We started our day with a visit to Culloden Battlefield, site of the crushing defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite army, and the beginning of government reprisals against Highlanders and their culture.
This was an extraordinarily well-done exhibit with a great historical display providing the history of the Rising, the ensuing battles, and the tactical decisions leading to the Battle at Culloden. The exhibit displayed accounts of all of this from the viewpoints of both the government and the Jacobites on opposite sides of the exhibit corridor, so you could learn about both sides in the lead-up to the battle.
We also learned about the “Highland Charge” which struck me as being very similar to the “Rebel Yell” in terms of being an unexpected “I’m crazy!” maneuver that totally throws off the opposing troops.
Leaving the indoor presentation, we walked the battlefield, and now-restored moor, listening to the audio tour which provided personal accounts and further tactical analysis of the day.
I always find walking historical battlefields to be very moving, particularly when they are the site of such present day beauty and peace. This day was no different.
Although the Shaws fought at Culloden on the Jacobite side, there was no memorial clan marker specifically for them. Instead, we stopped at the marking for the graves of the Mixed Clans mass burials and at the Well of the Dead which marks the fall of Alexander MacGillivray who was leading the Clan Chattan Confederation at the battle.
We spent about 3.5 hours at this location and it was definitely time well-spent. An excellent historical display, combined with gorgeous landscapes and very personal tales. It was exactly our kind of outing, complete with Highland Hairy Coos to admire as we left.
Then we moved on to Cawdor Castle, which was not our type of outing at all.
While interesting to be *at* Cawdor Castle and take photos of the outside, touring the inside felt like we were just walking through someone’s house. Perhaps if we were the type of people who were interested in admiring tapestries or chairs, we would have enjoyed it more, but it really wasn’t our cuppa tea.
It was also very odd because, amidst all of the 16th-17th century antiques, there were very modern family photographs, furnishings, and decorations, not least of which was a throw pillow in the very first room embroidered with the phrase “This house is maintained for the sole comfort of my Jack Russell terrier.”
The only thing that saved our tour of the castle was the frequent cheeky text guides written about each room, clearly by a Cawdor family member who either has an appreciation for the absurd or a complete lack of modesty and self-awareness. These were amusing just often enough to make them worth at least skimming to find the funny bits.
After touring the castle, we took a short walk in the Big Wood behind the castle.
This was a lovely place and I could have spent more time walking there, but, with our tour of the castle having taken so little time (we didn’t exactly linger), we realized we still had enough time to head over to Fort George and have about 2 hours before they closed, so we headed off.
At Fort George, we enjoyed our time walking on the battlements, overlooking both Moray Forth and the barracks, and listening to the audio tour.
We didn’t see any dolphins playing in the firth, but we’re going on a dolphin watching trip tomorrow, so that was okay.
We finished our visit by taking in the on-site Highlanders Museum, where we learned even more about the history of the Highlanders following the Battle at Culloden, and the re-emergence of their proud military tradition.
We were beat by the end of the day, and made an early night of it to recover and plan for the next day.