Culloden is a village to the east of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. It's nowadays a commuter town for Inverness, but it's best known for the 1746 battle that destroyed the Jacobite cause. Near the village are the remarkable Bronze Age "Clava Cairns", and Cawdor Castle.
After Cromwell died in 1658, Britain gave up on being a republic and invited the exiled King Charles II to return to the throne. He soon made them remember why they'd deposed the Stuart monarchy, and when he died and was succeeded by his brother James (II of England, VII of Scotland) a crisis developed. In 1688 James fled and was replaced by his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange, the start of the Hanoverian dynasty.
Over the next century, there were several attempts to restore the Stuart (Roman Catholic) monarchy, and this faction was called Jacobite referring to James II/VII. The last and most determined was the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, when Prince Charles Edward Stuart (James' grandson) landed in Scotland and marched south with a French-backed force to retake the throne. They got as far as Derby.
- Twas in the year of 1746, and in April the 14th day,
- That Prince Charles Stuart and his army marched on without delay . . .
- - William McGonagall, who else, Scotland's National Worst Poet
Until April 1746 "Bonny Prince Charlie" had never lost a battle, yet his forces had retreated and retreated all the way back to the Highlands because of lack of support in England, the massing of government forces against them, and an effective Royal Navy blockade of French supplies and reinforcements. The final encounter was on 16 April on Culloden (or Drumossie) Moor. It began at 1 pm with a short artillery exchange then the Jacobite advance. Less than an hour later the Jacobites were slain, captured or in flight. The Prince escaped but his cause was broken - he was a fugitive across the Highlands for six months before getting back to France. Fierce government reprisals ended the traditional Gaelic way of life.
You need a car or at least a bike. Culloden village is off B9006, 5 miles east of Inverness. The battlefield is another two miles southeast, and Culloden's other sights and amenities are scattered.
Stagecoach Highland Bus 27 runs hourly M-Sa from Inverness via Westhill university campus to Culloden (40 min), Croy and Tornagrain.
1 Inverness Airport (INV IATA) is 5 miles north, see Inverness#Get in for details. Bus 11 between Inverness, the airport and Nairn doesn't come into Culloden village, but passes within a mile at Balloch estate.
Bike is ideal for this scattered area. You can hire bikes in Inverness.
- Gruffalo: anyone who claims "there's no such thing as a Gruffalo" should try the woodland walk in the village, just north of Barn Church Road.
- 1 St Mary's Well (Clootie well), Culloden Woods IV2 5GU (by path from Westfield). In Celtic tradition, you soaked a strip of cloth (a "clootie") in the holy water of such a well, used it to wash an afflicted part of your body, and left the clootie hanging on an adjacent sacred tree (usually hawthorn or ash). Add incantations, ritual pacing around the well, and votive offerings ad lib, and the affliction was supposed to fade as the clootie disintegrated. St Mary's and other wells were traditionally visited at Beltane, the 1st of May - until the 1970s! How bad was the local health service?
- 2 Culloden Battlefield, Drumossie Moor IV2 5EU, ☏ . Daily May-Sept 09:00-16:00, Oct-Apr 10:00-16:00. This was the final act. Both sides had some 7000-8000 men but the Jacobites under Bonnie Prince Charlie were poorly armed, badly led and not trained for disciplined attack: they simply lunged forward wielding swords and axes. The government troops under the Duke of Cumberland held their ground, their nerve and their bayonets. One hour later 2000 clansmen lay dead, the Prince and his men were in flight, and the Jacobite claim to the throne was ended. There were harsh military reprisals across the Highlands, tartans and bagpipes were outlawed, and the clan system was destroyed. The battleground is free and always accessible but it's worth paying the admission to the exhibition in the visitor centre, which has a cafe and shop. Visitor centre adult £14, conc £11, NTS / NT free.
- 3 Culloden Viaduct is a 1800 ft (549 m), 29 span viaduct. It opened in 1898 and carries the Perth-Inverness railway over the valley of the River Nairn.
- 4 Clava Cairns, Balnuaran of Clava IV2 5EU. Always open. A group of tombs and standing stones, one of the best preserved Bronze Age burial sites in Scotland (ie about 4000 years old). The Balnuaran cairns are aligned north-east to south-west, with the end tombs being passage graves, and the central one being circular with a sunburst of stone paths leading to the standing stones. Nearby are the Milton Cairns and other remains including a medieval chapel. There are about 50 similar "Clava Cairns" in the area around Inverness. Free.
- 5 Kilvarock Castle has entertained Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Duke of Cumberland and Robert Burns. It's now an events venue, no tours.
- 6 Cawdor Castle, Nairn IV12 5RD (on B9090 between Culloden & Nairn). mid-Apr-Sept daily 10:00-17:00. 15th century tower house with many later additions plus extensive gardens. Most visitors come for the Shakespeare connection: in the play, Macbeth (see Birnam infobox) is already Thane of Glamis, he's then made Thane of Cawdor as the witches had prophesied, and begins his spiral into hell. The real Macbeth was Lord of Moray, which included most of northern Scotland. The King of Alba (the southern part) was Duncan I, who attacked Moray but was defeated and killed, and Macbeth came to be King of Scotland 1040-1057. There was probably an earlier castle on or near this site in those days, but no trace of it remains. So you can't see the bedroom where Macbeth murdered King Duncan because a) it's been knocked down and the present castle wasn't built for another 400 years, b) anyway the murder was at Inverness not Cawdor, and c) none of those things really happened, as the Earl of Cawdor's family are fed up with explaining. Adult £12.50, child (5-15) £7.50.
- 7 Fort George: see Nairn for this extensive and well-preserved 18th century fortress.
- Golf: Cabot Highlands Castle Stuart is on the coast. White tees 6592 yards, par 72, and a round here will set you back up to £295. A second course will open in 2025.
- Eriskay Golf Club happen to have their offices in Culloden, but the course is on faraway Eriskay. Perhaps that's how the Whisky Galore! ship got off-course and wrecked.
- Co-op Food in the village is open daily 06:00-22:00, and so too is Spar 200 yards west.
- Aldi is on Inshes Retail Park by A9 at the east edge of Inverness.
- Culloden Moor Inn, Culloden Moor, IV2 5ED (B9006 by battlefield), ☏ . Good pub grub, hefty portions.
- Raj Tandoori, 2B2 Smithton Industrial Estate IV2 7WL (opposite Harry Gow), ☏ . Daily 16:00-21:30. Reliable takeaway for the Indian standards.
- 1 Harry Gow Bakery, Smithton Industrial Estate IV2 7WL, ☏ . M-Sa 07:00-15:00. Popular local bakery for sandwiches and cakes.
- Blacksmiths Pub on Keppoch Rd serves Cantonese food and is open M, W-F 15:00-22:00, Sa Su 12:00-22:00.
- Distilleries are found further east between Forres and Grantown-on-Spey. Royal Brackla near Cawdor has closed.
- Most visitors day-trip from nearby Inverness. Premier Inn and Travelodge are east side of the city and therefore close to Culloden.
- 1 Culloden Moor Caravan Club Site, Newlands, Culloden Moor IV2 5LA (On B9006). Pitches for caravans and tents, non-members welcome.
- 2 Ardtower Caravan Park, Westhill IV2 5AA (On B9006 Culloden Road), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Modern site, with pitches for caravans and tents. Tent £10, caravan £25-30.
- 3 Beach Cottage B&B, 3 Alturlie Point, Allanfearn IV2 7HZ, ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00. Bed and breakfast on the shores of the Moray Firth with two guest rooms with sea views.
- 4 Clava Lodge, Culloden Moor IV2 5EJ, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Self-catering apartments and chalets, within a late 19th century lodge. Let Sat-Sat, Nov-Mar from £250 per week, Apr-Oct from £350.
- 5 Culloden House Hotel, IV2 7BZ, ☏ . 18th century mansion, set within woodland and gardens, now a luxury hotel. The previous house on the site was Bonnie Prince Charlie's headquarters in 1746, before the battle. Doubles Nov-Apr from £180, May-Oct from £315.
As of Aug 2022, Culloden and the B9006 from Inverness have 4G from EE and O2, but no signal from Three or Vodafone. 5G has not reached this area.
- Inverness is the agreeable Victorian city only four miles west.
- Loch Ness starts a few miles above Inverness. The road follows the northwest shore, with Drumnadrochit the main village.
- Nairn to the east is a genteel beach resort.
- Cairngorms National Park spans the mountain range. It's most easily explored from its west side via Aviemore.