Time to retrace our steps southwards down the A9 alongside the beautiful, sunny east coastline and across Black Isle, through Inverness and on to Culloden Moor. We are the second of four vans who arrive on site at the same time. It is then a race to see who can get set up first, a race that we win hands down. Today we have passed the 1000 mile mark on this trip
As we have arrived in good time, we are able to visit the site of the Battle of Culloden or Cùil Lodair this afternoon. This battle marked the end of the Jacobite cause and we have just missed the 270th anniversary on 16 April. I am please to see that signage is in Gaelic first, with English underneath. We have free entry courtesy of the reciprocal arrangement between the English and Scottish National Trusts but we need a car sticker to confirm our membership status and thus avoid having to pay for parking. We do not have a current car sticker in this car. We enquire at the pay desk and put Chris’ National Trust ‘I am a volunteer therefore very important’ card in the window instead as suggested. We later realise that this expired at the end of March and he hasn’t yet collected a replacement but it seemed to do the trick.
Typically of Scotland, this is a very high quality attraction with plenty of interactive aspects and interpretation boards. I take a look at a book describing families who were involved at Culloden but none of the names I am interested in feature. I did have some knowledge of Culloden and the Jacobites but I hadn’t really appreciated the extent to which this was part of a wider European conflict. Scots who fought for the Jacobite cause did so out of loyalty to the Stuart line but also because they wanted a return of the Episcopalian Church. We enjoy looking at the weaponry, which is similar to what we are used to in the seventeenth century. An historical interpreter is on duty to exchange ideas.
It is interesting to fully appreciate that Cumberland’s government red-coat army of 10,000 men would need 10,000lb meat and 10,000lb bread each day to sustain them. The lack of supplies for the Jacobite forces was a significant feature at Culloden, along with the boggy terrain which led to the failure of their previously successful charging technique. The battle lasted less than an hour and nearly half the 1500 Jacobite casualties fell in the few minutes of this failed charge. The government troops lost only 50 men, although some of the 250 wounded died later. The Irish and French, who were fighting for the Jacobites, shielded Bonnie Prince Charlie’s retreating army, who headed for Inverness after the battle. These Irish and French were subsequently treated as prisoners of war not rebels. The Jacobites did regroup at Ruthven and were prepared to fight on but Bonnie Prince Charlie sent orders to disperse and the cause was lost, leaving Charlie to escape ‘over the sea to Skye’ with the aid of Flora MacDonald.
We move outside for a battle field walk, complete with slightly temperamental audio guides. The sun is shining and we are in lovely surroundings but we are mindful of looming black clouds. The Jacobite casualties were buried in mass graves and in 1881 the land owner had a memorial cairn built, along with markers for each clan that participated and another marker for the fallen government troops. Wounded Jacobites were bayoneted and the high ranking officers were taken prisoner. The wounded government troops were probably cared for in farm buildings that were commandeered as a field hospital. All in all another excellent day.