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!


donna baker said...

Oh Lucinda, your photos are gorgeous. I hear Outlander will be back in August. I'd have left with a pocket full of rocks.

Rick Forrestal said...

Powerful images.
Oh these stones ...
so emotional.

Strong stuff!
Your feelings come through.

Loree said...

Scotland is such a mystical place and the Highlands are, perhaps, the beating heart of a long-lost time.

electricwave said...

absolutely great,Scotland is in my heart! ew