270 years ago…

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.

Cull8
Wreaths laid at the Culloden Memorial Cairn

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.

National Trust for Scotland
Leanach Cottage

 

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.

cairn
Memorial Cairn

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.

DSCN2714
Culloden Visitor Centre

 

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

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.

culloden7
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.

cropped-cropped-cullodenbanner.jpg
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.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
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