A Little Bit More Gaelic

In 2015, we wrote a blog post offering some facts about the Gaelic language. As it was such a big part of the Jacobite culture, there has been a lot of effort made to include it at the visitor centre, which encourages many questions about the language, including its history, prevalence at the time of the Battle of Culloden and vocabulary. Below is some more information about Scottish-Gaelic:

In the mid-18th century, Gaelic was by no means spoken by the majority of the Scottish population. Its decline is believed to have begun during the reign of Malcolm III of Scotland (1058-1093), who broke with tradition by giving his sons Anglo-Saxon names. Norman French became favoured by the royals and aristocrats, whereas speaking Ingles, later known as Scots, became increasingly common among those outside of the court. By the 1300s, Scots was the dominant language in both written law and literature.

The Bruce, a patriotic poem written in around 1375, was notably written in Scots, not Gaelic, which reflects the shift that had occurred. By 1755, approximately 23% of the Scottish population spoke Gaelic. Of the 23%, many of them lived in the Highlands and Islands; it had always held great importance to the clans, but repeated blows, such as the loss at Culloden, and the subsequent Highland Clearances, diminished its use more and more as the years passed.

Last autumn, Catriona, Culloden’s Head Education Guide, designed a resource pack for the schools that visit throughout the year. In it she included biographies, family trees, timelines and explanations of commonly used terms. She decided to write it as a dual-language booklet, so that the person can read it in English or turn to the back for the Gaelic. This has proved popular with those who have seen it, as there is the opportunity to attempt to read it in Gaelic, whilst knowing the meaning in English.

To end today’s post, here are some common Scottish surnames and their Gaelic meanings:

The prefix Mac- means son in Gaelic, so Macdonald means son of Donald and so on.

Duff is derived from the Gaelic dubh, which means dark.

Buchanan comes from a Scottish place name that means house of the canon.

Cameron means crooked nose (Gaelic: cam – crooked / sròn – nose).

Murray is derived from the Scottish region Moray and means seaboard settlement in Gaelic.

We hope you enjoyed this little insight into Scottish Gaelic. As always please share, tweet, like and comment.

All the best, The Culloden Team


Grave markers at Culloden

When people visit Culloden Battlefield most will inevitably head out across the moor and stand in front of the large memorial cairn in the centre of the field. Surrounding the cairn are most, but not all, of the grave markers on the field so it seems fitting to turn our attention to the history of these markers.

Old photo of the Clan Mackintosh marker


The markers on the battlefield were put in place in 1881, some 130 years after the battle. One of the main question we are asked regards the names on the stones, as many carry the names of one or more clans who fought at Culloden. We have had geophysical tests of the area completed and they show that the area around the cairn does indeed hold many mass graves but how the names on the gravestones were chosen is something of a mystery.

Selection of gravestones at Culloden


Clansmen would not have been easy to distinguish from one another. There was no clan tartan back in 1746 so identifying a persons clan relied on smaller things that their cap badge or clan plant that men may have worn. After the battle it would have been incredibly difficult to accurately determine who was from which clan so it is believed that the markers on the field are symbolic of the major clans who fought at Culloden and who suffered significant losses.

As well as the marker by the cairn, there are a few others across the field. Further north are three stones that commemorate the MacDonald’s who fought on the far left of the Jacobite front line. Whilst they did not take part in the hand-to-hand combat that occurred further south they were instrumental in aiding the retreat of the Jacobite army. Each year at the anniversary of the battle the local MacDonald clan and supporters will march down to the stones after the main ceremony to lay a wreath for the men.

Clan Donald stone
Clan Donald Stone


Perhaps one of the most annoying and intriguing stones on the battlefield is that of the ‘Field of the English’. This stone lies behind the front line of the Government troops and supposedly marks the site of a grave of the Government men who died during the battle. However, there are two issues we have with the stone. Firstly, research has shown that there is no sign of a mass grave by the stone. The nearest lies some fifty yard to the West of the stone. Secondly, its inscription, ‘Field of the English’. As we know this is not accurate. The Government army was not an English Army, it was made of men from Scotland, Wales and England making it a British Army.


Despite some questions on the accuracy of the markers though there is no doubt to how special they are to the site. Many who visit take a moment as they walk past the stones to take in the incredible atmosphere of the battle and remember the history of the site.

We hope you enjoyed this short piece about the marker as always please like, share, comment and tweet.

All the best, The Culloden Team

Highland Women’s Clothing in the Mid-18th Century

Unlike that of their male contemporaries, in the mid-1700s women’s clothing in the Highlands did not differ much from what was being worn in the Lowlands, England or the rest of western Europe.

The distinctive arasaid (Gaelic: earrasaid or earasaid), a large piece of plain, striped or tartan fabric that covered the head and wrapped around the body, had been worn often at the beginning of the century; as the years passed, it gradually became less and less popular, until eventually it was mainly worn just by women of the Western Isles. The Royal Dress Act of 1746, which restricted the use of tartan, did not apply to women, and so tartan was sometimes included in a woman’s outfit, often as the print for a modesty cloth or scarf. The general items worn at the time are detailed below, but as is the case today, factors such as the woman’s wealth, age and occupation, as well as personal preference, varied things significantly.

Depiction of an arasaid


The first thing put on would have been a shift. A shift was a long white garment, which often doubled as a nightgown, and it was worn to separate the body from the clothes that were to be put on top; in an age when daily bathing was not common, this was considered necessary in order to preserve the other items of clothing. Next, the woman would have put on stays, a tight linen garment heavily reinforced with whalebone on the top, and structured with whalebone or cane at the bottom. Stays were worn to help obtain the fashionable hourglass shape, to provide a rigid structure over which the outer clothes could be arranged, and prevent curvature of the spine in cases of rickets and similar conditions.

Following this base, she would have worn a dress, which could be plain, striped or printed, or a petticoat, skirt and some sort of fitted sleeved garment on top, such as a day jacket, casaquin, bed gown or short gown (which reached mid-thigh). Rich women would also have had ball gowns and riding habits, and would have chosen costly imported fabrics and dyes for their clothes; those with more limited means used local plants for homemade dyes. Some examples are brambles, which were used for a burnt orange colour, braken for yellow, elderberries for blue and sundew for purple.

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Example of 18th Century pockets


Finally she might have worn an apron, depending on her rank and occupation, and pockets (cloth bags) which were connected with a string, tied around the waist under the petticoat or apron, and accessed through slits. Bits and pieces, such as money, thimbles and keys, would be kept in these pockets, hidden from view. A modesty cloth would have been tied about the neck, and, unless young and unmarried, a woman covered her head with a scarf or a cotton cap.

Shoes varied a lot from class to class. Women who did not need to work would have softer, flimsier shoes, purchased for how fashionable they were rather than their sturdiness; a working woman would have had plainer shoes, made of leather or wood, sometimes with a buckle of ties. Many woman had only one pair of shoes, and so apart from in winter, they were worn only at church in an effort to maintain them.

We hope you enjoyed this little insight in women’s fashion. As always please like, share, tweet, comment and if you visit Culloden you may see one of our volunteers dressed in outfits like those described.

All the best, The Culloden Team

War Atrocities and other Bedtime Stories: learning programmes at Culloden

Over the past few years our learning team have spoken at conferences about the realities of teaching at Culloden. Our talks are normally titled War Atrocities and other Bedtime Stories: Learning at Culloden.

Our learning team has seen over 80 000 people through their programming and events so far: 4,500 of those individuals were here on school trips.

Schools have visited us from all across the British Isles and even Europe and North America. We have had a great year and thought we would share some of the brilliant programming the learning team develops.

The Big Picture (upper primary)

This is our most popular programme with primary schools! Its a great day where the pupils find out about five people who were alive at the time of the Jacobite Rising.

The kids find out about five people and their experiences in the Jacobite Rising through sessions involving a team quiz and exploring objects. They also have the opportunity to head out on to the battlefield and look at the amazing items in the exhibition.

The feedback we get from pupils is great! Here some feedback we received from some P6 visitors:

It was very funny when I dressed up as Francis Townley an English man… I was in the middle and not poor and I was a Jacobite!”

I liked when we did the quiz. The best bit outside was when we all lined up and shoot BANG! next line BANG! next line BANG!!”

I really enjoyed the battlefield I learnt a lot. It was fun learning about the battle and prince Charlie and the sneck attack at night. unfortunate they lost each because it was dark, thy probably got about 4 or 5 hours sleep before the battle started at Culloden. Some girls watched the battle with a picnic! !


Bring on Burns (upper primary)

The kids arrive at 10:00 and spend a full school day exploring the battlefield and playing with Scots words until in the afternoon they create their very own poem.

Pupils in the workshop bringing their poem to life!

Then the feicht began and the beautiful landscape became a stramash!

The guns were shot and the cannon was fired.

The brithers were lost to the grund.”

“About ta fecht, in a gruesome war,

Yin gaun taw steading for yin time more,

I’m laithe taw fecht but I know I must”

Interpreting Culloden (lower secondary school)

This is a great programme which let students get hands on with objects and start thinking about the bigger questions at the site.

Pupils get hands on with the objects thinking about what they are, why they would be on the battlefield and who might have used/owned them. They then head out onto the battlefield to think why objects are found on specific locations on the battlefield and the considerations of managing a site that is also the location of mass graves.

The idea of speaking to a group of teenagers and young people about mass graves, child soldiering and other consequences of conflict  sounds challenging and slightly scary – however this session is incredibly rewarding and can provoke interesting debate and conversations which continue back in the classroom.

Some of the objects used in Interpreting Culloden (S1-3 workshop)


If you would like more information on our schools programme check out our website or email culloden@nts.org.uk

All the best, The Culloden Team

Memories from the Past Ten Years.

This month we celebrate ten years since the current visitor centre was opened at Culloden Battlefield. A lot has happened over that time and we asked some of our longest serving employees and volunteers to share their highlights.

One of the biggest highlights was getting the chance to meet the Queen. We were honoured to have Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visit the site in 2009 and many of the staff and volunteers still remember the day she came.

Plaque marking the visit of Her Majesty The Queen to Culloden


The new centre offered a chance to display more artefacts and expand the information we could share. We were able to include items found during archaeological work on the battlefield so that today people can see exactly where items were found and how they have helped us interpret the events of the battle.

Pewter cross found at Culloden


We have seen many changes over the last ten years but our main goal has always been to protect the site and share its history with people from all over the world. It has been lovely to receive various awards over the years recognising the staff and volunteers dedication to the site. Most recently we had Peter, our volunteer, win the Hospitality Hero award at the HITA awards and it creates a real buzz when you come to work to know that what you are doing is appreciated.


Most importantly though the one thing that everyone mentioned was the joy at meeting different people. Whether it is the chance to speak Gaelic and share our history, to learn more about visitors connections with Culloden or more simply the teams we work with here on site. The one thing that seems to keep people coming back to work here is the people.

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Visitors exploring the exhibition


And finally a great story that shows that people are always the highlight of our days. One Spring day a young lady come up from one of the car dealerships in Inverness (she was new to her job) looking for Charlie Stewart as she was to pick him up. We did an announcement, looked around and could not find him. Then it dawned on the team it wasn’t just any Spring day it was April 1st, or April Fool’s day, and her colleagues were playing a trick on her. There was a postcard from the shop with Charles Edward Stuart on it so we gave it to her and wrote a message giving apologies for not being here to be picked up.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart


Hopefully we will continue to protect and share Culloden’s incredible past for many years to come with amazing visitors from all over the world.

Hope you enjoyed our highlight as always please like, share, tweet and comment and book your visit to come and see us.

All the best, The Culloden Team

A Bit Behind the Scenes

As we turn ten years old here’s a few things you may not know about Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre.

As you go through the centre you walk the same path as the Jacobites. The centre is designed so that the first corridor takes you on a journey down to Derby and then, just as the Jacobites did, you turn and head back on yourself until the timeline reaches the night before Culloden. During the Night March corridor the walls on each side are designed to reflect the two opposing armies. The Government side is regulated and smooth whilst the Jacobite side has protruding panels that create a broken façade. The Jacobites were tired, hungry and lacking supplies and were not working as one cohesive unit, whilst the Government were in control of their men and had strict regiments that would form a solid line at the battle the next day.

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The Night March Corridor at Culloden


Artefacts discovered during archaeological work on the battlefield are displayed in the exhibition along with a map showing where all the items were found. This work has helped our understanding of the battle, including areas of dense hand-to-hand fighting, and highlighted areas of interest to explore further. Finds include musket balls, broken buckles and a beautiful pewter cross.

Pewter Cross found at Culloden


The outside of the building is clad with larch which turns a beautiful gray colour as it ages. This was chosen to help the building blend in with the scenery behind it. This means that when you are out on the battlefield itself, the building blocks the view of the car park and creates a more seamless transition with the countryside. Hopefully this allows visitors to get a better sense of the openness and desolate nature of the moor.

Culloden Visitor Centre


To keep the centre running and operational we have some handy bits of machinery in the service yard including a biomass boiler. This uses woodchips from the local forestry school so that the building can be as environmentally friendly as possible. With recycling across the site and new LED lights being put in we have retained our Green Tourism Award with Gold status which, as part of a conservation charity, is really important to us.


We hope you enjoyed these little insights into the visitor centre and some of the stories within it. As always please like, share, comment, tweet and, if you can, come and see the centre for yourself.

All the best, The Culloden Team

Top 10 FAQs in the last 10 years

The current Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre first opened its doors 10 years ago this month. To mark the 10 years we thought we would share the top 10 most common FAQs.

  1. Who were the Jacobites? The Jacobites are followers of the exiled King James VII & II, and subsequently his son and grandson. They take their name from the Latin for James, Jacobus.
  2. What is the ’45? The conflict has many different names, the ’45 refers to the year 1745 when the rising began. You will see the conflict called a rebellion, uprising or rising. Here at Culloden we tend to call it the ’45.
  3. Was this Scotland v England? No. This was a conflict over the throne of Great Britain. King James VII & II had been exiled from the British throne and that’s what his grandson Charles Edward Stuart was trying to get back. (Scotland and England at the time of James’ exile had their own parliaments but one royal family who ruled over the British Isles. It wasn’t until the Act of Union 1707, which was passed by his daughter Queen Anne, that created the British parliament in London).
  4. Are there people buried here? Yes. It is estimated that between 1200-1600 people are buried in mass graves on the moor. If you take a walk around the moor you will see headstones marking some of the graves, while others are unmarked. These headstones were paid for by Duncan Forbes of Culloden in 1881 and represent some of the clans that fought here. The thing to remember is that these headstones were put in after the battle and do not represent all the individuals who will be buried onsite.25613 Culloden 259
  5. Did my family fight here? This is a question we are asked at least once a day and it’s hard to answer. On our Facebook page we put up information from Families of the ’45 which talks about certain clans and their roles on both sides. This is a really complicated conflict and the thing to remember is some families had split loyalties or were staunchly pro-Government or pro-Jacobite.
  6. Did they film Outlander here? No. The Culloden moor scenes were not filmed on site. But they have filmed at some of our other beautiful National Trust for Scotland sites including Falkland Palace and Culross in Fife,  for a full list of all filming locations across Scotland check out VisitScotland’s  list.callanish
  7. Were the Jacobites always going to lose the battle of Culloden? The Jacobites were undefeated on the field until the battle of Culloden.  There are so many other events and decisions that contributed to the Jacobite loss at Culloden; from the impact of the cold and wet conditions during the infamous Night March on the 15 April to arguments amongst the commanders over where to place men on the day, the loss was no forgone conclusion.
  8. Are the Jacobites all Highlanders?No. Jacobites came from across the British Isles. Men like English Jacobite and Captain of the Manchester Regiment Francis Townley, to Charles Edward Stuart’s secretary, Irishman George Kelly, there were many non Highlanders who supported the Stuarts in exile. Participating in the ’45 there were Highlanders, Lowlanders (like William Home), Englishmen, Irishmen and members of the Royal Ecossaise and Irish Piquets which were Royal French Regiments .
  9. What happened to Prince Charles and the Duke of Cumberland? Prince Charles disbanded the Jacobite forces and attempted to get back to mainland Europe. The aftermath of Culloden saw over 3000 men, women and children arrested for treason and people living in the Highland brought under the Act of Proscription 1746. In September 1746, Prince Charles met up with a French rescue ship and sailed to France. On 5 November 1746 he wrote to his cousin King Louis XV to ask for 12,000 regular soldiers, money and provisions to go back to Britain to try again. This did not happen. William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland wanted to deal with the Jacobite threat quickly and go back to the ‘real war’ in Europe, the Wars of Austrian Succession. His brother and other contemporaries nicknamed him ‘the Butcher’ for his backing of the legal measures and severe treatment of the Highlands post Culloden. He was described by a contemporary as “proud and unforgiving, fond of war for its own sake”. In 1747 he returned to active service, he did not have another military victory after Culloden.  For more information check out other blog posts.
  10. Where is the battlefield? This seems like an odd one but a lot of people who visit the site for the first time aren’t quite sure how to get to the battlefield luckily we are always happy to point the way. Other frequent questions are where are the bathrooms/café/film show.

We have had a brilliant 10 years in the centre and met 100,000s of wonderful people from all over the world. Thank you for coming to visit us and if you haven’t made it yet 2018 is a fantastic year to come to Scotland!

All the best, The Culloden Team