The Battle of Culloden was on this day, April 16th, 1746.
My trip to Scotland in 2016 gave me precious memories and adventures for which I’m so thankful. My experience at Culloden, by far and beyond any distillery, castle, loch, island or mountainside – has stayed with me. I’ll never forget being on the battlefield with all those lost souls.
“On 16 April 1746, the final Jacobite Rising came to a brutal head in one of the most harrowing battles in British history.
Jacobite supporters, seeking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones, gathered to fight the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops. It was the last pitched battle on British soil and, in less than an hour, around 1,600 men were slain – 1,500 of them Jacobites.”
… from the Culloden Visitors Centre, part of the National Trust of Scotland.
Culloden is five miles east of Inverness in the Highlands. The exhibits at the Culloden Visitor Centre are laid out to move visitors through the chronological progression of the Jacobite Rising and English governance. Artifacts from both sides are displayed. It was easy to see how the English were far better equipped.
As with most historical exhibitions there was a theater where one watches a short film to learn more. I stepped into the Immersion Theater to see an empty room with no seating – just four blank white walls. The “movie” presented a brutal, realistic and personal view of actions by both sides of the conflict. The film plunged me and the other visitors into the virtual midst of the battle. Afterwards, I found a bench to sit a moment to recover before heading outside.
Walking the battlefield at Culloden was emotionally overwhelming. What started as a pretty day grew overcast like a shroud of mourning, as if it was too painful for the sun to witness the loss. As I passed the clan headstones and the memorial cairn, I felt a tremendous weight of grief – an enormous sense of the many lives lost on that blustery, wild field.
Then I realized I was crying, tears wetting my face. Embarrassed at my behavior, I looked around to see that no one was paying attention to me. They were all on their own introspective tour of sacred ground.
The only time I’ve felt anything like it was at the Alamo in San Antonio. It’s so hard to describe and it may sound crazy, but I can’t, and never want to, shake that feeling.
A few days later I was chatting with a B&B host about my travels and seeing Culloden. He asked me, “Did you feel it? Walking the grounds? Did you feel it?” I simply nodded, yes. He smiled sadly and said, “not many do.” Evidently, he had experienced something as well. And in a strange way I feel honored that I was able to be one of the few.