Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Walking Through Time and History - Culloden Moor and the Stand Stones at Clava Cairns

Forgive your enemy,
but remember the bastard's name.
~Scottish proverb

Culloden Battlefield

Twelve highlanders 
and a bagpipe make a rebellion ...
~Scottish Proverb

We arrived on a rainy mid morning to the famous battlefield not far from Inverness. The dramatic battle, in April of 1746, that lasted less than an hour, would be the end of the Jacobite Rebellions. 1,500 were slain. 1,000 of those fought on the side of the Jacobites who were fighting to return a Stuart King to the thrown.

Please press play of the music!
MacCrimmons Lament ...
"A Jacobite song lamenting the loss of a piper 
during the rebellion of 1745. 
This melody was written by the MacLeod’s piper, 
Donald Ban MacCrimmon, 
during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745." 

The visitors' center built in 2007

The new(ish) visitors center was fantastic because it told the story of the rebellion from both sides of the fight. There were interactive maps of the battlefield, a film reenactment, as well as weapons and other memorabilia from tiny painted portrait lockets of Bonnie Prince Charlie, to Jacobite crystal goblets and coins. There were even folks in costume explaining various objects to the visitors.

About the time we were going to head outside there was a downpour and we took cover in the gift shop to wait for my dad who ran to get the umbrellas out of the car. Nice to have a gentleman with you when you travel!

Leanach Cottage

It was raining as we walked out to the cottage which had likely been one of many buildings in 1746. During the battle, the cottage stood between the lines of the Government troops and it is thought to have been used as a field hospital for their soldiers.

At one time it was a visitors center for the battlefield.

Watching Outlander it seemed that the fight was simply the English (Hanoverarians) against the Scottish (Jacobites). It was a bit more complicated. For some it was about religion, restoring a Catholic 'rightful' monarch to the thrown, but for others it was about English oppression of the Highlanders. Beyond that there were those that were quite happy with status quo (Hanovarians) because of their pocketbooks and fought with them whatever your heritage.  

(I'm doing some major generalizing but if you are interested, check out "How the Scots Invented the Modern World." and other sources.)

Keep your fears to yourself, 
but share your courage with others. 

~Robert Louis Stevenson

The rain began to let up as we headed to the large cairn commemorating the highlanders who lost their lives fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie. The smaller clan stones were quite moving to see with their floral offerings ...

Clan Stewart ...

... I feel a sort of reverence in going over these scenes 
in this most beautiful country,
which I am proud to call my own, 
where there was such devoted loyalty 
to the family of my ancestors 
~ for Stuart blood is in my veins ...

~Queen Victoria's journal entry in 1873

The light changed as we walked among the stones. Here is the silhouetted Clan Fraser stone.

I must admit to my mind wandering to characters from the Outlander TV show as I walked past the Stuart and Fraser stones. However, when I reached the stone of Clan Cameron, I almost burst into tears.

I felt a wave of sadness and the very real feeling of standing on the graves of my ancestors. The whole experience became something very different.

I watched a documentary that explained that they have done geophysical tests that confirm there are mass graves in this area.

16TH OF APRIL 1746

Heather on the field ...

There were flags placed in different places on the field and you could listen to an audio commentary that explained what happened and where during the battle. 

For me, I took in the beauty of that sad field with its mossy, aged, clan stones and the beautiful wildflowers and lovely thick patches of heather. 

My travel Journal ...

Beautiful haunting Scottish Celtic and Pakistani music ...

From Culloden we drove the short distance (5 minutes?) to Clava Cairns.

Clava Cairns
Balnuaran of Clava
2,000 BC

We walked through an small, open, wooden gate to the past. No tickets, no guard, no shop selling miniature cairns ... just a light rain, rustling of leaves and a few hushed voices.

From Historic Environment Scotland-
The Clava Cairns comprise part of one, if not two, Bronze Age cemeteries. This landscape was an important place for ritual and burial activities in the Bronze Age. Later burials at the site suggest continued significance for over a millennia.
The three well-preserved cairns at Balnuaran each have a central chamber. But while the two outer cairns have entrance passages, the chamber of the central one is enclosed. Each cairn is surrounded by a ring of standing stones. Many of the stones used to construct the cairns have cup marks on them – these may have been reused from another place, perhaps an earlier sacred site.

For a moment the sun came through, just above us, lighting up the stones and wet green of the leaves and grass ... it felt a mystical gift!

And then it was gone. Although, the weather did keep changing because, you know, it's Scotland.

More from Historic Environment Scotland-
The cemetery at Clava suggests that midwinter was an important time of year for the society who built them.
The three prominent cairns form a line running north-east to south-west. The passages of the two cairns are also aligned towards the south-west, suggesting that the builders had their eyes on the midwinter sunset. The standing stones also suggest a focus on the midwinter sunset – they are graded in height with the tallest facing the setting sun in the south-west.
Considerable thought must have gone into the planning and construction of the graves. The midwinter solstice would have marked an important turning point in the year - many similar monuments across the British Isles have a similar alignment with movements of the midwinter sun. Such sites can tell us about beliefs of past societies and how they understood their world.

Standing inside ...

In the following photo, the largest standing stone I saw at Clava Cairns ...

I couldn't help myself. I had to have my silly Outlander moment.

Alas ... no Jamie and no portal to 18th century. Maybe next time.

Word is, that Diana Gabaldon took inspiration from Clava Cairns for her fictional "Craig na Dun" in Outlander.

The middle cairn that has no entrance.

The farthest ring from the gate ...

You can see the road and cows in the field across the way from this cairn.  It was so unlike the very famous Stone Henge where you can't really get that close to it. (At least when we went.) 

It might have been the weather and just the atmospheric scenery but this place seemed to have such a interesting energy to it that called for you to be quiet and reverent.

I found this wonderful short video on Youtube. It's drone footage from above and you get a sense of where it is and how close together the cairns are to each other.

These would definitely be on my "to do" list if you are in the Highlands near Inverness, Loch Ness and/or Speyside. More than just memorable, they are quite moving places to be, where you can literally walk among the ruins and touch history.

Clava Cairns
National Trust Culloden Blog
(behind the scenes)

For those of you who want an overview of Jacobite Rebellion of '45 and Culloden, here's a BBC documentary.

After that we headed east, in the rain and some traffic, to the lovely ruins of Elgin Cathedral. I'll save that for another day!

blessing and light!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Along the River Spey ~ Clan Grant, Duthil Kirk, Grantown on Spey and the Prettiest little bridges!

It was our second morning in Inverness and we headed Southeast to the Cairngorms and the north end of the National Park. Therein lies the lands of the Clan Grant. 

It turns out, after my sister's genealogy research, that both sides of my family have Grants. My dad's mother's family goes back to a line of Grants and my mom's side is absolutely littered with them! It's kind of fun that we can all wear the same Grant tartan!

Carrbridge, Scotland
The Packhorse Bridge

Carrbridge is a village in Badenoch and Strathspey with the most charming bridge you ever did see! It is only about a half hour drive from Inverness so we made that our first stop!

Above is the famous old Packhorse Bridge over the River Dulnain, which meets up with the larger and more famous River Spey. The bridge was commissioned by the Chief of Clan Grant, Alexander Grant, in 1717 and paid for by stipends from the Parish of Duthil which you will see farther down in the post. 

First, music to listen to for this post! Written by a Grant (originally in Gaelic) in the 1700s!

I took ridiculous amounts of photos of the bridge but I'll move on!

The town was having a dedication ceremony for a new sculpture in the park but we moved along ...

First, here's my travel journal entry of the old Packhorse Bridge. Part of its beauty is in what looks to be its fragility. It was damaged in the 1800s but they left it in that state and I'm glad they did! It's so delicate and beautiful! I'm pretty sure it's going to have to be a subject for an oil painting. It is, after all, the oldest bridge in the Scottish Highlands.

Duthil Kirk
present building, 1826

Duthil Kirk, the home of the Clan Grant Centre. 

They open it for the big yearly gathering of the Clan Grant during the summer but unfortunately we missed it by a couple of weeks, or so. I still wanted to go to the Kirk (church) and the cemetery where so many of the clan chiefs were buried. It is also right next door to the home of the current chief of Clan Grant, The Rt. Hon Sir James Grant of Grant, The 6th Lord Strathspey, Baronet of Nova Scotia, 33rd Chief of Grant.

From the Clan Grant website:

"In its early days the church was in the diocese of Elgin Cathedral. The first Presbyterian minister was Andrew Henderson who was ordained in 1625. The present building was erected in 1826. The last sermon in public worship in the church was made by one of our Past Members, the Rev. G.V.R. (Jim) Grant MA. In the church grounds are two mausolea where some of the Clan Chiefs are buried.

The building is set in the midst of the Clan territories and there is some reason to suppose it may have been founded by our Patriarch Olav Hemingsson himself, probably shortly after 1060. The original dedication is to St Peter and the name Duthil for the area may well refer to St Dubhthac (to whom also the chapel at Rothiemurchus is dedicated).

It was a landmark day in 1986 for the Clan Grant Society when the then owner, Gerald Brandon-Bravo from Whitebridge, gave Duthil Church to the Clan Grant Society."

It was lush and beautiful but not surprising it started to drizzle. 

The view from the churchyard was so pretty!

Below, the home of the current Chief. Aina Grant, who I met at the Costa Mesa Highland Games in Southern California said to stop in. Another gentleman on the grounds said the same. "If his car is there, knock on his door!" Alas, no car. Dashed were my hopes of having a scotch with the Chief but I do like this photo looking through some Grant Headstones to the adorable cottage!

I love this Celtic Cross!

This map was from a photo album I saw at that Highland Games in Costa Mesa. I'd gone to the games with family and of course stopped at the booth of Clan Grant! Thanks to Aina Grant and her husband Stephen for all their help and information about the area and where to go! I took a photo of their map to have with me on the trip.

In the middle of the map you see Grantown on Spey and that is where we were headed next!

Grantown on Spey
founded 1765

"Grantown On Spey along with Castle Grant a mile to the north east is the historical heart Clan Grant. The area has seen settlements dating back thousands of years, in particular at Castle Grant itself and at Cromdale a mile to the east.
Grantown On Spey dating from 1766 is recognised as one of the best examples of a planned town in the Highlands of Scotlands. It was The Good Sir James Grant the 8th Baronet at Grant Castle who saw the need to create not just housing but new industry for his clan while Scotland was in the grip of the Highland Clearances."
~From the Clan Grant Visitors Guide website

For a moment, driving into town, there was sun. And then it was gone! We headed straight for the little Grantown Museum and took cover from the rain. It had what we were looking for ... All things Grant and more!

The Cromdale Brooch, 1600s
brass with engraved wildcats

"You can find out about the Scottish enlightenment, some histories of the Grant clan chiefs, how logs were floated down the River Spey, Queen Victoria’s visit to Grantown, a champion fisherman, even a Cuban gunfight;  see our object of the month and much more."

In case it's difficult to read the photo above ...

In the eighteenth century, Clan Grant was one of the most powerful families in the North of Scotland. The clan controlled an area of five hundred square miles with its headland of the central part of Strathspey. 

The Highland clan was a male hierarchy with the chief at the top and his immediate family below him. Below them were the farmers and tacks men, downwards through the ranks of joint-tenants, crofters, sub-tenants and cotters ... 

These people were bound by ties of kinship. Few were related directly by blood to the Chief, but many expressed their allegiance by adopting his surname. 

Lady Caroline Henrietta Ogilvy-Grant,
Dowager Countess of Seafield (1830-1911)

Check out these old wooden skies!

Sir Archibald Grant of Manymusk (1697-1778)
Oil on canvas, 1715
Richard Waitt

During our visit there was an exhibition of Grant portraits all by the same artist.

"No other family in Scotland, 
or in Europe for that matter, 
commissioned a similar group of portraits of their clan- 
family, retainers and kinsmen 
- and it is as a group, rather than as individual paintings, 
that Waitt's portraits of Clan Grant should be judged."
~ James Holloway, 1989

Grace Macpherson-Grant
Oil on canvas 1726

Alastair Grant Mor, The Champion of the Laird of Grant by Richard Waitt, 1714
The lairds of Grant employed musicians, poets and warrior Servants at Castle Grant. Alastair Grant Mor was in charge of floating the Clan Chief's valuable timber down the River Spey.

With my parents in the museum wearing my Clan Grant scarf! They had clothes you could put on for photos but we just went with some groovy vintage hats. I'm now feeling like I might need a good top hat!

Castle Grant
(sort of)

After the museum we headed to the Castle Grant. It's been out of Grant hands since the 1950s and is now privately owned. We decided to try and catch a glimpse!

This is some sort of beautiful gatehouse or caretaker's  building. So pretty, right?

Up on the turret is the Clan Grant motto "Stand Fast!"

A typical Scottish view!

From the Clan Grant Visitors Guide~

Castle Grant is situated a mile north of Grantown-on-Spey and sits upon a rise or hill known as Freuchie-hillock, and is the former ancestral seat of the Clan Grant chiefs of Strathspey in Highlands, Scotland.
Castle Grant’s tower has been carbon-dated to the 11th century while the castle itself was built during the beginning of the 15th century and was originally called Freuchie Castle, Freuchie meaning ‘Heathery Place’.  The castle was renamed Castle Grant in 1694 and became the ancestral seat of Clan Grant.

They have surveillance cameras and there were cars out front so this was as close as we could get. Lots of beautiful trees give the new owners plenty of privacy. 

The lands were so green and lush!

My dad was laughing at my mom and I photographing the cows. "How many cow pictures do you guys need?" A lot apparently. I deleted dozens. I may not have gotten the castle but I got some cows!

Leaving through the big gate at the other end of the road. I'm thinking maybe it was a private road and not exactly where we were supposed to be. In my defense, I need photos for a future art project. Hmmm, maybe not the best defense in the world but there you have it. Artists are sometimes rule breakers.

After that little Grant ancestry adventure we headed to Glenlivet for our first distillery tour! I'll do a scotch tasting post at a later date but someone at the distillery mentioned a beautiful double packhorse bridge that we should go see.

The Old Bridge of Livet
Glenlivet, Scotland
early 1700s

How lovely is this? It's the oldest surviving structure crossing the River Livet, and like the one at Carrbridge, it's a Packhorse Bridge. Originally there were three arches but the third was lost in the floods of 1829. If you are in the area, it's only 1.2 miles from the distillery!

 So pretty! I love the double arches. Another painting?!

Like I said, it is very close to the Glenlivet Distillery but it is also a bit hidden. The location is at B9008 a few hundred metres east of the B9136 junction, G.R.: NJ 197301

Below, with Aina Grant at the Highland Games in Costa Mesa, California. Thanks again for the help Aina and Stephen! 

We are both in Grant tartan colors. Her skirt is in the Grant modern colors and my scarf is in the ancient tartan colors. Fun to have a variety of different choices! The "weathered colors" are beautiful too. :)


One more thing! Grantown on Spey turned 250 and the town came out and made this video together. Doesn't it make you want to live there? So cute!

Next up? The Battlefield of Culloden and the standing stones that inspired Craig na Dun in Outlander!

Blessings and light!