History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Where the Jacobite cause died at last
The exhausted and ill-nourished Jacobites were backed into a corner on Culloden Moor. Cumberland's army bombarded them with a deadly barrage of grapeshot. Their only hope was a quick attack, but Prince Charlie was indecisive at the crucial moment, and by the time he gave the order to attack, it was much too late.
The Scots charged the 'English' line (Cumberland counted many Lowland Scots among his troops) and pushed them back in places, but the outnumbered Jacobites were no match for their foes. The Highlanders were massacred, and no quarter was given.
For more background, see our Battle of Culloden article in our British Battles section.
The Battlefield Today
Visiting Culloden is not a modern phenomenon; people began coming to the battlefield from the mid-19th century. It is almost a modern equivalent to a medieval pilgrimage, with the difference that people have been drawn - usually - by Scottish nationalism rather than religious conviction.
Many visitors are descended from people who fought at Culloden. It wouldn't surprise me if my own ancestors fought and died here - with a name like Ross, that wouldn't be surprising.
The most easily recognisable feature on the battlefield is the huge stone Memorial Cairn. This was built in 1881 to a design by Duncan Forves. It stands 20 feet high and is built of large stones, rather like a large beehive. One thing I noticed is how much this cairn looks like the memorial cairn on the shore of Loch nan Uamh, where Prince Charlie finally took ship for France.
Duncan Forbes was also responsible for the Graves of the Clans; gravestones bearing the names of all the clans who lost men here in 1746. A single 'English Stone' monument commemorates men of Cumberland's forces who fell in the battle. No one knows where the 'English' dead were buried, so the stone should be taken as symbolic rather than an actual grave marker.
The Well of the Dead
A short distance away is the Well of the Dead, where Alexander MacGillivray of Dunmaglass died while leading the men of Clan Chattan. MacGillivray's body was found here after the battle by a local woman. Reports of the battle state that the fighting was so fierce in this area that the Highlanders had to climb over their own dead to reach the enemy lines. Wounded soldiers crawled to this small well in a desperate attempt to quench their thirst.
The well itself is little more than a small stone-lined cistern dug into the earth. A stone slab commemorating the place was yet another marker erected by Duncan Forbes in 1881.
The Cumberland Stone
This boulder in the eastern corner of the battlefield is traditionally held to be the Duke of Cumberland's observation post, where he stood to survey the battlefield during the combat.
Old Leanach Cottage
The most easily recognised historic feature at Culloden is this very small thatched cottage. The cottage amazingly survived the battle, which raged all around it. It has been restored several times since then but is essentially the same as it was in 1746, and Bonnie Prince Charlie would recognise it if he saw it today. The roof is thatched with heather in traditional Highland fashion.
There is a very good modern visitor centre, which our family enjoyed. There are displays giving the background to the battle, the course of events, and information on Highland culture. Children - and adults - can dress up in Highland costume; our 5-year-old daughter loved that part!
I found Culloden fascinating from a historical viewpoint, but at the same time poignantly moving and unutterably tragic. Trails lead here and there across the almost featureless moor, and you suddenly find yourself coming unexpectedly upon a marker that tells of this or that valiant last stand or heroic death.
The fields are still, almost barren in places, yet it is not hard, especially if the weather is grim and grey, to imagine the sound of the battle all around you. This is a place for people to explore their Scottish roots; to feel a connection with the past.
Less than a mile away from Culloden is Clava Cairns, a wonderful Bronze Age burial complex, and one of the best-preserved prehistoric sites in Scotland.
About Culloden Battlefield
Address: Culloden Moor, Inverness, Highlands, Highland, Scotland, IV2 5EU
Attraction Type: Museum - Battlefield
Location: On the B9006, at Culloden Moor
Website: Culloden Battlefield
Phone: 01463 796090
Fax: 01463 794625
National Trust for Scotland
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Clava Cairns - 0.8 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery - 4.9 miles (Museum)
Knocknagael Boar Stone - 5.2 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Cawdor Castle - 7 miles (Castle)
Fortrose Cathedral - 7.2 miles (Cathedral)
Fort George - 7.4 miles (Historic Building)
Groam House Museum - 7.8 miles (Museum)
Dochfour House & Gardens - 9.4 miles (Garden)
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