A chance to travel Scotland in the footsteps of the Jacobites
The Jacobite wars, or Jacobite rising, were a lot more than kilted Highlanders rushing through the heather to fight the Redcoats. It was an attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart. It was a battle for the heart and soul of a nation. There was religious conflict, political intrigue, commercial ambition and old scores settled. If you want to visit the most important sites of the Jacobite rising why not do this tour, and where better to start than in Scotland’s Capital City – Edinburgh.
Day One: Edinburgh Castle
We start with a visit to Edinburgh Castle. The fortress never fell to the Jacobites, but it was held by the pro Jacobite Duke of Gordon at the beginning of the first rebellion in 1689. The crown of Scotland lies within the castle walls, and ultimately this is what the fight was all about. There is also a great military museum and you get the chance to see how the soldiers of the day lined up.
From the castle it is a fantastic walk down the historic Royal Mile, which has witnessed much of Scotland’s history. Pass St Giles cathedral where the Reformation of 1560 laid the seeds of the religious unrest that underpinned the revolution. Also here is the old Parliament, where the fatal decision to exile James VII was taken, leading to the departure from the city of John Graham of Claverhouse and his subsequent rising to counter the coup d’état.
At the bottom of the Royal Mile is the Palace of Holyrood House, the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. Charles Edward Stuart stayed here and was proclaimed as King of Scots following his unhindered arrival into the capital in 1745.
Day Two: City of Stirling
From Edinburgh the tour heads west to Stirling, with the option to see Bannockburn, scene of Robert the Bruce’s famous victory over the English in 1314. Stirling has always held a key strategic position; and you get the chance to walk the famous Bridge of Stirling and visit the castle. From here we detour of the main road and into the hills above Dunblane; and the site of the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. Although nothing remains of the fight, the landscape is very much as was, and the inn on the moor is a great stop for lunch and full of memorabilia and pictures.
After lunch you can drive to Crieff, which was burned by the government as the local landowners, the Drummonds of Perth were Stuart supporters. Charles Edward Stuart stayed in this famous market town on the flight back to Scotland in 1746. Then it’s into the Highlands, following General Wade’s military road through the Sma’ Glen. These roads were built in the 1720s as a way to move troops around the Highlands to prevent insurrection.
The day ends at the Cathedral City of Dunkeld. This picturesque village-city is worth seeing anyway; but in August 1689 it was witness to a fierce battle between the Jacobites and the Cameronian Regiment – old scores were certainly settled here. The town was mostly destroyed (and subsequently rebuilt in part); and you can still see the bullet holes in the walls of the 700 year old cathedral church.
Day Three: Killiecrankie
Following the important River Tay north deeper into the hills we pass Pitlochry to Killiecrankie. It was here in July 1689 that Claverhouse routed the Redcoats in the most famous of Jacobite victories. Unfortunately he was killed at the moment of victory; confirming his hero status. There is a visitor centre here, and you can walk through the forest to get spectacular views of the pass.
Then it’s on to Blair Castle, seat of the Dukes of Atholl and the gateway to the north. It was this hold that Claverhouse was defending at Killiecrankie, and it was here that he was brought afterwards and died. You’ll get the chance to have a look around this magnificent castle, plus time to visit the ruins of St Bride’s Kirk where he is buried.
From Blair head through the mountains to the Ruthven Barracks. These were built by the government to house their redcoat soldiers as part of the policy of ‘Fortress Scotland’. They were destroyed by the Jacobites in 1746 after the Battle of Culloden; and worth a look around. From here make your way to Moy Hall (by permission only) to see the Clan Macintosh museum, and the bed Charles Edward slept in before his defeat at Culloden. There are lots of artefacts and interesting period pieces here.
The day ends at the Battlefield of Culloden, site of the last battle ever fought on British soil – April 16th 1746. It was here that the Jacobites were annihilated by the government army in less than an hour. It is a haunting place to wander around, and you’ll have the time. The visitor centre is a must do, and an integral part of the tour.
Day Four: Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle
The day starts by leaving Inverness and heading south to the world famous Loch Ness, and Urquhart Castle. An important stronghold for over a thousand years the castle was destroyed in 1692 by forces loyal to William of Orange to prevent it falling into Jacobite hands. After a look around, we’ll continue south through the Great Glen to Fort William. Not much remains today of the fort that was the key to peacekeeping in the area, and within reach of local Jacobite clans: the Camerons and MacDonnells. We’ll detour into Glen Nevis to see how the landscapes of the time would have looked as little much has changed here.
The next stop is at Ballachulish were you have the chance to solve a 260 year old mystery, known as the Appin Murder. The incident took place in the aftermath of Culloden when much of the Highlands came under government control and forms the backdrop of Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, Kidnapped. Then it is a short hop to Glencoe. It was here in 1692 that the government soldiers of the Duke of Argyll’s regiment massacred 38 MacDonalds in a bloody act against their Jacobite sympathies. It was brutal and callous, but worse – it was murder under trust. These imposing mountains tell a grim story, and one that will be told to you.
From Glencoe cross the bleak Rannoch Moor, where many a Jacobite fled following the ’45 rebellion; and on south through the Trossachs to Stirling and Edinburgh beyond. This is a great four day trip to see the world of the Jacobites: to understand the history and causes and most of all to enjoy the stunning landscapes, castles and the wonderful culture of Scotland.