The battle of Culloden took place on 16th April 1746, which resulted in the Jacobite Rebellion being crushed by government forces. This also signified the last battle that would take place on British soil. This bloody, but short battle resulted in 1500 – 2000 casualties. Many of the Jacobite army was made up men from Clan’s from the Scottish Highlands. A strategic error from the Jacobite leader resulted in the army arriving at Culloden exhausted and underprepared against the well-armed government forces. The rebellion broke out because the Jacobite’s believed that King Charles (aka Bonnie Prince Charlie) should be heir to the throne.
We visited Culloden Battlefield in April 2017. Shamefully, this was my first time visiting. What a great history student I am, not visiting one of the most significant historical sites in the country despite only living a 10 minute drive away! Kevin had been a few years ago as part of a school trip, but it’s been totally renovated sine then and he wanted to go again.
Anyway, once we arrived we bought our tickets at the entrance which cost £11 each and made our way into the visitor centre. The main area of the centre is split into two sides, one side tells the story of the rebellion from the Jacobite perspective and the other side shows it from the Government perspective. Information is laid out clearly and it is easy to engage with it and follow, with interactive boards and cabinets displaying swords and artefacts found from the battle breaking up the reading into neat, little chunks.
Half way through the visitor centre is a room which displays a re-enactment of the battle, in a sort of panoramic view on all four walls around. We stood in the middle of the room while screens surrounded us on four sides displayed soldiers emerging from the horizon, before shots began being fired and the fighting broke out . We both thought that this was really well done, the visual effects and the noise made you feel quite uncomfortable but gave an insight into what it may have been like standing on the moor that day and was pretty surreal.
We continued our way through the rest of the information to the end of the centre where there is a display of the weapons that were used during the battle and artefacts recovered from the battlefield. Here you can see the muskets and bayonets that would have been used and appreciate the full size and weight of them.
Next we collected audio guides (included in the ticket price) and made our way outside to the fields where the battle took place. The audio guide directed us while we walked around and explained the various elements of the battle and where they took place, all done via GPS so you get an accurate description based on your location on the battlefield. There are flags up which signifies where the Jacobite and Government lines would have been. The moor is quite overgrown and swampy, and you can tell that the conditions that these men fought in would have been very difficult to wade through. Further around the field, we found memorial stones dedicated to the clans that fought here and a thatched house that survived from the time of the battle.
Back inside the centre, the last small remaining section explained what happened to the Highland Clans after the defeat. Many were subject to harsh treatment, with many of those who fled the battlefield hunted down and killed. Tartan, which had a unique pattern to identify a different clan, was banned and many people were forced from their land which eventually led to the Highland Clearances. A shame that such a brave uprising led to many people being brutally slain, and all for a lost cause in the end, but it played a significant part in shaping the history of the United Kingdom as we know it.
The only downsides I can think of is that the on site coffee shop and restaurant here is SO expensive, but we were desperate for something to drink afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice cappuccino but way pricier than most places. There is also limited free parking at the initial gates leading to the battlefield, but they charge you if you park right outside the visitor centre doors. A wee tip as well is that you can actually access the battlefield FREE of charge and walk round it yourself, but you must pay if you want to go through the visitor centre and also have an audio guide.
Overall, I would highly recommend a visit to Culloden Battlefield. The visitors centre is excellent and well worth the entry fee as it gives you an in depth knowledge of the events leading up to the battle and how it played out. We think it is also one of the most important historical sites in Scotland, if not the United Kingdom.