Archaeology at Culloden

With 2017 being the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology we had to take a look into the archaeology here at Culloden. Something that many people may not know about Culloden is that it was one of the first battlefields in Scotland to be subject to archaeological investigation making it an intriguing subject.

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Culloden Battlefield

As part of the Culloden Battlefield Memorial Project, work first began at the site in 2000 and has included topographic, geophysical and metal detector surveys.

These surveys have allowed us to discover and learn more about the battle and what exactly happened on that fateful day in April 1746. The fact that objects and details discovered hundreds of year after an event can help inform our knowledge is a fantastic and intriguing subject.

Unsurprisingly, metal detector surveys managed to uncover a lot of items from the field including musket balls, mortar fragments, buckles and buttons many of which we have on display in our exhibition. The interesting aspect of these finds though was their location. When mapped all of these individual finds suggested the battle took place over a larger piece of land than originally anticipated.

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Mortar Fragments and Grape Shot

The intensity of finds also showed the majority of  hand-to-hand fighting took place further south than expected. The presence of broken musket pieces indicated the weapons were damaged by fire at close range or smashed off by a broadsword. The lost buttons and buckles most likely removed in struggles which offers an insight into the extreme battle conditions on the moor. These lost items open up a harrowing picture of Culloden and bring the battle into a harsh reality with objects you can truly connect with.

Close to the area of close quarter fighting were fragments of mortar bombs which would have been fired into the charging Jacobites to stop their dreaded attack. The power of these bombs could take out up to twenty men at a time, making it remarkable the Jacobites made it to the Government front line at all. The position of the mortar fragments, so close to the Government front line, also opens up the possibility that Government men could have been killed as the shells were rather unpredictable and broke apart as the powder inside ignited.

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Pewter Cross

As well as gathering information on the fighting and tactics of the armies surveys also helped uncover a couple of more personal items. A silver coin was found dating from 1752, after the battle. The coin is a silver thaler from the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin which was one of the German Baltic states. The presence of the coin suggests the possibility that it was dropped by a soldier who had served time in the continent. They could even have been based at Fort George and travelled to the battlefield to visit the graves of some of their fallen comrades. Also found was a small pewter cross. This discovery near Leanach Cottage is a beautiful pendant and you cant help but wonder who it belonged to and the story behind it. Was it given to a soldier by a loved one? Was it kept close for luck? The stories that could lie behind the objects make them all the more special and important to preserve.

We are lucky to have found so many items that have opened up new theories of the battle of Culloden and raised new questions and thoughts about the men on the field. If you want to find out more be sure to come along to our exhibition to see the finds for yourself. As always we hope you enjoyed this brief insight into the archaeology of the site and please comment, like, share and tweet.

All the best, K & D

 

 

Something off the beaten track…

Most of the properties the National Trust for Scotland looks after are pretty well known and are easy to find on the map but there are a few that are tucked a little bit away from the main path. Today we choose a few of our favourite lesser known properties.

Firstly, the one nearest us, Boath Doocot.

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Boath Doocot

 

This is a small 17th century doocot (or dovecote if you prefer) which stands looking over the site of the Battle of Auldearn which took place in 1645. Just 20 minutes from Culloden it makes a nice stop between ourselves and Brodie Castle to pack a little bit more history into your trip. The doocot stands 7.5m high and houses 515 nesting boxes within its walls. It was donated to the NTS in 1947 by Brigadier J Muirhead of Boath.

Out west we have the ruins of Strome Castle.

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Strome castle ruins

 

One of the best things about this castle is its location as it sits on a little rocky outcrop at the end of Loch Carron offering gorgeous views out towards the Isle of Skye. If you catch it on a sunny day then it is a wonderful drive out along the west coast. The castle is believed to have been built in the 14th Century and changed hands many times over the centuries. Finally in the 1600’s it was besieged by Kenneth MacKenzie, Lord of Kintail and was eventually blown up.

To the east in Fife we have Balmerino Abbey.

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Balmerino Abbey ruins

Though now ruins the abbey was once an impressive Cistercian monastery from the 13th Century. Whilst it may not be as fancy as it once you can still see the beautiful stonework and the arches of the cloisters. Also in the grounds is a beautiful Spanish chestnut tree that is said to be amongst the oldest in Scotland. Tradition says it was planted in 1229 by Queen Ermengarde but more recent studies have shown it to be roughly 500 years old.

Finally why not head out to see Black Hill.

Black Hill

 

Found not far from Glasgow this hill makes a wonderful walk on a nice day. From the top are lovely views down the Clyde Valley and the hill also has a rich archaeological history. The site is home to a Bronze age burial cairn and was once an Iron Age fort. The area was donated to the National Trust for Scotland in 1936 and was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1969.

We hope you enjoyed reading about this different places. As always please tweet, comment, share and try to check out some of these places for yourself.

All the best, K & D

 

5 Great Summer Walks

With summer heading our way, and hopefully some wonderful weather to go with it, we’re taking a look at some of the best walks the NTS has to offer.

 

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Pathways of exotic plants at Inverewe Gardens

Firstly Inverewe Gardens. Perfect for a pleasant stroll through gorgeous grounds, Inverewe Garden is a special place on the North West coast of Scotland. Its unique ecosystem allows plants from all over to grow and its home to pine martens, squirrels, buzzards and if you’re lucky even an eagle. There is usually plenty of colour and enough variety to dazzle all the senses. Their Pinewood trail takes just 45 minutes and is perfect for families, plus you can stop off at the restaurant after for a quick pick me up.

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A view up to the castle of Culzean

Secondly, Culzean Castle and its lovely beach. A classic mixture of sand and rocks this beach lies below the stunning castle and offers a more secluded beach environment than usual. As you walk along you get great views out to sea and, to the south, the granite rock that is Ailsa Craig. You’ll also see caves dotted in the cliffs and, if you fancy, you can join a guided tour taking you into the cave chambers where you can discover tales of smugglers from years ago. http://www.nts.org.uk/Events/Culzean-Castle-and-Country-Park/Explore-Culzeans-Caves/

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The majestic Falls of Glomach

If you fancy something a bit more adventurous you can head to the Falls of Glomach. One of the highest waterfalls in Britain, with a drop of 113m (370ft), the Falls of Glomach are set in a steep narrow cleft in remote Highland country. The easiest walk is 2.5 miles uphill from the car park at Dorusduain but the rewarding views and atmospheric misty conditions definitely make it worth the effort. This is one of the few walks where rain is actually welcome as the runoff makes the falls even more spectacular.

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The beautiful coastline of Rockcliffe

Rockcliffe, on the other hand, can offer something for everyone. From mudflats to meadows, rocky shore to heather-topped granite outcrops, this area is home to a huge diversity of wildlife and a network of paths gives access to most of the area. One of the highlights is the Mote of Mark which dates back to the late 6th or 7th century AD. This defended settlement is thought to have been the citadel of one of the princes of the ancient kingdom of Rheged. Huge stone and timber ramparts surrounded a large timber hall and some smaller stables and workshops, where bronze jewellery was made. Today you can only see the remains of the ramparts but it is still an impressive site. You can also see Rough Island, a bird sanctuary, where oystercatchers like to nest and ringed plovers are also found. If you time it right you’ll also see the oystercatchers probing for cockles in the soft estuary mud when the tide is out. If that’s not enough though you may catch sight of porpoises in the water as the feed to close to shore or, if you are very lucky, even a peregrine falcon as it hunts on the mudflats and cliffs.

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Ossian’s Hall at the Hermitage

Finally, for more of a woodland walk, we turn to The Hermitage. Here you can follow in the footsteps of notable visitors of the past including Wordsworth, Queen Victoria, Mendelssohn and Turner. The area takes you through spectacular Douglas firs, including one of the tallest trees in the country, and then on to a lovely little folly called Ossian’s Hall which sits overlooking the Black Linn waterfall.  With summers long hours if you visit in the evening there is also a chance of seeing bats flying over the river or perching in the trees and you can often here the calls of a tawny owl of two.

Hopefully these walks have tempted you to head out on an adventure. As always please like, tweet, comment, share and keep your fingers crossed for some sunshine.

All the best, K & D

 

Intercepted Post – we need your help!

Culloden Battlefield is a special place to many people.

It has been an inspiration for writers of fact and fiction for 270 years.
Inspiration can come from the individual stories of people who fought at the Battle of Culloden; those who were affected by the Uprising and the aftermath; to the stories of the visitors who come to the moor...

 As part of an upcoming event “An Epic Tale: The facts and fiction of life during the Rising” we would like you to send why Culloden is special, inspirational or thought provoking place to you.

Whether you have visited or would like to visit we would like to hear your story of why Culloden and the stories of the ’45 Uprising are important to you.

To be part of this event please send your stories on the back of a postcard to:

Learning Team @ Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre
Culloden Moor
Inverness
Scotland, U.K
IV2 5EU

All the postcards sent in will be on display at the visitor centre from 1 July to the 31 July.

Thank you for your help and we look forward to reading your stories.

The Mystery of Cluny’s Cage

There is a well known Jacobite legend of Cluny’s Cage where Ewen MacPherson of Cluny, Chief of Clan MacPherson, hid from the Government army for nine years after Culloden. But, how true is this marvellous story?

Ewen MacPherson of Cluny, Chief of Clan MacPherson, joined the Stewart army with about six hundred men but missed the fateful battle at Culloden as he had been sent to guard the passes in the Badenoch. After the defeat at Culloden Government men searched the highland for members of the Jacobite army and, as a high ranking man, Cluny was well known. Cluny’s house was burnt to the ground and all his possessions looted forcing him to scatter his men and seek shelter somewhere safe.

This much is fairly well known but from this point on it becomes trickier to separate fact from fiction. It is said that Cluny led a small party of men toward Loch Ericht in the Highlands and here he found refuge on the slopes of Ben Alder. Many believe this refuge was a small cave on Creag Dhubh, Ben Alder. Since this is such a widely held belief it seems fair to say that Cluny spent some time here, but is it Cluny’s Cage? Most, think not.

Loch Ericht

 

The Cage itself is more widely though to have been an artificial structure that Cluny built on the face of a rocky hill near Loch Ericht and was hidden by thickets of holly and moss to blend with the mountain. The structure was supposedly two stories high positioned far above the paths around the loch to watch for sentries below and, it is said, there was space to hide seven men if needed. It is also said Cluny was able to light a fire as the mountain above was the colour of smoke so any evidence dissipated over the hilltop and ensured his location remained a secret.

Prince Charles apparently stayed at the Cage for several nights whilst he was running from the Government before he made his escape over to the continent and this has led some to suggest that Cluny’s Cage is on the eastern side of Loch Ericht. Here there are huge slabs of rock, perfect for disguising the signs of smoke, and in a 1783 map by James Stobie there is a notation ”Place where C. S. hid himself 1746”, on the eastern side of Loch Ericht, near a spot called Creag na h-Iolaire, which is believed to refer to Cluny’s Cage.

Nowadays it is difficult to say precisely where the Cage was. Over the years any structure would surely have been lost to the elements so the exact position around Loch Ericht can still be argued over by some.

To remain hidden for so long Cluny was certainly both smart and lucky. One story tells of him hiding for a time at Dalchully House in a bolt hole in the East wing. Stepping outside one day he was caught by Colonel Munro, the very man charged with searching for him. However, since the two men had never met, Cluny calmly held the Colonel’s horse whilst the soldier went inside the house to search. It is claimed that he was given a penny for his trouble.

Eventually, after nine years in hiding, Cluny finally made his way over to France, apparently invited by Prince Charles himself. Here he managed to reunite with his wife and daughter before he died in Dunkirk in 1764.

We hope you enjoyed this foray into the history of Cluny and his mysterious Cage. As always please like, share, tweet, comment and let us know if you have any different theories as to the legend of Cluny’s Cage.

All the best, K & D

 

It’s Just a Field, isn’t it?

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?’

Culloden, Inverness.
Culloden Moor

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.

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The Memorial Cairn at Culloden Battlefield

 

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.

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Culloden Battlefield

 

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.

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Clan Graves at Sunset

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

 

Top Five NTS Mountains

The National Trust for Scotland is the 3rd largest landowner in Scotland and looks after 190,000 acres of countryside with a grand total of 46 Munros under its care.

With that it mind we’ve put together a short list of our favourite mountains to hopefully inspire you to hit the hills.

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Ben Lawers

1.Ben Lawers.

Ben Lawers is Scotlands tenth highest munro and reaches 1,214m (3,984ft) above the banks of Loch Tay. The mountain is part of the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve which is famous for its arctic-alpine flora and is regarded by botanists as one of the richest areas for alpine flora in the UK. Ben Lawers itself is the highest point along a ridge that contains seven Munros so if you’re looking to check some Munros off your list this is a good spot to do so. For a slightly less intense walk there is a short hidden history trail which reveals remnants of life that use to work and live in the hills.

 

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Glencoe

2. Glencoe

If you thought Ben Lawers had a lot of munros we can go one better with Glencoe & Dalness. Here walkers and mountaineers come from across the globe to check out the eight Munros which can be found. Glencoe is considered the home of Scottish mountaineering and attracts some 150,000 hill walkers each year. One of the most famous walks is the Aonach Eagach Ridge; not for those with vertigo it traverses an increasingly narrow ridge with spectacular scrambling to cover two Munros.

 

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Ben Lomond

3. Ben Lomond

Situated along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond this Munro rises to 974m and is the most southernly Munro in Scotland. Ben Lomond offers much more than just the Munro though. The site houses a range of walks and at Ardess you will also find the thatched Cruck Building, an example of the type of building people would have made, and lived in, in centuries past.

 

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Goatfell

4. Goatfell

Not quite a Munro, Goatfell is the highest peak on the Isle of Arran sitting at 874m (2,866ft). From the summit if you are lucky you can see all the way across to Ben Lomond in the east and out to the coast of Ireland in the south-west. The best time to visit is probably in May when there is the Arran Mountaineering Festival, a fun packed four days of guided walks, scrambles, wildlife watching, films, ceilidhs, curry nights and more.

 

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Torridon

5. Torridon

Torridon has to be on the list not just because it has five Munros but also because of its geology. Most of the scenery is composed of Torridonian sandstone dating back 750 million years which creates the huge monoliths. For the adventurous there is the mighty Liathach often rated as Scotlands finest mountain reaching 1,054m (3,456ft) whilst for those less vertically inclined there are beautiful walks along the coast by the fjord, Loch Torridon.

If you want to see more of our mountains then do visit the NTS website http://www.nts.org.uk/Home/ and check out some trails from the comfort of your own home as routes have been captured by NTS staff using Google’s StreetView technology. http://www.nts.org.uk/treks

Hopefully this post has inspired you to check out some of the many NTS mountains. As always please like, share, follow, comment and break out those walking boots.

All the best, K &D