Culloden and Loch Ness

Jun 12, 2018 - Lord of the Glens

Our morning excursion for our first full day in the Scottish Highlands took us to Culloden, scene of the last armed civil conflict on the British mainland when ‘Bonnie’ Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army was defeated on Culloden Moor in 1746 by Hanoverian regiments commanded by the Duke of Cumberland, son of the second Hanoverian monarch, George II. The latter dynasty had taken over from the Stuarts in 1714 following the death of the last of the Stuart line, Queen Anne, whose children had all predeceased her. In essence, the conflict was between a Protestant regime and a Catholic claimant and as such was part of a global power struggle. The conflict was very well described at the National Trust for Scotland’s interpretative centre with an immersive film that vividly recreated the horrors of an eighteenth-century field battle. For the future history of the Highlands the battle of Culloden was a turning point. The aftermath of the battle was vindictive and over the following century the treacherous, Catholic Gael was removed from the land and replaced by more profitable sheep. A stroll around the battlefield was instructive not only for its military significance but on a warm midsummer’s day for the joyous singing of airborne skylarks, the brash golden hues of gorse and broom and shy, retiring purple marsh orchids.

From Culloden we continued a short distance to Clava Cairns, three burial chambers and a megalithic circle from the late Neolithic/ early Bronze Age. These monuments are solar in alignment with the westerly sun at the winter solstice shining into the entrance tunnels. The tombs are part of a wider ‘sacred landscape’, a village of the dead in inert stone that would have had its complement in an adjacent village of the living of wicker and daub, the latter not having survived the rigours of the country’s wet Atlantic climate.

A problem with the lock gates at Dochgarroch delayed our departure from Muirtown until after lunch and we did not arrive at Fort Augustus until just before dinner. The weather conditions, however, were perfect for sailing across Loch Ness, the largest body of fresh water on the British mainland. A pair of red-throated divers were spotted to add to the sighting a tree creeper earlier in the day at Clava Cairns, the latter in trees planted to an early nineteenth century landowner who wanted to give the place the appearance of a druidic grove! In the afternoon we had two presentations, on photography and Scottish nature respectively; after dinner we were entertained by a local ceilidh band. We retired after a full but very satisfying day that had illuminated many facets of life in the Scottish Highlands.

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About the Author

David Barnes

Expedition Leader

David studied history at the University of York in England and theology at the University of Wales. Research in the field of religious history (at Cardiff) followed on naturally. He has spent most of his professional life teaching history, most recently in adult education departments within the University of Wales where he has taught a wide variety of courses pertinent to the wider Atlantic world. In 1988, he made his first lecture-tour of the U.S. for the English Speaking Union. He has published extensively on Welsh history and topography–his most recent book being the Companion Guide to Wales (2005)–and is a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to Welsh cultural and literary journals. In the1990s, David was active in the field of international education, traveling worldwide and spending a year in the U.S. (in Atlanta and New York City). He speaks English and French in addition to his native Welsh.

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