I had never heard of Culloden until I read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (Outlander (20th Anniversary Edition): A Novel). I fell in love with the books, with the characters, and with the history of a country I knew far too little about considering that roughly one quarter of my ancestors came from here.
The books gave me a peek at the real history of what happened here on this moor. They made me curious, and pushed me to learn about it, and gave me a need to see it for myself. I finally got the chance last week as we left Inverness.
Culloden is just out side the city, only a ten minute drive. Our day was windy and cold. Just the right touch of bleak to give a proper feel to the place.
While we were there, we joined the National Trust for Scotland. Membership included our tickets for today, along with loads of other sites all over Scotland (and England as well), and even covers our parking so it will be well worth the cost for us.
The visitor’s center tells both sides of the struggle leading up to, and including the battle. Follow the left side and you’ll hear the story told from the point of view of the Loyalists (generally the English, although some Scots fought on this side). Follow the right side of the display and you’ll hear the story told from the point of view of the Jacobites, who were almost entirely Scottish Clansmen with a few French and English thrown in.
The visitor’s center is fantastic, and demonstrates what happened so well. By the time we walked through it, watched the films, followed the virtual animations and looked at the bullets, swords, bayonets and muskets left behind by the fight and walked outside on to the battleground itself we felt like we were walking through the ghosts of the people who fought here.
I can’t do the story justice. The struggle, the pain, the hope, the fear, the screaming, the confusion and the cost. All are too big for me to write about. All I can say is that it was so worth the trip out to see it. Worth the time to read about it. Worth the time to try and understand.
Before we arrived I had done some reading and had a good idea of what happened. What didn’t really sink in until our visit was how fast everything happened, and how massively this single, short battle affected the country and its culture, permanently.
They say over seven hundred men died within two minutes, and about fifteen hundred died within an hour. Only fifty loyalists died. This is where the Duke of Cumberland earned the nickname ‘The Butcher’.
In the days and months after the battle, the Loyalist leaders outlawed the wearing of kilts. Speaking Gaelic soon became illegal, and the clan chief’s rights to govern their own people were taken away.
Even bagpipes were outlawed.
Scotland nearly lost it’s unique culture and heritage.
But it’s coming back. National pride, and a real effort towards saving and expanding the Gaelic language and Scottish culture are on the rebound.
Now, bagpipes and kilts are Scottish icons famous around the planet.
The world is a very different place than it would be if the Jacobites had won that day. So much of an entire culture was lost, but not all. Luckily for us it’s been preserved.
Preserved and brought back because these people are proud, strong, smart and too hard headed to give up.
I’m so glad.
On the map: Click here to see this location on our Google Map.
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