Cairns, and Culloden


Day 2

Waterside Hotel in Inverness, our one night hotel. Very nice, walkable to everything, but no time to see the city.

Stopped to get gas and right beside the station is a marker “The supposed burial place of King Duncan 1040”. This is the King Duncan killed by Macbeth – I understand the “supposed” is an important word on the marker. The weathered marker is on the sidewalk of a busy road and ignored by cars racing past.

After Graeme does his rounds collecting his group from the various B&Bs and guest houses, we drive east to Clava Cairns and Culloden, a highlight and key reason for my coming to Scotland.  It’s a very short distance and I’m excited!

We arrived at Clava Cairns well before other tourists and have the place to ourselves, thank you Graeme. The site is way off the beaten path down a narrow path barely wide enough for our small bus. The site is surrounded by thick woods, empty fields, and the river Nairn. It’s early and the morning mists have barely dissipated so the site feels other worldly – or maybe it’s just me. There’s a small parking area, minimal signage, no entrance fee, and no vendors selling miniature cairns. It’s peaceful and you feel a sense of wonder. Who built these ancient burial mounds and why?
The woods on the far side are thick and green. There are no buildings in sight and if you shut out the wandering figures of our tour mates you can almost see how it must have looked thousands of years ago. Graeme is guiding the others through the sight but I just want to wander around hoping to feel something and understand where I am. Besides I’m not sure about the veracity of Graeme’s stories, he loves to talk.

Besides I’d already done some reading before coming to Scotland. The cairns are about 4000 years old. Used first in about 2000 BC, then again 1000 years later. Archaeologists think the site was originally a farm area and there’s some evidence the stones used to build the burial cairns were taken from demolished houses. They don’t know who built these cairns, exactly when, for what reason, or who was buried here. Graeme gave us a good amount of time here but these are the times I wish I didn’t have a time line and could just sit on the ground alone and take it all in.

Culloden Moor is a only about 5 minutes from Clava Cairns. There’s a large modern visitor’s center, a generous parking area, and discreet signage asking visitors to remember and respect that this is a burial site. The battle was fought on Culloden Moor, after the battle the dead were buried where they lay.  Small stones with the names of the different clans, or “mixed clans”, are scattered around the field.

Other than the Visitor’s center the only building within site is a croft (Old Leanach Cottage) said to have been built in 1712 and likely used as a field hospital for the English wounded. There were out buildings but they were burned after the battle when the English were searching for Jacobites. The croft has been maintained, the grass roof has been replaced, probably several times in the last 250 years. Graeme tells us the field is usually mowed but the government is encouraging bee pollination so they aren’t mowing certain government maintained sites. To my mind the tall grass makes the scene more realistic. You see nothing but tall grasses, woods, and distant hills as far as the eye can see. Very serene, very eerie, the dark sky only adds to the mood.

According to a sign at the sight, archaelogical excavation as well as topographic, geophysical, and metal detector has revealed lots of metal objects like musket balls, cannon shot, mortar shell fragments, pieces broken from muskets, buttons, buckles, personal possessions, such as a king’s shilling and a pewter cross and even a bayonet. From the placement of these objects they’ve learned that much of the battle was fought in close quarters, hand to hand or with close range gun shots.

I had never heard of Culloden or the Jacobite rising until reading Outlander. The books are fiction, the characters not real, but the story gives you an idea of how the clan system worked and how highland men were trained to fight from a young age.

That April day the Jacobites knew they were far outnumbered, they were also tired and hungry, without the supplies and equipment their opponents enjoyed. The conditions were not in their favor, and Charles Stuart wasn’t listening to his chiefs recommendations of how, where, and when to fight. Many deserted before the battle began, going back to their neglected farms and families, others stayed out of honor or stubbornness, fully expecting to die.

The battle was short and when it was clear his army would not win, Charles Stuart ran. Apparently with the help of supporter Flora MacDonald he traveled to the Island of Skye in the guise of an Irish servant woman. From there he was taken back to France and lived the rest of his life in Italy.

After the battle Jacobites were hunted down and killed or imprisoned, farms and estates were confiscated, families put out of their homes starved. Clans, gaelic, tartan, weapons, and even bagpipes were banned. Men not hung or killed on the spot were sent to Canada and the American colonies as indentured slaves. Others left Scotland voluntarily to flee persecution. The English wanted to end any thoughts of Scottish independence for ever.

I regret we were not able to go through the Culloden museum, in hindsight I would easily have given up several of the things we were to do that afternoon for another hour at Culloden.

Taken from WIKI……

The Battle of Culloden (Scottish Gaelic: Blàr Chùil Lodair) was the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745 and part of a religious civil war in Britain. On 16 April 1746, the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart fought loyalist troops commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Queen Anne had died in 1714 without any surviving children and was the last monarch of the House of Stuart. Under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701, she was succeeded by her second cousin George I of the House of Hanover, who was a descendant of the Stuarts through his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth, a daughter of James VI and I. The Hanoverian victory at Culloden halted the Jacobite intent to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne; Charles Stuart never again mounted any further attempts to challenge Hanoverian power in Great Britain. The conflict was the last pitched battle fought on British soil.[4]

Charles Stuart’s Jacobite army consisted largely of Catholics – Scottish Highlanders, as well as a number of Lowland Scots and a small detachment of Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment. The Jacobites were supported and supplied by the Kingdom of France from Irish and Scots units in the French service. A composite battalion of infantry (“Irish Picquets”) comprising detachments from each of the regiments of the Irish Brigade plus one squadron of Irish cavalry in the French army served at the battle alongside the regiment of Royal Scots (Royal Ecossais) raised the previous year to support the Stuart claim.[5] The British Government (Hanoverian loyalist) forces were mostly Protestants – English, along with a significant number of Scottish Lowlanders and Highlanders, a battalion of Ulstermen and some Hessians from Germany[6] and Austrians.[7] The quick and bloody battle on Culloden Moor was over in less than an hour when after an unsuccessful Highland charge against the government lines, the Jacobites were routed and driven from the field.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobites were killed or wounded in the brief battle. Government losses were lighter with 50 dead and 259 wounded although recent geophysical studies on the government burial pit suggest the figure to be nearer 300.[citation needed] The battle and its aftermath continue to arouse strong feelings: the University of Glasgow awarded Cumberland an honorary doctorate, but many modern commentators allege that the aftermath of the battle and subsequent crackdown on Jacobitism were brutal, and earned Cumberland the sobriquet “Butcher”. Efforts were subsequently taken to further integrate the comparatively wild Highlands into the Kingdom of Great Britain; civil penalties were introduced to weaken Gaelic culture and attack the Scottish clan system.