Visiting Culloden & Clava Cairns in the Scottish Highlands #Blogmanay

On our first day of touring with Haggis Adventures we explored the Scottish Highlands including stops at the visitor center of the Battle of Culloden Moor and the mysterious Clava Cairn.

 

Battlefield of Culloden Moor

 

Dramatic skyline at Culloden Moor during sunset

Standing on Culloden Moor I saw nothing but blue sky, white clouds and grassy fields dotted with sporadic trees. Upon first examination this seemed as quiet, remote and peaceful of a place you could possibly ever visit; however, a wisp of the wind revealed that Culloden Moor was the tragic battlefield grounds and final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite Rising.

Our Haggis Adventures guide Dave at Culloden

Dave, our gregarious guide from Haggis Adventures, (clad in a kilt, sporting an impressive ginger beard and wielding historical artifacts associated with the time period [various weapons and flags]) informed us of the significance of this now memorial site: “No jokes, no humor at all. This is a massive war grave where my ancestors and other people’s ancestors died needlessly. Just the utmost respect guys.”

The Battle of Culloden Memorial Cairn

Not far from our initial starting point stood a 6.1 meter memorial cairn with the following inscribed:

THE BATTLE
OF CULLODEN
WAS FOUGHT ON THIS MOOR
16TH APRIL 1746
THE GRAVES OF THE
GALLANT HIGHLANDERS
WHO FOUGHT FOR
SCOTLAND & PRINCE CHARLIE,
ARE MARKED BY THE NAMES
OF THEIR CLAN

Dave continued explaining the significance of Culloden to the Scots and especially the Jacobite highlanders: “People come now to sing songs, tell stories and to remember on the 16th of April. A blind piper plays. He plays songs on the bagpipes for 45 minutes, which is the length that the battle lasted for. It tugs on your heartstrings.”

Dave standing beside the 6.1 meter Cairn Memorial

The Battle of Culloden, which took place on April 16, 1746 near Iverness in the Scottish Highlands, was the final confrontation of the 1945 Jacobite Rising. Jacobite forces under Bonnie Prince Charlie fought passionately against loyalist soldiers under the leadership of William Augustus – better know as the Duke of Cumberland. This bloody and ultimately quick conflict lasted less than an hour in which an estimated 1,500 to 2000 Jacobites were killed/wounded as opposed to significantly less casualties from the redcoats. The aftermath of the battle was a time of oppression for Jacobites who were brutally marginalized earning the Duke of Cumberland the title of ‘Butcher.’ Policing and civil penalties were implemented with the intention of weakening the Scottish clan system and Gaelic culture.

Dave sharing one of the many historical flags from his impressive collection

Most tragic is the grave post of the ‘Mixed Clans’ – members who were so brutally disfigured in the battle that their remains were unidentifiable. Their family name and clan ties forever wiped out from history.

However, the spirit, passion, courage and morale of the Jacobite Highland forces remains in tales told today: “Lord George Murray was a Jacobite General. He led a charge into the front-line of the British government army. Snapped his sword in two, lost his horse and came back out of the front line; he got another sword, got another horse and led a second charge in.”

Dave explaining the battle of Culloden as the sun is just about to set

This battlefield is protected by Historic Scotland where a visitor center has been functional since December, 2007. On the anniversary of the battle people come to pay their respects.

Scenic views from Colloden

Dave, accurately summed up the realities of war and conflict: “One thing that is guaranteed in war is death. Death and destruction.”

As someone with a certain amount of Scottish ancestry, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of my relatives may have lost their lives on this very moor. Standing quietly on the field alone, I stopped to pay my respect with a minute of silence.

One last shot from Culloden before sunset

 

Balnuaran of Clava (Clava Cairns)

 

Silhouette trees nearby Clava Cairns

Not far from Culloden was our next stop – Clava Cairns. In an area with more forest and shade stood a mysterious Bronze age circular chamber tomb cairn.

The ever mysterious Clava Cairns

The significance of the cairns is one that is still highly debated by academics today: “Every winter solstice people with professor suits on and they all argue with each other basically. These chambers are older than the pyramids. Built by teenagers because the lifespan at the time would have been around 30.”

As we huddled down as a group around the perimeter of the inner cairns circle, Dave continued: “The sun would set in alignment with fire and smoke. Very very spiritual.”

A close-up shot of Clava Carins stone formations

Those who have taken stones from the cairns have documented bad things happening to them prompting the stones to be returned, which Dave jokingly warned us about: “Don’t go on facebook (and say) Dave my arm is falling off!”

Scenic views from Clava Cairns

Overall, our first day visiting the highlands was an eye opening experience not only because of the stunning Highlands scenery but moreover because of the historical significance of the areas we visited.

Gorgeous scenery from the Scottish Highlands

#blogmanay is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by ETAGEventScotlandHomecoming Scotland,VisitScotlandEdinburgh FestivalsMarketing Edinburgh and co-creators Haggis Adventures. Created and produced by Unique Events. As always, all opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather - Ginger Nomads January 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Culloden really does have a feeling about it. I haven’t been there in years, but having Scottish heritage really gives you a personal sense of what happened there. I can’t describe the feeling that’s there, but if a place can have an aura about it, and simply be a field, it’s definitely Culloden.

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Samuel Jeffery January 10, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I agree with you about the aura Heather. I certainly felt it as well :)

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Maria January 8, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Gorgeous landscape – a couple of your shots remind me of the work by the artist, Andrew Goldsworthy.

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 6:01 am

Thanks Maria!

That’s very high praise :)

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Mike January 8, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Your pictures completely captured the mood of the post, Samuel. Thoroughly enjoyed the brief look back in history too. If a tour host is holding an 8 inch knife admonishing me/us not to laugh, no jokes and show respect…he would have my undivided attention :)

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 5:59 am

Mike,

He was one of the best guides I’ve ever had. He was so passionate about all of the places he was showing us on the tour; moreover, that knife was certainly a great tool to command our attention/respect ;)

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Jorja Alcorn January 9, 2014 at 9:20 am

Scotland is really amazing. I lived there for 2 years in Aberdeen and explore the place. Sometimes it’s so surreal to stand in some places that you can only see in a movie. Great post!

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 5:56 am

Jorja,

That’s cool you lived in Scotland! I’m hoping I get an opportunity to do that someday :)

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Neil January 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Ah you can’t beat a knowledgable bearded guide! Looks great Samuel, Culloden is a complex chapter in Scots history no doubt. Great visitor centre up there too.

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 5:54 am

Thanks Neil,

I wish I had a bit more time to check out the visitor center. When I come back in the summer I’ll try to do that.

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mike@foodbyfoot January 9, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Culloden is an amazing place. I am Scottish by birth but only recently visited it for the first time. There is a very special, eerie feeling when you stand there. Not the typical sort of tourist attraction but unforgettable

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 5:53 am

Mike, I certainly agree with you. It’s something I’ll never forget.

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Corinne January 10, 2014 at 9:53 am

This clinches it…I’m going to Scotland for New Year 2015! So much fun!

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 5:48 am

Awesome Corinne!

You won’t be disappointed :)

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Cory January 10, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Wow! Beautiful! I hope to get there someday! thanks for the inspiration!

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 5:36 am

Thanks Cory! Hope you get to go soon :)

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Stephen January 13, 2014 at 7:04 am

Haha I did Haggis Tours once, my guide was awesome….however yours just looks epic.

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 4:51 am

That’s cool Stephen!

I was able to meet one other guide (and he seemed great) but Dave is one of kind ;)

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Casey @ A Cruising Couple January 13, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Amazing photos. Scotland is definitely a place I would love to visit if given the opportunity. Surprisingly I haven’t heard very many travel bloggers talking about it before #Blogmanay, but it’s great to learn more!

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 4:46 am

That’s cool Casey. I guess that shows the campaign is working well. I didn’t realize how Scotland was until visiting there.

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Gina Nitschke January 14, 2014 at 12:44 am

Scotland is an amazing country to visit, it is one of our favourites, and my husband has always dreamed of living there, (if he can convince me to be so cold!). Thanks for sharing all of your lovely photos, they bought back such wonderful memories of the beautiful country side and epic history of the Scottish Highlands. Great to see “Haggis” are still doing such great tours :-)

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Samuel Jeffery January 15, 2014 at 4:37 am

Thank you! I’d love to stay in Scotland for an extended period of time as well :)

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The Guy January 15, 2014 at 2:01 pm

That is a very fitting and well toned article Samuel. It is very true that the Scots have a lot of pride and recognition for their history which is well decorated around Scotland. Maybe fitting that later this year they get to decide their fate in a more peaceful way with the referendum.

That Dave certainly comes across as quite a character. Ginger hair and beard and dressed appropriately he must have been a great tour guide.

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Samuel Jeffery January 18, 2014 at 8:42 am

Thanks!

It’ll be interesting to see which way they decide to go with the referendum. Dave was an awesome guide! I hope I get to meet up with him again for a pint in the summer.

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Nils January 15, 2014 at 7:40 pm

This article is very interesting and spectacular. The great pictures from your trip are amazing and they easily show how fantastic Scotland could be. The text under every photo and video underlines the conclusion of the photo and invites every reader to start a trip to Scotland with Haggis Adventures, too.

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Samuel Jeffery January 18, 2014 at 8:45 am

Thanks Nils,

Glad you enjoyed the article and I do highly recommend Haggis Adventures!

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Sunny January 16, 2014 at 1:52 am

I really enjoy reading your posts because it not only includes beauty of the place you are getting to know but also its history (and local culture). Thanks for the wonder post again!

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Samuel Jeffery January 18, 2014 at 8:46 am

Thanks Sunny!

I’ll be sharing more posts from Scotland soon :)

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Heather January 17, 2014 at 3:48 am

Beautiful post. I also have some Scottish ancestry so it hits close to home. I have yet to visit Scotland, but hope to remedy that in the near future! It looks like an absolutely stunning place.

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Samuel Jeffery January 18, 2014 at 8:47 am

Hope you get a chance to visit soon Heather! It’s a country that impressed me to the point where I’m making it a priority again to visit this summer.

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wanderingeducators January 17, 2014 at 4:31 am

Culloden is my very favorite place in Scotland. Our daughter, 9 at the time, did NOT want to leave – we closed the place down. It’s the spot where in all of gorgeous, scenic, historic Scotland, I most felt the past and present collide. So glad you shared your experiences and incredible photos.

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Samuel Jeffery January 18, 2014 at 8:48 am

Thank you!

It’s certainly a special place for many people. That’s great you were able to share the experience with your family :)

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Robin McKelvie January 17, 2014 at 6:47 am

Great post, really sums up the drama of the wilder parts of Scotland and one of the most intoxicatingly wild chapters of Scottish history. Writers and photographers like you are always welcome here. As we say here – Haste Ye Back!

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Samuel Jeffery January 18, 2014 at 8:49 am

Thanks Robin,

Looking forward to coming back in the summer. Great to meet up with you at #blogmanay and if you’ve got time would love to have a pint together again :)

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Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans January 17, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Looking at your photos of Culloden Moor, I can only imagine what that final battle must have been like. Wars today are so technological, but back in the day, it was all hand-to-hand, sword-to sword combat. What a terrifying scene it must have been. Looking at the beauty of the battlefield, you’d never guess that something so tragic took place there.

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Samuel Jeffery January 18, 2014 at 8:53 am

Dana,

That’s exactly how I felt. It’s such a beautiful place that I had to close my eyes to image what took place in the past.

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Tiffany January 18, 2014 at 2:07 am

Wow, the cairns look so interesting. Beautiful pictures. If, *when*, I go – I hope Dave is my guide too! :)

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Samuel Jeffery January 18, 2014 at 8:53 am

Thanks Tiffany,

If you go try to *request* Dave although I hear the other guides are good as well ;)

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Mary @ Green Global Travel January 18, 2014 at 5:49 am

The pictures in this post are beautiful! The post is very informative. I really enjoyed reading it! Thank you for sharing. :-)

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Samuel Jeffery January 18, 2014 at 8:54 am

Thanks Mary!

You’re welcome :)

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Arti January 19, 2014 at 4:22 am

Fascinating place, just so very old those structures.. I am glad I follow your blog for the stories and places you show make me want to travel so much more!

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Will January 21, 2014 at 8:13 am

Wondering if you tried ‘Hagus’ ? If so, your a braver belly than mine ..

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Renuka January 26, 2014 at 7:34 pm

The place looks gorgeous and the pictures have come out brilliant too. Scotland stands apart!

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Huguenin-Photography January 30, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Great Post!

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