Culloden: 1745. Culloden: 2010.

In A History on June 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Point of Information: I know you want to pronounce “Culloden” like cullllllllidin. with the emphasis on ‘Cull.’ It’s not. The Scottish pronounce it as culawden, with the emphasis on ‘oden.’

Also, Culloden is viewed by the Scottish people as a war grave. To my fellow Americans, stepping onto the Culloden battlefield would be like visiting Gettysburg, or Normandy. And since Scotland views it as a grave, you could also liken it to Arlington Cemetery. You don’t simply walk onto any of these places with a light spirit.

My family visited Culloden partially because we were staying in Castle Stuart, which is nearby. We chose Castle Stuart because my parents stayed there 13 years before, when my mother forced my dad to take her on an Outlander tour– I’m not kidding. When we were there in 2010 there were two elderly sisters who were staying at the castle for the same tour! I had never heard of Culloden or any battle, or even Bonnie Prince Charlie, until my mother made us (well, made my brother and father…I was all for it) go. And she didn’t know about it until she read Outlander. And I was extremely glad I visited not only for history purposes, but it also encouraged me to begin reading Diana Gabaldon’s series (I’ll get to that in my next post…this one is already long enough, don’t you think?)


This photo is one that I took in June/July 2010. That day had strange weather, and my mother, with her proclivity to address anything odd to ghosts or spirits, said that it was because of the souls lost on the battle field of Culloden that we were standing on. To be honest, I had an eerie feeling the entire time we were there. When you first walk onto the Culloden land (which was not very far from our hotel, Castle Stuart), you have to go through the modern structure that serves as the museum. It had the typical museum shop complete with never ending plaid, thistles, and shortbread. Past that was a dark area, lit only by soft lights under the floor and against the walls which shown a dim glow on the timeline of Culloden. They make you read that first, so you know what you’re experiencing when you walk the battleground. It was quite silent inside, and the museum employees were very solemn. It hadn’t been raining that day, but, if you know anything about Scotland, you know that the weather can literally change in seconds. Image

The tour guide called together everyone in a soft but firm voice. He didn’t need to tell us, but he did anyway– he reminded us to be respectful of the tour. The Battle of Culloden resonates so strongly in the hearts of every Scot. It nearly decimated all clans. There was no clan in that battle who did not lose someone. The English soldiers behaved so brutally I almost can’t call myself an anglophile. They chased down survivors, smashing in their heads from the back. They killed and raped the females of the clans, the ones who couldn’t get away fast enough. They buried the Scottish dead, clad in their kilts and blood, in mounds on the battle ground. The mounds still exist, but of course they have grown over and the remains are not far from dust.

The ground looks pretty flat, and in most places it was– it had to be, to be considered a good battlefield. As soon as we stepped outside, it started to downpour. I was stupid and didn’t bring a rain jacket (I actually didn’t have one, but whatever.) And then, it resolved to a fine mist that swirled around us, patterning against my father’s windbreaker I was wearing. It was a weird mist, though. It made both my mother and I feel uneasy before she even voiced her belief that if was the ghosts (she’s not normally that crazy). The tour was quite silent, and the entire mood was very somber.The tour wound its way on a roped path around the battlefield. We listened intently to the story our guide told, and it was a tale of such tragedy and loss it’s hard to even repeat what he said and have it worth as much meaning as it was for me as I stood on the battlefield where so many Scots lost their lives and their hope.

Known as the last and final battle of the “forty-five uprising,” it took place on April 16, 1746 near Inverness, Scotland. The Jacobite followers of the Bonnie Prince Charlie fought British troops commanded by the Duke of Cumberland. It ended the Jacobite attempt to end the House of Hanover and instill the House of Stuart instead. The Jacobite cause was supported by the Kingdom of France. Each side had both Scottish and British troops (which I found interesting). The entire battle took place in under an hour.



The saddest part about the Battle of Culloden is the fatalities on either side– nearly 2,000 Jacobites werekilled. Only 50 died on the British side. Fifty. The Duke of Cumberland earned the nickname “Butcher” because of this battle.


The majority of the Jacobite forces were, in fact, Scottish Highlanders whose clans were Catholic or Scottish Episcopalian. Perhaps a point which led to the extreme number of deaths to the Jacobites was the lack of competency on their side. Most of their voices were volunteers, and therefore there were very little trained officers. Their weapons consisted of swords, axes, pitchforks, and scythes. Only a few had pistols. The Young Pretender’s officers wanted a different type of battle featuring guerilla warfare (they believed the Culloden terrain was not acceptable), but he refused. The rain on April 16th was also blowing directly in the faces of the Jacobites. As the British troops pummeled the front lines of the Jacobites, the Scottish morale began to suffer. Eventually, the Jacobite lines began to collapse which led to a definitive British victory.

The Jacobites began to retreat, and Prince Charles told them all was lost and to fend for themselves. He left Scotland and never returned.


The day after the battle, the Duke of Cumberland issued an order that led to a search over the hills for Jacobite wounded, who were then killed. Jails were emptied of common men and replaced with captured Jacobites. What I remember the tour guide telling us is a bit different than what I could find on the internet, although I do not think he was lying. If I remember correctly, he talked about the brutal search for the retreating Jacobites, sometimes killing the females in the clans when they wouldn’t give their men up. I remember him telling us that some clans were entirely wiped out. After Culloden, kilts were outlawed by the Dress Act in 1746.


My family stayed at Castle Stuart while we visited Culloden. As it was so close to the battle (and is in the same Stuart family), the castle owners have a story teller come to relate the story of Culloden.

Even today, the battle is still very present in the minds of the Scottish people. It is an amazing story, and three words to describe the Jacobites resonate in my mind– bravery, loyalty, and perhaps most of all, faith– faith in themselves, faith in their fellow clansmen, faith in the Bonnie Prince, faith in Scotland, and faith in the Jacobite cause.


Word of the day: Tartan–a woolen or worsted cloth woven with stripes of different colors and widths crossing at right angles, worn chiefly bythe Scottish Highlanders, each clan having its owndistinctive plaid. (Source:

  1. Excellent. As both an amateur historian (a la Reverend Wakefield) and, obviously, an Outlander fan, I would just add a few facts: 1) Prince Charlie’s forces were not entirely inexperienced; he chose to take the advice of those with the least experience, and he had none of his own; 2) It wasn’t just the weather that weakened the “rebels”, they had been in retreat and starving by the time the Battle of Culloden began; 3) Not only kilts were outlawed. So were bagpipes, the possession of arms, and even speaking Gaelic; 4) Although very of the Prince’s men survived the battle, most were transported as indentured servants. Without men to hunt, or weapons to hunt with, and formerly common land enclosed by nobles loyal to the English Crown, women and children starved outright, or died as a result of compromised immune systems from lack of food when the inevitable epidemics of flu and other sicknesses spread; and 5) Eventually, even those who hadn’t fought for the Stuarts, including old men, those who were mere children at the time, as well as the starving families, and sometimes the remains of entire villages left Scotland forever, to indenture themselves in order to reach the Colonies and eventually gain their freedom and rebuild their lives.

    One question Meghan. As well written as this blog was, the fact that you omitted my points above lead me to as you this question: Haven’t you been keeping up with the Outlander saga!?!?? Yes, most of the main characters are fictional, because they are novels. But few novelists do the research Diana Gabaldon does. Shame!

    Also, don’t forget, this incident, while carried out by a relatively new royal dynasty (the Hanoverians), they were following a tried and true Engish custom, which had been used succcessfully by Edward I to overcome Prince Llewellyn and his brother, Prince Davydd and their allies to conquer Wales, in the 1280s (The Welsh were perhaps the first Europeans to wage guerrilla warfare, and there has been speculation and some archaelogical and anthropological evidence to suggest that some Welsh travelled to North and South America as early as the 12th century, which could explain the Native Americans’ knowledge and skill at that form of warfare, as well as the similarities between their bows and the famed Welsh longbows.

  2. War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

  3. While we didn’t stay in Castle Stuart or have a guide, our visit to Culloden mirrors yours — even to the muggy weather and sense of sorrow. Lovely reminder of the history and sense of place. Thank you for the correct pronunciation of Culloden (needed for my book).

  4. Visited in October of 2015. Could hear the faint clash of battle; the moor is inundated with feelings that seep in your very soul. My favorite place during my 5 days in Scotland.

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