Killiecrankie
Killiecrankie
The spectacular wooded gorge of Killiecrankie is the site of a famous battle during the Jacobire rebellion of 1689. The National Trust for Scotland Visitor Centre has an exhibition on the battle and the natural history of the area, and there are walking trails through lovely woodland and beside the River Garry.
History
On 27 July 1689 a government army under General Hugh Mackay met a force of Jacobite sympathisers led by John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee (Bonnie Dundee) The battle that ensued was the first of the Jacobite attempts to restore the Stuart monarchs to the throne, a cause that would result in sporadic rebellions until 1746, when the Battle of Culloden finally spelled the end for the Stuarts. But in 1689 there was no way of foretelling the ultimate failure of their cause, and the Jacobites managed to raise a sizeable force aiming to put James VII (James II of England) back on the throne.

Viscount Dundee led a force of some 2400 men aiming to block Mackay's 3500 government soldiers from reaching Blair Castle, considered a key gateway to the Highlands. Dundee's men arrived at Killiecrankie Pass before the government soldiers and set up in a commanding position on the ridge above the gorge. The Jacobites charged down the slope at Mackay's men, with Clan Cameron taking the lead. The charge was so swift that Mackay's men had no time to stop firing and fix bayonets, and the Camerons swept away the centre of the government lines.

Looking down the River Garry
Looking down the River Garry
The Jacobites routed the government troops, but at a terrible cost; some 800 Highlanders were killed, and Viscount Dundee mortally wounded. The success of the Jacobite cause was short-lived, however, for the government won a comprehensive victory at the Battle of Dunkeld a month later, and the Jacobite supporters were scattered.

One soldier fled the battle, pursued by his enemies. He found his escape blocked by the swiftly flowing River Garry, so he flung his rifle aside, and leapt the gorge, from one bank to the other, at a point where rocks jutted from either side to narrow the channel. Once on the far bank, he managed to escape in the forest, and left Killiecrankie with is life and a dramatic tale to tell. The spot where the soldier jumped across the river has been known ever since as Soldier's Leap. As an aside, there's another very famous story about Randolph's Leap near Forres, Grampian.

Visiting
Killiecrankie is one of the most beautiful scenic areas I've visited in Scotland, particularly when the autumn chill turns the leaves of the trees lining the gorge a rainbow of reds, golds, and yellows. Add to that the poignancy of imagining this peaceful place as a bloody battlefield, and the sheer drama of the Soldier's Leap and you have a wonderful visitor experience.

It is very easy to access Soldier's Leap from the visitor centre, but I can highly recommend taking the riverside walk to Garry Bridge. On the way you pass a memorial to Brigadier Barthold Balfour, a government leader who was killed during the battle. The route takes you over a narrow suspension bridge high aboce the river, and the views are spectacular. Garry Bridge itself is popular as a venue for bungee jumping, and you can often watch intrepid jumpers, or join in if you're feeling like a bit of extra excitement!

If you are feeling energetic you can extend the walk another 20 minutes to the Linn of Tummel, where the River Tummel meets the River Garry at a series of waterfalls. Do, lease wear good waterproof footwear - or at least mudproof, for even in dry weather there can be patches of mud along the forest trails.

There are guided walks from the visitor centre from Easter to October, but the woodland trails are open all year round.

Soldier's Leap
Soldier's Leap
The River Garry
The River Garry
Killiecrankie Gorge in autumn
Killiecrankie Gorge in autumn