Visiter The battlefield of Culloden.

A historic battlefield, which shaped the Scotland of today!

The battlefield of Culloden
Culloden - Benoît Rivard - cc

If there is in Scotland, a highly historical place, it is this one: the battlefield of Culloden is one of the sites dear to the Scots. It is indeed the place where the last pitched battle on British soil took place. Known as the Battle of Culloden Moor or the Battle of Drumossie Moor, it took place in 1746 and was a decisive victory for the British.

It was a pivotal event in British history and forever changed the course of Scottish history!

Visit the battlefields where most of the fighting took place and try to understand the story behind it all!

History of the battle of Culloden

Pre-Battle Context

To better understand the stakes of Culloden, we must go back in time to 1688. At that time, England and Scotland were ruled by a single king: James VII Stuart of England and Scotland (called James Stuart in English).

Catholic, the monarch had many enemies at the court in London, because of his religion and his benevolence towards the Scottish people. His son, then 6 months old, crystallized many worries: many English people did not like to see a Catholic lineage permanently on the throne.

Also, a coup d’état was organized: King James Stuart was forced to leave England for France, with his wife and son.

At the same time, Prince Philip of Orange and his wife Mary took power, moving to St James’s Palace in London, although the Stuart family was still officially in power.

Because of his exile, King James was forced to abdicate, creating a wave of protest in Scotland. Anger that then allows the emergence of Jacobitism.

A war for the conquest of the throne will then begin… opposing Jacobites to English red jackets.

Many battles broke out, alternating victories and failures for the Jacobites.

In 1744, the Jacobites found a strong leader: the crown prince Charles Edward Stuart, known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie” decided to lead his troops against the English forces…

Preparation of the battle

On July 23, 1745, Bonnie Prince Charles, landed on English soil from France. On the spot, he gathered an army of volunteers, and received the support of the MacDonald and Cameron clans.

With strong troops, Bonnie Prince Charles recovered Edinburgh, as well as the throne of the Stuarts with his victory at Prestonpans.

Galvanized by so much success, Charles Edward Stuart began to dream of further glory. He plans to conquer the whole of England! But the Jacobite forces are divided on the subject. They decided to give up, especially since the French who had promised to attack the south of England were conspicuous by their absence.

The Jacobites then decided to return to Scotland, in the direction of Inverness… without suspecting that the English troops were also heading there, much more organized and numerous than the Jacobites!

Unfortunately, the Jacobites were exhausted by days of intense marching, cold and snow. Their leader Charles Edouard Stuart, obstinate, multiplies the internal disagreements with his team. He refused to listen to the fatigue of his troops, and remained convinced that it was necessary to attack the redcoats on the Culloden plateau.

A bad strategic calculation: the place is indeed known to be muddy and swampy. A difficult place to advance, which could well exhaust the Jacobite soldiers, already outnumbered and very weakened by the interminable journey on foot which led them until here.

Strategic errors, which will precipitate the failure of the Jacobites

It all began on Tuesday, April 15, 1746. Warned of the presence of troops not far from there, the Jacobites hoped to take the enemy by surprise, by advancing silently towards the plateau of Drumossie, on the lands of Culloden.

Once there, they waited for the enemy for hours… without success… and did not suspect that the English troops were too busy celebrating the 25th birthday of their general Cumberland…

At the end of the morning, the Scottish troops are grumbling and getting impatient. It is cold, and the wind blows hard. Charles Edouard Stuart then takes the decision to direct his troops directly on the camp of the redcoats. He hopes to surprise the enemy and take advantage by attacking by surprise…

The Jacobite troops then took the road to Nairn, and marched nearly 12 miles. A real strategic error! For the Scots, it is the blow of grace! Already exhausted, cold and hungry, this march finishes their last resistances!

So much so, that the decision is then taken by Murray to turn back, until the camp of Culloden.

Once arrived, the Scots fall asleep peacefully on their camp.

But it is too late: the red coats arrive, and the Jacobites wake up in startle to put themselves in order of battle on the front, with the sound of bagpipes and signals of alarms!

We are then on Wednesday April 16, 1746: official date of the battle of Culloden… A date which will sound the death knell of any Jacobite rebellion.

The confrontation

From then on, the battle seemed hopelessly unequal. The Jacobites, in clear numerical inferiority, desperate and exhausted, found themselves facing 6600 English soldiers, in excellent physical condition, well armed and trained.

From the first minutes, it is the hecatomb. The Scots lost more than 700 of their men in less than 10 minutes! The English bayonets were merciless in the face of the Jacobite enemy, and the mounted soldiers finished off their last resistance.

It was a bitter failure for the Jacobites, who saw the battle played out before their eyes in less than an hour.

Very quickly, the Jacobites understand their impotence. They desert the battlefield, their leader Charles Edouard Stuart in the lead… allowing the English troops to celebrate their victory!

The balance sheet

The Battle of Culloden was a decisive victory for the British forces and sounded the death knell for the Jacobite rebellions. It is considered one of the most important battles in Scottish history and has been immortalized in songs, stories and numerous films (including the popular TV series “Outlander”).

It is estimated that the battle of Culloden destroyed almost the entire Jacobite army. And the results are, to say the least, indisputable. Thus, historians estimate that :

  • 1500 Jacobites died,
  • 3,500 of the survivors were taken prisoner,
  • 120 were hanged,
  • and 1000 were deported.

This victory of the English army was considered a historic turning point for Scotland. More than a simple battle, Culloden was brandished as a symbol of English “superiority” over the Scottish rebels. This prevented any new aspirations for independence on the Jacobite side.

As a result, the British government passed the Prohibition Act, a law aimed at banning all forms of Scottish culture… It was then formally forbidden for the Scots to speak Gaelic, to play the Scottish bagpipes, to wear kilts with tartan, to be catholic, or to carry a sword!

Visit the battlefield of Culloden

A commemorative place, still full of emotion

Nowadays, the site of Culloden is still a highly commemorated place. Located less than 7km from Inverness, it is one of the most important tourist sites in the Highlands.

It is a high place of memory: the opportunity to discover (or rediscover) the complex Scottish history, to meditate for a while, before walking on the ground where hundreds of Jacobites were crushed in blood.

Note that the site has a reception center, equipped with an information desk for visitors, an exhibition gallery and a theater room, with broadcasting of audiovisual documentaries. Facilities that will tell you with passion the terrible historical facts of this battle!

You will also find a memorial, a period house that housed Jacobite soldiers a few hours before the battle (Culloden House), and tombstones dedicated to the clans that fought.

The battlefield of Culloden
Informations pratiques

Adresse Adresse :
Culloden Moor, Inverness, (Highlands)

Coordonnées GPSGPS :
57.4778127928627, -4.095689553255134

Durée de la visite Durée de la visite :
1 heure

Site WebSite Web :
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TarifsTarifs :
  • Adulte : £14.00
  • Famille : £30.00

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