Here at Culloden Battlefield and Visitors Centre we get visitors from around the world; some will know the history inside out whilst others will be taking their first steps into Scottish history. It’s safe to say that we also get people who are more keen to explore the site than others and this was certainly pointed out when we had one gentleman ask the question ‘It’s just a field, isn’t it?’
Now technically I suppose you could answer yes, it is called a battlefield. And if you don’t know the history that may be all you first see but we’d like to think Culloden Battlefield is much more than ‘just a field’.
First and foremost Culloden Battlefield is a war grave. It is important to remember that in 1746 some 1,500 Jacobites and 50 Government soldiers not only died here at Culloden but were also buried here. Today the site cares for the mass graves that can be found on the moor and the memorial cairn and clan graves that have been in place since the 1880’s. Having the graves on the site of battle is rare and in the past we have been asked why we have not done excavations and archaeology work on the battlefield. The simple answer is we do not want to do invasive work on the graves and as war graves we believe they should be left untouched for people to pay their respects.
Secondly, we have to consider the history of the site which surely marks the place as more important than ‘just a field’. This was the site of the last battle in the last of the Jacobite Uprisings. It was at this site that Prince Charles Edward Stuart and William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland, faced off for the last time and Prince Charles was finally defeated in his attempt to reclaim the throne. The battle of Culloden ended some 60 years of fighting over the Scottish, English and British thrones and is an iconic moment in British history. By conserving and protecting the land we can do our bit to help keep this important place in history alive.
Culloden is also closely connected with the Highland Clan system. Whilst Culloden was not the cause for its demise it certainly can be said to have accelerated the process. Following Culloden came the pacification of the Highlands and eventually the Highland Clearances. Whilst this was a terrible time for the Highlands and its culture it did mean that we had mass emigration leading to Scottish ancestry being spread throughout the world. Now we receive visitors from all corners of the globe who come to try and trace their roots and discover more about their Scottish heritage. Culloden is a place where they can come and learn more about their clan and even their relatives who may have been transported following the battle. Culloden opens up the door to world history in a very special way.
So, is Culloden ‘just a field’, our answer is no. The site is an emotional place that captures a moment in history and brings together people from around the world as they learn more about their past, pay their respects to those who fell and discover the stories that brought us to where we are today. It is not just a field; it is a place of remembrance, education, connection, discovery, passion, history, rest, conservation and a place of a myriad of emotions.
We hope you enjoyed this post and as always please like, tweet, comment and share your experiences of Culloden Battlefield. If you would like to help support the work we do here at Culloden you can make a donation to the site here.
All the best, K & D