Scotland #03 – Culloden & Cawdor
Scotland July 2022 - #03 Culloden and Cawdor
This travel-blog is for a trip we took to Scotland in July of 2022. Other than a few days on our own in Edinburgh at the beginning this was on a formal tour of the Scottish Highlands operated by RS (Road Scholar, www.roadscholar.org).
This installment covers our first day (of 4) while staying at the Ben Wyvis hotel in Strathpeffer and includes the Jacobite Rebellion, Culloden Battlefield and Cawdor Castle along with some more history.
Entire Trip map
Detail of our route this day
Ben Wyvis Hotel in Strathpeffer
A bit of Scottish History part 2 – Vikings & Macbeth
For logistical reasons, our bus tour was not able to visit sites in their historical order which makes following along quite a challenge. But, I’ll try to keep a chronology list of the portions we’ve covered in our mini history lessons so far. In previous installments we talked about:
124 AD – Roman’s advance up to the border of the Highlands, but they were never successful in getting much further and then they left the British Isles
1280’s – The unfortunate demise of King Alexander’s Royal family and the taking over of Scotland by King Edward of England which launched the first Scottish war of Independence.
In addition to the above, here are a few things that happened between these two events.
Ever hear of the “Vikings”? Well the Roman’s never really made any headway defeating the Caledonians in Scotland and eventually they withdrew from the British Isles. But around 800 AD the Vikings came along. They were pretty good seamen by this point in history and they began migrating from Norway and Denmark. One of the first places they landed to trade and settle was just across the North Sea in what is now the west side of Scotland. Around the same time, the Picts were forging a new kingdom on the eastern side called the Kingdom of Alba. But eventually the Vikings left and life just plodded along.
You might also recognize the name Macbeth. Even though Shakespeare’s play was loosely based on fact – very loosely - King Macbeth of Scotland did exist and he was the King of Alba from 1040 to 1057. But again in the grander scheme of things nothing significant took place under Macbeth’s reign, including pretty much anything Shakespeare may have told us.
A bit of Scottish History part 3 - House of Stuart
We’ll catch up on other events as we go, but as our next stop was the Culloden Battlefield we’ll skip ahead to that time frame (1740’s). But first we need to set the stage for this battle and to do that we need to back track and talk about the house of Stewart. Sorry if this is a bit long, but it’s a bit complicated
The name Stewart (later changed to Stuart) stems from a traditional custom of people names being a given name to which is attached their occupation or title. Occupations usually followed the given name, for example Bob Smith (“Smith” for blacksmiths) or James Cooper (“Cooper” for barrel makers) but titles usually preceded the given name, for example Queen Elizabeth.
The House of Stuart name stems from a fellow named Walter fitz Alan (c. 1150) who was the “High Steward of Scotland”. The High Steward was sort of a combination of Secretary of State, Chief of Staff, and to some extent military advisor. This Walter fellow was the first to have this role when King David appointed him in the 12th century at which point he became Steward Walter. The role was subsequently given to Walter’s son, and then to Walter’s grandson, and so on for several generations during which the original surname “Steward” morphed into “Stewart”. Along the way what had been a role appointed by the King changed into an inherited role and thus was born the “House of Stewart”. At some point one branch of this family spent a few generations in France and adopted the French spelling “Stuart” which came back with them from France when they returned to Scotland.
Eventually the 6th High Steward of Scotland married Marjorie, the daughter of King Robert I. When King Robert died around 1371, their son became king and took the name King Robert II and that’s when the royal lineage switched over to the House of Stewart (or Stuart). Starting in 1603 they also ruled England with the same person being king or queen of both.
So, why am I telling you all this? Well, except for the period of 1649-1660, the House of Stuart ruled England and Scotland all the way up to 1714 when Queen Anne died. But when Anne died there were no further descendents in the house of Stuart so under the terms of the 1701 Act of Settlement, Anne was succeeded by her second cousin George I of the House of Hanover making Anne the last Stuart to rule.
But folks in Scotland and Ireland had another idea. They were adamant that the throne be given to Anne's exiled half-brother, James who would normally be considered the next in line and which would have kept the throne in the House of Stuart. The problem was that under the Act of Settlement, Roman Catholics could not ascend to the throne and James was a Roman Catholic. And, of course as we’re talking about who would be king, neither side was in a mood to give in.
After raising a small army, in 1742 James’s son Charles Edward came back to Scotland to reclaim the throne for his father and the House of Stuart. Unfortunately his small army consisted of only 7 men. But, he was a bit of a schmoozer and was able to convince several of the Scottish leaders to support him and by 1745 a full blown rebellion was underway. This rebellion came to be known as the Jacobite Rebellion as well as the Forty-Five Rebellion. This Jacobite army met with quite a bit of success and after capturing Edinburgh James was proclaimed king with Charles his Regent. This success attracted many more Scots to the cause and the fight continued.
Plans were drawn up to invade England and to restore the House of Stuart to the English throne as well as the Scottish throne. But these plans were only agreed to after being assured by the French that at the same time the French would invade England from the south and that there would be a large number of sympathetic English who would join the cause.
With these assurances, the Jacobite army invaded England and once again met with success. They captured Carlisle and continued south through Preston and Manchester and on to Derby. But, there was no sign of a French landing or any significant number of English recruits. So, the Jacobites risked being caught between two English armies, each one twice their size and they decided to retreat back to the north.
Apart from a skirmish at Clifton Moor, the Jacobite army evaded pursuit and crossed back into what is now Scotland. Having succeeded in invading and returning from England was a considerable military achievement, morale was high and the Jacobite strength increased to over 8,000. With the help of French weapons, various battles continued. But due to a Royal Navy blockade shortages of both money and food were happening throughout the country. So, it came down to one last all or nothing battle to reinstate the House of Stuart - and a Catholic - to the throne. And this brings us to our next stop – the Culloden Battlefield.
The battle at Culloden took place in 1746 (30 years before The US’s Declaration of Independence). It was the final battle of the Jacobites against the British and the last battle fought on what was then British ground. It was also the last battle of the last war for independence.
Battles then were conducted differenlty then than by today’s standards. One army would line up shoulder to shoulder along one side of an open field and the other army would line up on the opposite side of the field. After flinging some cannon balls back and forth for awhile and perhaps a barrage of arrows as well, one army would charge the other at which point the 2nd army would charge back and there would be bloody hand to hand combat where they met in the middle with swords and knives.
For this battle the Jacobite army was led by Charles Edward (“The Young Pretender” also known as “Bonny Prince Charles”) and the English army was led by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (known as just Cumberland).
The highland Jacobite army had attempted a surprise night attack on Cumberland the night before but they were delayed getting there by men straggling in the search for food and never quite reached Cumberland’s camp by daybreak. So, they retreated to a field five miles east of Inverness, Culloden Moor, to await Cumberland.
Let me pause here to explain that Charles Edward had no real military training even though he had led some successful battles. On the other hand Cumberland was well versed in military combat and quite adept at military tactics. Through experience gained in recent battles with the Jacobite army, Cumberland knew how they liked to operate. Their predictable mode of operation was a scary charge at the enemy lines with lots of noise and chaos which tended to rattle their opponents. Cumberland trained his men to be prepared for this and not let it rattle them. He also realized that the Highlanders would have a heavy shield held in front of them in their left hand while brandishing a heavy sword overhead with their right hand. So he trained his men to ignore the attacker right in front of them and instead to thrust their sword into the exposed ribs of the attacker one position to their right whose shield was on the opposite side and whose near arm was raised with the sword. This proved very effective.
So, getting back to the battle, the battlefield itself was not a good choice for the Jacobites. It was quite rough ground and hard to run on, it afforded a clear field of fire to Cumberland’s superior artillery, was quite boggy at one end and had several stone walls criss-crossing it where the land was dry on the other end. Also, the two opposing lines were not parallel to each other meaning that troops charging at one end of the line had a much longer way to go than those at the other end. These elements were not conducive to the battle style and plans of the Highlanders.
Now, add that Cumberland’s army was well rested, well fed, and quite a bit larger than the Jacobite army.
On the English side, Cumberland had things well under control. First he shelled the highlanders with cannon fire for nearly half an hour without effective reply before the Highlanders had enough and decided to charge. But, the order to attack passed slowly through the chaotic chain of command. Due to this, different sections of the charge were ahead of or behind other sections leaving gaps between the divisions. This was in addition to the poor soldiers at the bog end of the battlefield basically stuck in the mud and hardly advancing at all and those at the other end slowed down by those stone walls.
On the left, the MacDonald’s (in the bog) never reached the British line at all. But the large highland regiment on the right, Clan Chattan, eventually got to Cumberland’s line but after charging over 350 yards through rough terrain with bad footing and having to climb over stone walls along the way, they were exhausted and were repulsed after fierce hand-to-hand combat. Only a few highlanders were able to break Cumberland’s first line but were thrashed when they hit Cumberland’s second line.
At this point Cumberland’s cavalry began to work their way around the highlanders’ flanks, converting defeat into a rout. The Highlands fled and Cumberland’s pursuit extended all the way to Inverness. The actual fighting had lasted about 40 minutes.
Explaining the battlefield
Highlanders were in divisions by Clan commanded by the Clan Chief.
Culloden Battlefield Memorial
Culloden Battlefield Memorial, Plaque
Leanach Cottage on the battlefield
Where did you say you parked the trailer? (food truck at Visitor Center)
During the 1900s, more than 1,000 country castles and palace’s were abandoned or torn down as they became too expensive to maintain. The peak of this was in the 1950’s when over 400 were lost. However since that time the numbers have been decreasing as rather than giving up historic family homes, many estate owners have opened portions of their “castles” to the public as a way to generate enough income to keep up with the never ending maintenance.
Most of these homes were built in the 17th and 18th centuries as manor houses at the heart of an agricultural estate. In the past, owners made money from renting land to tenant farmers, as well as investing in commercial enterprises to fund a country house and way of life. These large estates provided employment for hundreds of people and supported providers of food, fuel and services.
But this economic model ceased to be viable after World War II. What with a couple of wars, a depression or two , new taxes including inheritance taxes, and famers no longer willing to put up with a near starvation existence as tenant farmers, the economic equation just didn’t add up anymore. There were almost 5,000 such estates at their mid 19th century peak, but that number is down to about 3,000 today.
Salvation came in 1976 in the form of the Finance Act. This legislation gave owners an exemption from inheritance tax in return for a commitment to open their houses to the public. In short order, many hundreds of houses were saved. The first of these we visited is called Cawdor Castle.
Cawdor Castle is built around a 15th-century tower house, with substantial additions in later years. Originally a property of the Calder family, it passed to the Campbell’s in the 16th century. It remains in Campbell ownership, and is now home to the Dowager Countess Cawdor, stepmother of Colin Campbell, 7th Earl Cawdor.
The castle is perhaps best known for its literary connection to William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, in which the title character is made "Thane of Cawdor". However, the story is highly fictionalized, and the castle itself, which is never directly referred to in Macbeth, was built many years after the life of the 11th-century King Macbeth.
One curious feature of this castle is that it was built around a small, living holly tree. Tradition states that a donkey, laden with gold, lay down to rest under this tree, which was then selected as the site of the castle. The remains of the tree may still be seen in the lowest level of the tower.
As is the case with most of these open to the public estates the main parts are set aside for the public and a much smaller section is used by the owner. Many times the portion used by the owner had at one time been where the servants and staff had lived and worked – albeit with much remodeling and upgrades since that time.
Entrance drive into Cawdor Castle
Exterior of Cawdor Castle
The living room – pretty much how the Cawdor’s had it set up when they used this section
Part of a formal garden
Interesting pruning of some tall bushes
Flowers adorn old tree
We’ll visit a few more non Royal castles later on in this trip.
And, I think that's where I'll end installment 3.
PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS AS I ENJOY HEARING YOUR REACTION TO WHAT I'VE WRITTEN
This blog is posted at:
Or, the whole Scotland 2022 series (as I write them) here”
Photographs from Scotland can be found on my website here:
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Thanks for reading – Dan
(Images by Dan Hartford. Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way guidebooks and commentary by the Road Scholar Guides)
Keywords: Battle of Culloden, Blog, dan hartford photo, DanTravelBlog, dantravelblogscotland2022, Forty-Five Rebellion, House of Stewart, House of Stuart, Jacobite Rebellion, Jacobites, Scotland, Viking in Scotland
Thomas J Hislop(non-registered)
"But again in the grander scheme of things nothing significant took place under Macbeth’s reign, including pretty much anything Shakespeare may have told us."
This was my favorite quote, and a credit to the imagination of Shakespeare.
The light looks like it was cloudy every day?
Hi Dan, thanks for the great history lesson as well as the beautiful photos. Cawdor is spectacular . The 1976 Finance Act was a great solution for these lovely old buildings. Even the Crawley's of Downton Abbey were having trouble paying for things...... Glad you folks are out and about. We just finished an 11 day tour in Canada on the Rocky Mountaineer train - beautiful and scenic in the Canadian Rockies! Best to you both.
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