On Monday we took our new found confidence in driving on the wrong side of the road and put it to good use. We headed out of Inverness in search of Culloden Battlefield: the site of the tragic defeat of the Jacobite supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie. He was the heir to the Stuart dynasty but his father James VI was forced into exile in Italy. The Hanover family had control of the throne and the French were quite willing to support anyone who would mess things up for the King in England. Prince Charlie came across the English Channel in the summer of 1745 and nearly beat the Hanovers out of London.
Anyway, on the 16th of April 1746, the Scottish Rebels, exhausted from their overnight attempt to surprise the British, lined up against the well rested British forces. It was a bloodbath. In less than 40 minutes over a thousand people were killed. Prince Charles escaped (dressed as a lady) back to Italy and the English burned Scottish houses and tortured and killed hundreds. It was a fascinatingly depressing place. The building had hundreds of exhibits found on the battlefield and told the story of the battle.
On the right side of the wall was the Jacobite (Scottish) version of the events and on the left was the English version. Then you walked into a hall with examples of the weapons used in the battle. We saw a demonstration of the kinds of guns used and how to load one. (A trained soldier would take 45 seconds to reload after firing his musket. They would stand in rows of four and would fire one every 10 seconds. By the time the fourth guy had fired the first guy would almost be done loading. Two English figures of expression finally made sense.
“Skin Flint” The muskets would ignite when the spring loaded hammer would strike a flint locked next to the chamber. Soldiers had to buy their own flint which was very expensive. In order to save money they would sharpen (skin) their own flints by hand in order to reuse them, hence the term.
“Going off half cocked” When loading a musket you leave the hammer in the ‘half cock’ position in order to load the powder down the barrel. You drop a musket ball into it and then you are ready to go. If you forget at this point to pull the hammer back to the ‘full cock’ position then when you pull the trigger the hammer won’t be going fast enough to light the charge and the gun won’t go off. Then you’re in trouble.
Historical markers were placed on the battlefield and GPS enabled guides allowed you to wander the field and hear stories from the battle. This was the last attempt at Scotland sovereignty. After the battle many were sent into exile in the colonies (US) or forced into Edinburgh to look for food (more on that later). The English conscripted the locals from Inverness to trudge out to the field and bury the dead. Since they were locals they could recognize each tartan and were able to sort them into clans and buried them all in mass clan graves. The marker stones were added about 100 years later. Heather doesn’t grow on the mounds, many say, because of all the blood.
Just down the street is an ancient graveyard called the Clava Cairns. These are ancient stone circles that date back to 2000 B.C. Around the time of Abraham locals were burning their dead in the center of the stone circles. Those of you that read the Diana Gabaldon books will be glad to know that I didn’t let Julie touch any of the stone circles.
Next we drove down the shores of Lock Ness to Uquhart Castle. It was spectacular; one of my favourite places so far. It was a castle build, largely by the Grant Family to secure the area for the King and collect rents. Over a hundred people would live in the castle doing jobs. After sitting dormant for years the gate house was blown up by the English to keep Scottish Separatists from using it as a base in the 17th century. You can walk through the ruins and see where everything originally was. The main tower is only half intact but you can get a sense of the opulence of the place. Huge second floor fireplaces would have kept the place nice and cosy. After that we returned to Inverness and had dinner in town. As soon as Julie opened her mouth our waitress looked at her bug-eyed like Julie had just said that she was an ostrich or something. She listened most deliberately as we ordered. Julie asked her later if we sounded strange and she explained. She is Dutch (from Holland two years ago) and the only English she has ever learned was in the Highlands. The poor dear. Imagine thinking you had learned English only to discover you had acquired it with one of the most obscure accents possible. It would be like buying a guitar and discovering that it’s left handed and only works underwater. We tipped her well because she is going to need help if she every leaves here and goes to another English speaking country. We walked along the river (very nice) and then back to our B&B, the Avalon Guest House which was a wonderful place to stay. Julie’s favourite day.