Day 2 Timberbush tour Highlands, Cairns, and Culloden Battlefield



We’re on Day 2 or our Timberbush Small Group Tour from Edinburgh to the Scottish Highlands and the highlights today are Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns.  I’m excited for today because visiting these two sites was my main reason for coming to Scotland.  

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”.  King Duncan was killed by Macbeth so he could take the throne.  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!

Collect the group, and we’re on our way.

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

Clava Cairns 

We arrived at Clava Cairns well before other tourists and had the place to ourselves, thank you, Graeme. The site is way off the beaten path down a narrow road barely wide enough for our small bus. Thick woods, empty fields, and the river surrounded the site.   It’s early and the morning mists have hardly dissipated, so the place feels otherworldly – 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 want to wander around hoping to feel something and understand where I am. Besides I’m not sure about the integrity of Graeme’s stories, he loves to talk.

4000-Year-old Cairns

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 original site was a farm area and the stones taken from abandoned structures.   They don’t know who built these cairns, exactly when, for what reason, or is under the rocks.  Graeme gave us a good amount of time here, but these are the times I wish I had more time and could sit on the ground alone and take it all in.

Culloden Battlefield

Culloden Moor is 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.  Culloden Moor is the site of the Battle of Culloden in 1746, 1500 to 2000 bodies lay under the soil with only small stones with the names of the different clans, or “mixed clans,” as markers. 

Other than the Visitor’s center the only building on the moor 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 outbuildings but they were burned after the battle when the English were searching for Jacobites.  There is fresh grass covering the roof, but the building itself is over 250 years old.  Graeme tells us 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.

Excavation findings on Culloden Battlefield

According to a sign at the sight, archaeological 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 gunshots.

Outlander Books 

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 fate of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) 

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 forever.

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…… Charles Stuart, The Jacobites and the Battle of Culloden

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.


I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.

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