This post details a 2014 trip to Culloden Battlefield and the nearby Clava Cairns.
A bright blue sky day. Good for a journey up the coast and into the past. I stopped to take a picture of the anchor on the hill in Macduff.
A couple of hours and many miles later, the skies had clouded.
The visitor centre at Culloden is high-tech, swish, clean and pristine, all the things the bloody battle of the past was not. The contrast always gets me. I sit on a soft red sofa looking out at the battlefield, eating my delicious lentil soup and enjoying decadent chocolate cake in comfort and warmth.
Compare that to being one of the Jacobite clansmen, having marched across boggy rough terrain in the dark all night, exhausted, starving, about to be slaughtered in a fight so unfairly matched that it was all over in one hour. What would he think of Culloden Moor today and the nice day out it provides for families and tourists?
Out on the battlefield, things feel more authentic, more memorial. Red flags mark the government line:
Clan stones over mass graves:
Old Leanach Cottage is dated about 1760, several years after the battle, but is said to stand on the site of an earlier cottage that was used as a field hospital for government troops:
People leave offerings:
After a little look at the peaceful, cud-chewing, Highland cattle, it’s time to visit some ancient standing stones.
The Clava Cairns
Here ancient burial cairns (estimated at about 4000 years old) are surrounded by circles of stone and trees. It’s the perfect peaceful place to visit after Culloden.
You can walk right into two of the three cairns, though the entrance tunnel would have been covered in the past: you would have had to crawl.
Some of the standing stones are high and shaped, rather like enormous graves:
Let’s finish with one of the aforementioned Highland Coos. There’s four of them in a field next to Culloden.
Also see the post about the Cumberland Stone.
FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, out April 1st, is set at the time of Culloden and inspired by the kidnapped children and young people of Aberdeen. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!
See the publisher’s Press Release here
Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.
Sign up here to receive my occasional emails. They contain exclusive photos and insights into my writing and life.