When we left Inverness this morning, we first travelled to the site of the Culloden Battle Field. At this site, in 1745, was the final confrontation of the Jacobite Uprising. A battle here, pitted the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart against an army commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, loyal to the British government. The Jacobite cause to overthrow the reigning House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne was dealt a decisive defeat at Culloden.
This is very interesting part of British History. At first glance it would seem to be a conflict between the English and Scottish independence movement. In reality it was a battle between Protestants and Catholics. Charles Stuart’s Jacobite army consisted largely of Scottish Highlanders, as well as a number of Lowland Scots and a small detachment of Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment. The Jacobites were supported and supplied by the Kingdom of France and French and Irish units loyal to France were part of the Jacobite army. The government force was mostly English, along with a significant number of Scottish Lowlanders and Highlanders, a battalion of Ulster men from Ireland, and a small number of Hessians from Germany as well as a handful of Austrians. Lined up on Culloden Moor, the battle was both quick and bloody, concluding in only an hour. Following an unsuccessful Highland charge against the government lines, the Jacobites were routed and driven from the field. Between 1,500 and 2,000 of them were killed or wounded in the brief battle, while government losses were lighter with 50 dead and 259 wounded.
Nearby, we saw the the Clava cairns, which are very old burial mounds. They are thought to date from the Neolithic or late Stone Age period but may have been in use up until the Bronze Age. At approximately 4000 years old these monuments were an important site in the ritual and ceremonial life of those very early farmers. There are three main burial mounds on the site all of which show a high level of effort and skill in their construction. Two of the tombs have passageways leading in to them, both of which are aligned precisely with the point on the horizon where the sun sets on midwinter’s day. All of the tombs are of a similar construction with a bank of kerbstones supporting walls made of loosely piled rock, the inside of the chambers are quite finely constructed and although the roofs are now missing from all of them it is clear how each layer of stone would come in slightly towards the centre, forming a beehive shape, most likely with a large capstone on the top. Each mound has an accompanying circle of standing stones surrounding it.
Along our travels for the day, we passed many highland farms. A lot of the trip was over moorland and high country areas that become winter snowfields. It was obvious at one place where the British Army camouflage pattern was created.
We finished the day with a visit to Queen Lizzie’s holiday shack at Balmoral Castle. This ‘home away from home’ is a large estate house situated in Royal Deeside, part of Aberdeenshire. Balmoral has been one of the residences of the British Royal Family since 1852, when it was purchased by Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert. It remains the private property of the queen, and is not part of the state-owned Crown Estate. Soon after the estate was purchased the existing house was found to be too small. It was demolished, and the current Balmoral Castle was completed during 1856. The architect was William Smith of Aberdeen, although his designs were amended by Prince Albert.
This is quite some ‘get away’ place. The estate has been added to by successive members of the Royal Family, and it now covers an area of about 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres). It is a working estate, including grouse moors, forestry and farmland, as well as managed herds of deer, Highland cattle and ponies. Quite an enterprise!
Our stop over for the night is at Ballater.