On the 16th April 1746 the Battle of Culloden took place on Drumossie Muir, near Inverness. The battle lasted less than an hour and saw Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Jacobite army defeated by a Government army led by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.
The battle is considered as a key point in Scottish, European and indeed World history and every year hundreds of people come to Culloden Battlefield to commemorate the battle and all those who fell.
This year we reach the 270th anniversary of the battle and to mark this we thought we’d have a little look back at how the battlefield has changed over the years.
At the time of the battle, in 1746, Culloden was moorland and by all accounts was rather boggy, indeed the name ‘Cuil Lodair’ can be interpreted in Gaelic to mean ‘marshy nook’. Over the years though the landscape has changed. By the 1840’s trees were planted on the moor as part of a larger forested area and a road was built that passed through the site.
We know that at the conclusion of the battle some 1,500 Jacobite men were killed and buried on the battlefield in mass graves; but it wasn’t until 1881 that the gravestones we see now on the field were put up. The stones were put in place by the landowner of the time, Duncan Forbes, who also built the memorial cairn. Before the stones it was possible that there had been other, less permanent, markers but there are no records of these, so we cannot be certain. The stones from 1881 remain in place to this day and can by seen by anyone who comes to the site.
With the development of Victorian tourism and new railways making travel affordable and accessible, Culloden began to gain more interest from visitors across the country, who wanted to learn more about the battle. The first attempts to officially maintain Culloden Battlefield were taken by the Gaelic Society of Inverness. They enclosed the memorial cairn and repaired the roofs on the two stone cottage on the site; Leanach and Kings Stables.
In the 1930’s the newly formed National Trust for Scotland took the lead and began lobbying to protect the battlefield due to its historical and cultural significance. In 1937 the NTS received its first gift of two small areas of the battlefield from Alexander Munro of Leanach Farm and in 1944 Hector Forbes gifted the graves of the clans, the memorial cairn and Kings Stables Cottage as well as selling the field containing the Cumberland Stone to the NTS.
The first visitor centre, if you will, began in the 1960’s as more and more people began to travel to the site. The NTS created an exhibition inside Leanach Cottage, allowing people to discover the history of the site, before opening a brand new visitor centre in 1970. Work began to remove the trees on the battlefield in negotiation with the Forestry Commission and the NTS began the idea of returning the site to its original state at the time of the battle. The Highland Council also moved the road, from between the clan graves, further away from the memorial cairn to protect the site and they also designated the land a Conservation Area.
During the 1980’s the removal of the trees left rough ground which was susceptible to invasive birch, gorse, conifers etc. Felling and grazing by sheep failed to contain the situation and more intensive shrub control was introduced to conserve the battlefield. Today the team outside continually monitor the field and try to tackle the invasive species in the best way possible.
Moving into the 1990’s more land was acquired by the NTS including the Field of the English and land to the south to prevent development beside the battlefield. They also recreated the Leanach and Culwhinniac enclosures using traditional drystone dyking and developed the interpretation of the site.
This all finally led to the new visitor centre being built in 2007. The new centre incorporates new archaeological research and interactive interpretation to showcase the history of the site and allows the growing visitor numbers to see the site and remember the battle.
We hope you enjoyed this brief run down of Cullodens history. As always please like, comment, share, tweet and come along and visit our centre any time.
All the best, K & D