Culloden Battlefield Visitor Guide

By Craig Neil
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Table of Contents


Summary

The battle of Culloden was the last pitched battle to be fought on British soil, which saw the Jacobite uprising come to a final bloody end in 1746.

The battlefield is open to visitors and features a large museum with interactive exhibits, a restaurant, and a viewing platform.

Address:Culloden,
Inverness,
IV2 5EU
Opening Hours:Visitor Centre 09.00–16.00
Battlefield Open 24/7
Admission Price:Adult £14.00
Family £30.00
One adult family £25.00
Concession £11.00
Parking:Free on-site car park
Contact:01463 796090
culloden@nts.org.uk
Facilities:Toilets, disabled access, gift shop, audio tour, guided tour, baby changing, picnic area

The highlights

1: Culloden is a haunting place that’s a must-see attraction for anyone interested in Scotland’s history. In addition, the main visitor centre is a superb attraction in its own right.

2: There are lots of information boards so you can see how the battle unfolded.

3: Entry to the battlefield is free, as is the visitor centre. Entry to the exhibition is free for National Trust Scotland members. Join NTS today.

Culloden

Visiting tips

1: The on-site cafe is good, but due to the number of tourist coaches it gets rather busy. Purchasing food in nearby Inverness will be much cheaper and will have smaller queues to fight through.

2: This attraction gets very busy in the summer so it’s recommended to arrive early. Unfortunately, the car park gets jammed with coaches due to the fact that Culloden seems to be on every single Scottish coach tour’s itinerary.

3: Fort George – the British fortification built in response to the Jacobite uprising – is around 7 miles north of Culloden and is definitely worth visiting. Likewise, Clava Cairns (a Bronze Age burial site) is just 1.5 miles away.


Overview

The 1746 Battle of Culloden is famous not only for being the last pitched battle to be fought on British soil but also for being the final decisive defeat of the Jacobite forces which ended their claim to the British throne by the Stuart monarchy.

The events that led up to Culloden began in earnest in 1745 when Charles Edward Stuart called the clans of Scotland together during a momentous rally that took place in Glenfinnan in the Highlands.

It was there that Charles – otherwise known as the ‘Young Pretender’ – began his challenge to reclaim the British throne for the House of Stuart.

You can read about the memorial to this Jacobite gathering in my Guide to The Glenfinnan Monument.

Culloden Battlefield

The Jacobite campaign is one of the most significant events in the history of Scotland and I think anyone with even a vague interest in the country’s past really owes it to themselves to visit this famous battle site.

Admittedly it doesn’t seem that impressive at first glance but delve a little deeper and you’ll discover a fascinating account of the battle unfolding before you.

The site is managed by The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) which has done a great job of showing where the battle lines were drawn and where the events played out, with flags that indicate where each army stood and stone plinths that describe what happened in each area.

The NTS has also built a first-class visitor centre on the site which displays lots of exhibits from the time of the Jacobites, and they’ve installed a large cafe in there too. It’s a wee bit pricey but the food is delicious.

Culloden Battlefield

Tourist information

While the Jacobite rebellion faded away over time, their sacrifice on the battlefield is memorialised with a 20-foot memorial cairn that was erected in 1871.

Today, visitors to the battlefield can follow paths that lead around the main areas of the battle where information tablets have been installed so that you can identify where the British and Jacobite forces stood.

The memorial cairn itself is an impressive structure and it’s usually covered with fresh flowers from people that have clan ties, while nearby there are a number of memorial stones which depict each of the clans that fell during that fateful day on 16 April 1746.

Culloden Battlefield

As you enter the battlefield you’ll see the Old Leanach cottage which served as a field hospital for the government troops, while the huge National Trust for Scotland visitor centre lies just behind it.

Although the visitor centre has an additional fee to enter you can walk up to the viewing platform on top to get a great view of the entire site and a café and restaurant inside allow for a quiet place to relax after walking around the moor.

One word of caution when visiting the battlefield is that it’s as much a memorial as it is an attraction, so please be respectful while you’re visiting it.

There will undoubtedly be clan members who are there to pay their respects so you might want to give it the same consideration as you’d give to visiting a graveyard.

Culloden Battlefield

History

While the Jacobites had some success against the army of King George I, most notably by capturing Edinburgh and their win at the Battle of Prestonpans, they were unable to move any further into England than Derby and were eventually pushed back across the Scottish border by the much larger government forces.

As the Jacobites moved north and made camp in Inverness the English Duke of Cumberland drove his army to meet them for the final confrontation at Culloden, where around 8,000 government troops fought against 6,000 members of the Stuart army.

Culloden

The military training of the British forces quickly overpowered the less-trained Jacobites and within an hour of the battle starting it was over, with 1,500 Jacobites lying dead on the moor compared to only 300 government troops.

The defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden signalled the end of the clan way of life as the British government enacted laws to integrate Scotland with the rest of Britain, with the powers of the clan lords taken away from them and acts of parliament made to ban the wearing of clan tartan colours.

Discover more places to visit in the Scottish Highlands with: The Best Places to Visit in the Highlands – Ultimate Visitor Guide.


Tourist map of Scotland

Culloden Moor,
Inverness,
IV2 5EU

Culloden is situated 5 miles east of Inverness off the A9/B9006. Follow the brown tourist direction signs leading to the battlefield.

Filter by

Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

Inverness, Loch Ness & Culloden – 416 Explorer.

Nairn & Forres – 27 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Things to do nearby

Clava Cairns. Inverness IV2 5EU. 5-minute drive. One of the oldest historic sites in Britain. Clava Cairns is a prehistoric burial cairn that is estimated to be 4,000 years old. There are a number of standing stones and the remains of an ancient cemetery.

Fort George. Ardersier, Inverness IV2 7TD. 21-minute drive. A large 18th-century fortified military garrison that overlooks Rosemarkie Bay in the Moray Firth.

Fort George is an active military base but many of the historic areas are open to the public including the old munitions store, the chapel and the barracks (now a Highlander’s museum).

Inverness Castle. Inverness IV2 3EG. 14-minute drive. A red sandstone castle that overlooks the River Ness in the city centre. The castle is not open to the public but the grounds can be visited for photo opportunities of Inverness from the elevated hilltop position.

Inverness Botanic Garden. Bught Lane, Inverness IV3 5SS. 21-minute drive. Free-to-enter gardens in the centre of Inverness that includes a cactus house, a tropical house complete with a waterfall and a koi carp pond, extensive outdoor gardens and a café and gift shop.

Inverness Museum. Castle Wynd, Inverness IV2 3EB. 16-minute drive. A modern museum located a few minutes’ walk from Inverness Castle. The museum showcases exhibits of the Highlands and Highland way of life with displays of geology, art, natural history and archaeology.


Frequently asked questions

How do I get to Culloden battlefield?

Address: Inverness, IV2 5EU.

Directions map: Google Maps

What happened at Culloden battlefield?

Culloden battlefield was the site of the last pitched battle to be fought on British soil. On April 16th 1746, the Jacobites led by Prince Charles Edward Stewart were defeated by British forces led by the Duke of Cumberland.

What happened to the clans after the Battle of Culloden?

After the defeat of the Jacobites in 1746, laws were passed that banned Highlanders from wearing clan tartan and bearing arms.

Clan chiefs were stripped of their land and the enforced removal and deportation of Highland people (known as the Highland clearances) meant that the traditional Highland clan system was lost forever.

Within 50 years of the beginning of the Highland clearances, the Scottish Highlands were one of the most sparsely populated regions in Europe.

Why did the Jacobites lose the battle of Culloden?

The forces of Edward Stewart were vastly outnumbered at Culloden, with 5,500 men pitted against 7,500 highly trained government soldiers.

Other reasons why the Jacobites were defeated are; the British army had 4 times as many mounted soldiers, the battlefield was boggy and unsuited to the Jacobite foot soldiers, and the British army had learned to modify their tactics after losing the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745.