Europe > Britain and Ireland > United Kingdom > Scotland > Scottish Highlands > The Great Glen and Strathspey > Culloden
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. For convenience, the small seaside resort of Nairn is also described here.
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 half century, there were several attempts to restore the Stuart (Roman Catholic) monarchy; 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.
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. Less than an hour later the Jacobites were slain, captured or in flight; the Prince escaped but his cause was broken. Fierce government reprisals ended the traditional Highland way of life.
You need a car or at least a bike. Culloden village is off B9006, 5 miles east of Inverness, and has buses there and to Nairn. The battlefield is another two miles south, and Culloden's other sights and amenities are scattered.
Stagecoach Highland Bus 3 runs every 30 mins (M-Sa 07:30-18:30) between Inverness Union Street via Westhill university campus to Culloden, taking 40 mins. From 18:30-23:30 and on Sundays Bus 2A runs hourly.
Bus 5 from Inverness runs to Culloden village then continues to the battlefield and the village of Croy. It runs hourly Mon-Sat (outward 07:30-14:30, return to 18:30); no Sunday service.
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.
- 1 Culloden Battlefield (Drumossie Moor) (6 miles east of Inverness), ☏ . Daily Mar-Oct 10:00-18:00, Nov-Feb 10:00-18:00. 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 but it's worth paying the admission to the exhibition in the visitor centre, which has a cafe and shop. Visitor centre adult £11.
- 2 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 NHS?
- 3 Culloden Viaduct. This 1800 ft (549m), 29 span viaduct, opened in 1898, 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 Cawdor Castle, Nairn IV12 5RD (on B9090 between Culloden & Nairn). mid-Apr-Sept daily 10:00-17:00. 15th C 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 11th C 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.
- Nairn is a small seaside town 15 miles east of Inverness (connected by rail and bus services) and ten miles east of Culloden. Charlie Chaplin regularly took his summer holidays here. It has a museum and a sandy shore. There's a jazz festival in August and Highland Games, and a film festival in February founded by Tilda Swinton, who lives here.
- Nairn Agricultural Show is held at Kinnudie Farm, Auldearn near Nairn, usually in late July. The next event is Sat 1 Aug 2020.
- 1 Culloden Moor Inn, Culloden Moor, IV2 5ED, ☏ . mains fom £13.
- 2 The Cod Father Takeaway, 1 Woodside Village, Westhill, ☏ . Takeaway
- 3 Harry Gow Bakery, Smithton Industrial Estate, Smithton, ☏ .
- 1 Culloden Moor Caravan Club Site, Newlands, Culloden Moor, IV2 5EF (On the B9006 road). 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, ☏ , ✉ 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 C lodge. Let Sat-Sat, Nov-Mar from £250 per week, Apr-Oct from £350.
- 5 Culloden House Hotel, IV2 7BZ, ☏ . 18th C 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.
- Sunny Brae is a cheerful good value B&B on Marine Rd in Nairn.
- 6 Boath House, Auldearn, Nairn IV12 5TE (2 miles east of Nairn), ☏ . More like a miniature stately home than a country house, wonderful comfy place in parkland with great dining. B&B double from £220.