Highland Cow at Cawdor Castle, Scotland

This morning, we departed our lodgings in Dunkeld, central Scotland and drove north, along the A9 to our first stop at Aviemore where we stopped for a coffee break at the Mountain Cafe. Aviemore is a Highlands town focused on outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking and water sports. The Mountain Cafe is renowned for the quality of its produce, and good views over mountains to the south.

Next, we continued north to our scheduled stop at Clava Cairns, a prehistoric cemetery which dates from around 2000 BC albeit on a site previously used by prehistoric peoples for domestic purposes. The cemetery site experienced two stages of use:

  1. Around 2000 BC a row of up to five burial cairns were erected of which three remain.
  2. Around 1000 BC the site was re-used and the small Kerb Cairn built.

North-Eastern Cairn

A passage grave intended for  a single body, presumably of a high status person. The passage is aligned to the mid-winter solstice. Originally completely closed.

Central Cairn

This is a Ring Cairn, not a passage grave, which was positioned so as not to obstruct the view between the N.E. and S.E. cairns.It was never roofed whilst the now empty interior was originally filled with rubble.

South-Western Cairn

Also aligned to mid-winter sun. When first constructed was substantially higher and completely roofed.

Clava is an  easily accessible site for visitors wishing to connect with the prehistoric period.

Clava Cairns, Inverness, Scotland

Clava Cairns, Inverness, Scotland.

Clava Cairns, Inverness, Scotland

Next, we drove to nearby, Culloden Battlefield

Culloden (Drumossie Moor) lies a few miles east of Inverness. It was here, on April 16th 1746, that occurred the last battle on British soil. This battle represented the culmination of a series of military adventures starting with the 1690 Battle of the Boyne in Ireland driven by the House of Stuart to reclaim the thrones of Scotland and England which were vacated in 1688 when King James II of England ( James VII of Scotland) was forced into exile by the Protestant establishment owing to his Roman Catholic leanings.

The opposing armies were led by Prince William, Duke of Cumberland ( British Government) and Charles Edward Stuart aka ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ (Jacobites). The Duke of Cumberland was the youngest son of reigning monarch, King George II, whilst Charles was the grandson of the deposed James II/James VII. Both commanders were of a similar age, Cumberland 26 years and Charles 25 years. They were also cousins.

The Prince ( Charles Edward Stuart) had landed at Glenfinnan on the West of Scotland the previous August with a small band of supporters and limited resources. He gathered an army of, mainly, Highland clansmen which initially had stunning successes against the incumbent red-coated Hanoverians. Eventually, however, lack of resources and poor advice forced the Jacobites to retreat into the Scottish Highlands at a time when the Hanoverians were re-grouping under the Duke of Cumberland.

The two armies met on April 16th 1746 at Culloden. The actual site was wet and boggy and thus unsuitable for the style of fighting favoured by the Highlanders, particularly their famous frontal charge into the ranks of the opposing Redcoats. Other facts pertaining to the Jacobites:

  • The force extended to about 5000 men but cavalry and artillery was under resourced.
  • By the time of the battle the rank and file soldiers were unpaid, unfed, unclothed and unhoused.
  • During the night prior to the battle the Jacobites had made an unsuccessful night attack on Cumberland’s force.
  • On the battle day there was dissension in the ranks caused by friction as to which clans should hold the cherished position on the right.

In contrast to the Jacobites ( ‘Jacob’ is Latin for James) the Government forces were well resourced, disciplined and motivated notwithstanding previous defeats.

Key facts concerning the Duke of Cumberland’s force:

  • A total of 9000 men of which 2400 were mounted.
  • It is possible that the force contained as many Scots as the entire opposition. Clan Campbell fought on side of the Government.
  • Foot battalions were equipped with iron ramrods facilitating three volleys per minute.
  • A new bayonet drill requiring each infantryman to engage the enemy to the right, not front.

The battle commenced about 1.00pm with poor communication within the Jacobite forces at the outset. The Jacobite foot soldiers proceeded to charge ( with swords and shields) across wet terrain ( see image below) into a wall of fire from the Government forces equipped with latest military technology.

This unequal battle lasted about one hour after which the Jacobites were in full retreat. Jacobite losses totalled about 1000 whilst Government dead amounted to about 50 with many more injured.

After touring the battlefield we had lunch and then guests toured the The National Trust Visitor Centre  which provides an excellent exposition of events leading up the battle and the battle itself including audio-visual presentations.

Here is a video clip of the battle site at Culloden.

Memorials to Clan Fraser and other Highland Clans at Culloden

Culloden Battlefield, Scotland

Culloden Battlefield, Scotland

Next, we drove for about 25 minutes to our final destination of Cawdor Castle near Nairn, a popular visitor attraction. Apart from the castle building (on which more below) there are other facilities for the visitor including:

  • A country estate with waymarked hiking trails.
  • Gardens: walled, flower and wild
  • Putting Green
  • Gift shop, bookshop, wool shop and restaurant.

It is believed the present castle dates from the 1400s when it was built, probably by the 3rd Thane of Cawdor ,to replace an earlier castle about one and half miles away. The building was a classic (by standards of the day) four story Tower House albeit incorporating an unusual feature in being built around a holly tree which is extant (in the thorn tree room) but died in the late 14th century. The castle has remained in the same family, connected to Clan Campbell, for about 600 years.

There is also a tenuous link with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. However, this is due to an erroneous interpretation of history as Macbeth, King of Alba, died 130 years before creation of the title Thane of Cawdor and some 300 years before the castle was constructed.

Cawdor Castle Garden.

Garden at Cawdor Castle, Scotland

Cawdor Castle, Nairn, Scotland.

Cawdor Castle concluded our touring for the day after which we drove to nearby Inverness and checked into our lodgings for the night. Tomorrow we continue north to Orkney.

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