Scotland Tour: The Battle of Culloden — The Last Battle on British Soil

One of my favorite sights in Scotland is the evocative memorial battlefield of Culloden, where, in 1746, the troops of Bonnie Prince Charlie gave it their all to try to put the Catholic prince on the English throne…and failed.

In previous battles, the Jacobites (mostly Catholic and Scottish forces) used their fierce “Highland Charge” to break through the English lines. This time, the English held their ground. It was a timeless scene, as an empire mowed down its hopelessly outgunned insurgents — in this case, like shooting kilted ducks in a barrel.

While the English suffered about 300 casualties (with only 50 dead), the Highlanders lost closer to 2,000. Bonnie Prince Charlie declared, “Every man for himself!” as he galloped away. The Highlanders scattered. The English pushed on through in what would today be described as a campaign of “ethnic cleansing.” Culloden led to the banning of wearing the kilt, playing the bagpipes, and even of speaking Gaelic in Scotland. And it spelled the end of the clan system.

Within a few generations, kilted warriors were fighting for the British crown. And to this day, the Scots (poorer and therefore more susceptible to recruiter bribes and “a few good men” promises) fight and die for the Queen in disproportionately greater numbers than do the English.

Touring Culloden Battlefield is a powerful experience, made even more so by watching this 360-degree video that recreates the slaughter. Scottish Jacobite rebellion re-enactors make Civil War re-enactors look a bit mellow. I’ve been here several times, and a highlight for me with this visit was noticing how engrossed our tour group was as the battle unfolded.

What European battlefield sight do you find most powerful?

If you can’t see the video below, watch it on YouTube.

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