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


80 Years of Care

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the National Trust for Scotland caring for and conserving Culloden Battlefield.

Culloden Battlefield


In 1937 Alexander Munro of Leanach Farm presented the first two small pieces of the battlefield to the reasonably new charity, the National Trust for Scotland. This small start was soon expanded and over the years we have acquired more of this historic site and worked hard to preserve the land and share its story with millions of visitors.

We are incredibly proud to be the custodians to such an important site in Scottish and world history. Today 80 years own, we care for the memorial cairn and clan graves on the battlefield; as well as the Cumberland stone, the ‘Field of the English’ and Kings Stables Cottage. We help protect a large portion of the southern part of the battlefield that encompasses the main area of hand-to-hand fighting, as well as the mass graves of the men who fought and died here in 1746.

25613 Culloden 259
Clan Grave at Culloden


The task of caring and preserving such a special site is not an easy one and new challenges are constantly presenting themselves but they are challenges that everyone is determined to meet. We have a dedicated facilities team on site who monitor the land and work to try and restore the landscape to how it would have appeared at the time of the battle.

On site we also have our learning team who produce top class school programmes to deliver to children throughout Scotland and indeed the rest of the world. They share the stories of the battle and the significance of the events that took place here in ways that captivate the younger audience and spark interest in new generations every year.

Culloden, Inverness.
Culloden Moor


As the last battle fought on British soil and the battle that effectively ended the Jacobite campaigns in Scotland, Culloden is a part of our history and our culture and we hope to be here in another 80 years still sharing the stories of Culloden with people from around the world and caring for this incredibly important site.

We hope you get the chance to visit Culloden if you haven’t already. As always please like, tweet, share, comment and if you would like to join us in helping conserve this special place head to to donate.

All the best, K & D

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.

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.

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.

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