Culloden and Cawdor
Four miles (6km) to the east of Inverness following the B9006 is the battlefield of Culloden. This could have been a rather disappointing excursion as there is only a stretch of boggy, bracken and heather-covered land. However, thanks to the effort of the National Trust and their excellent Visitor Centre, the incidents leading up to, during and following this tragic battle are given their due credit.
The Battle of Culloden
On the 16 April 1746 Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his 5,000 kilted supporters faced the 9,000 strong Hanovarian forces under the command of the Duke of Cumberland. Following their march to Derby, more than 200 miles (320km) beyond the English Border, and their subsequent decision to return to Scotland, the Jacobite army, exhausted and starving as well as pursued by the largest army ever mustered against the Scots, attempted to surprise their foes at Nairn, some 12 miles (19km) east of Culloden. Their night march and early morning attack failed miserably.
Later at Culloden, facing a battery of cannon and superior muskets with few similar weapons to reply, the Highland army was forced to attempt their notorious, blood-curdling charge over boggy ground and through wind-driven sleet.
The Highlanders, more used to close fighting techniques using their 'targe' (a rounded shield) and broad swords, were held off by the better-drilled and heavily armed southern forces. Nearly 1,000 Jacobites fell and those that lay wounded were slain where they fell. Significantly, there were only around fifty Redcoat casualties.
Bonnie Prince Charlie, with a price of £30,000 on his head, remained hidden in the Western Highlands for five months before departing on a frigate for France and debauched oblivion. So ended the 'romantic' tale of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites.
He had arrived in Scotland with only seven men and no money to speak of and raised an army of wild clansmen who could hardly agree with one another; yet they would follow him. He virtually walked through Scotland claiming all as he went, he succeeded in reaching deep into England and some say he might have been successful if he had continued to London.
The Visitor Centre admirably outlines the reasons for and the results of the battle using historic tableaux, audio presentations and slides. Outside, various plaques identify the clans and their positions as well as their graves. Fenced trails lead around the moor and battle site. A flat stone marks the supposed position from where Cumberland commanded his troops.
The 'Well of the Dead' is a site where wounded Highlanders were slain as they attempted to take water. A restored thatched cottage, Old Leanach, still stands, the only building to survive the battle and where 300 Highlanders were burnt alive. It was inhabited until the beginning of the twentieth century and is now a folk museum.
The aftermath of Culloden was almost as savage as the battle. Cumberland, now known as 'the Butcher', had his troops scour the Highlands and Islands for any possible Jacobite supporters, had them imprisoned or put to death, burned cottages and raped the women, thereby ensuring no further insurgence.
The possession of weapons, wearing of the kilt and tartan, playing of bagpipes and the use of Gaelic language were all banned, although it was hard to enforce the latter. A propaganda campaign finally sealed the Highlander's reputation, and everything about the Highlands became regarded as uncouth by everyone south of the Drumochter Pass.
Not until Sir Walter Scott's very popular novels, often set in the Highlands, the coming of King George IV in 1822 and finally Queen Victoria in the middle of that century did this attitude change in the minds of British people. Culloden was the last major battle to be fought on British soil.
Continuing along the B9006 for several miles, you will arrive at Cawdor village and Cawdor Castle, locally pronounced 'Cawdir', one of the most romantic and commodious castles in Scotland. Still lived in by the Cawdor family, it maintains an air of domesticity, making it more of a home than a chilly keep.
The main tower is 600 years old with several quixotic additions that flourish around it. This is the Cawdor of Shakespeare's Macbeth where the character becomes Thane of Cawdor, thus fulfilling the witches' prophecy, and encouraging him to murder Duncan to become king. One of its most pleasant aspects is the walled garden, not so stately and formal as some but more congenial for its simple arrangements. Be sure to obtain a copy of the castle guide book which humorously helps to make a visit more interesting.
Nairn is primarily a holiday town on the shores of the Moray Firth, supposed to be known for its milder weather but in Scotland that is a rather nebulous assertion. It is also known as the 'Brighton of the North' and again, apart from being next to the sea, there is little resemblance. It has an old fashioned, courteous air and was planned well in Victorian times.
There is a long, sandy beach and an over-abundance of accommodation. Not an overly exciting place, it is perhaps best known for its two golf courses, particularly Nairn West which is visited by golfers from around the world. Nairn Fishertown Museum in the Laing Hall in King's Street has interpretive displays about the old fishertown of Nairn with a good collection of photographs from the steam drifter era. There are model boats and exhibits on the domestic and social life of the area.
Returning to Inverness, a diversion on the B9092 north-west to Fort George is essential. Built on a strategic headland that juts into the Moray Firth, less than a mile across the water from the Black Isle, this Hanovarian stronghold, named after George II, was the final nail in the Jacobite coffin. Erected to replace the castle at Inverness that was blown up by the Jacobites in 1746, its construction commenced in 1748, two years after the Battle of Culloden. When it was finished in 1769 there was no longer any trace of hostility, the Highlanders suppressed beyond sedition.
Kept as a military barracks, which it still is today, it is a large fortress essentially in its original condition. Ironically, many generations of Highland soldiers have been trained within these walls and the Regimental Museum of the Queen's Own Highlanders reflects their exploits with its collection of arms, colours, uniforms and medals connected with every major campaign fought by the British Army over the past two centuries.
The chapel's stained glass windows include an image
of the bagpipes but the most impressive aspect of the place has to be its vigourous
military architecture, perhaps the most impressive of its kind in Europe.
Thursday, December 26th, 2019
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