Leanach Cottage

Situated on the grounds of Culloden Battlefield lies Leanach cottage. This beautiful thatched cottage attracts many visitors throughout the year and is a lovely memory of the history of the battlefield. Today, we thought we’d share a little more about the cottage and why it is so special to all of us here at Culloden.

Leanach is one of the last survivors of a once common local structure type of a single storey thatched building. Today the building stands as an isolated structure but in the past this area was well populated and the land divided into smallholdings.  Historical maps show a number of farmsteads in the close vicinity with small pockets of individually cultivated land, however, Leanach is now one of the only surviving examples of this landscape.

The cottage itself was likely constructed in the early 18th century, probably as part of wider improvements on Culloden estate and originally would have been a T-shaped structure. In the 17th and 18th century estate owners provided their tenants with the wood for their roof crucks whilst the tenant was responsible for the construction of the walls of their houses.The walls were often made from local stone and/or turf at the gable ends.

Leanach Cottage in the 1940’s

During the Battle of Culloden Leanach Cottage was situated in between the Government lines and it is likely the building would have been used as a field hospital for the government men.

Following Culloden there were several periods of occupation, sometimes intermittent and the shape of the building appears to have been altered by the demolition of the western end of the structure in the mid-late 1860s, leaving an L-plan structure which can still be seen today. The building then appears to have been abandoned again shortly after this and fell into a ruinous state (late 1860s-1880s). The cottage was then rebuilt and reoccupied in the early 1880s, possibly as part of Duncan Forbes’ work to memorialise the Battle of Culloden during which time he also built the memorial cairn and erected grave stones on the clan graves.

Belle MacDonald outside Leanach Cottage

The last occupant of Leanach Cottage was Belle MacDonald who lived here until she died in 1912. Her family apparently gave tours of the battlefield to interested visitors as the Victorian railway brought tourists into the highlands. In 1924 the Gaelic Society of Inverness and Thomas Munro Architects set out to repair and conserve the building and the original steeply pitched roof was replaced with a shallower one.

Leanach Cottage

The National Trust for Scotland was gifted Leanach Cottage in 1944 by Hector Forbes, the local land owner, and it became the original visitor centre in 1961. Quite different from the centre we have today it had a few simple panels to allow people to experience the story of the battle. Minor alterations continued until 1978 when the NTS removed the old 1920’s roof and replaced it back to a steeply pitched roof more in line with the original crucks which were still visible in the western wall.

With the opening of the new visitor centres Leanach has been able to retain its charm and beauty and we hope to be able to open the cottage once again next year so visitors can see inside this lovely piece of history.

Leanach Cottage in the snow

In terms of conservation of the thatch and the turf wall, it is easy to see why the Trust needs the support of its Members to keep such buildings from falling into disrepair. Now, we don’t usually play the charity card but this time we are so please forgive us. If you would like to help protect Leanach Cottage you can go to https://www.nts.org.uk/Donation/Appeal/Once/Give-to-your-favourite-National-Trust-for-Scotland-place/ or you can text ROOF75£5 to 70070 to donate £5. Thank you.

Hope you enjoyed the post. As always please like, follow, share, tweet, comment and keep coming back for more!

All the best, K & D


15 thoughts on “Leanach Cottage

  1. Very interesting information & photos about the Leanach cottage on Culloden. Have become more aware of the Jacobite rebellion from Facebook as well as the Outlander series & your article.
    Thanks so much for this article.


  2. I am interested in this article as our grandfather William Munro was said to have been born there. That would have been the early part of the 1900’s now that we are in 2018!
    Can anyone advise as how to confirm this? I have a newspaper article which I can scan, thanks


    • Hello Elizabeth, do you have the census records covering that period? My great-grandfather (John Cameron) is shown as living there on the 1881 census. Your grandfather may show on the 1901 census.


      • hi sue does john Cameron have anything to do with a Ann Cameron my great grandfather was born in the kings stables (Thomas William brooskbank 1879 )by the time he was 10 he lived in leanach cottage there were 2 Ann camerons there mother and daughter I think .

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve just found this. My great great grandparents and family also lived there in 1881. Roderick and Isabella McKenzie and my great grandmother was Jane Ann McKenzie.


      • Hi Elizabeth,

        My GGG parents are also on the 1881 census living at Leanach cottage The mckenzies . I can see the Cameron’s on it too. How fascinating.


      • Hi Sue,
        My paternal grandmother Alexandrina Cameron was listed in the 1902 census as 1 years old.
        She was born 13 April 1901 at Ivy Cottage, High Street, Dingwall.
        Libby Troy,
        Sunshine Coast, Australia


  3. The 1881 census shows my GGG grandparents The McKenzies living at “Leanach cottage” in 1881. I’ll be visiting in May ..cant wait!


    • Hi, I too are a descendant of the McKenzie / Mc Donald family that lived at Leanach farm. Great great grand father William McDonald and his wife (nee) Margaret Mc Kenzie. Interested in finding out more on this family. McKenzie and McDonald are in both sides of the family. I also have Coplen,Frasers and Sutherlands. I am actually Pauline and live in NZ. Email pauline.boocock@gmail.com if you are interested. I have an ancestry page that I am working on.


  4. In 1891 my gt grandparents Donald Gordon and family lived next door to the Roderick McKenzies in a cottage on Leanach Farm, but not the “Old Leanoch Cottage’ There appear to be several cottages on Leanach Farm . I visited the old cottage in 2012 and we drove into the Leanach Farm area, just along the road where I imagine that my grandmother and her family lived.


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