A New Battle On Culloden Moor

Jan 13, 2014 by

It was a short, bloody battle that irrevocably changed the course of Scotland’s future.  Though it lasted only an hour, the Battle of Culloden (Scottish Gaelic: Blàr Chùil Lodair) on April 16, 1746, ended the Jacobite effort to restore Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, to the throne of Scotland.  Approximately 2000 Scottish Highlanders sacrificed their lives that day, and more died during the brutal repression of Highland and Gaelic culture that followed soon thereafter.  The sorrow and pain of that day is still felt by many contemporary Scots, as well as those whose ancestors fled Scotland to escape the harsh retaliatory actions meted out by the English in the years following the battle.  For those people, Culloden will always be sacred ground,  “ground zero” of the centuries-long Scottish battle for freedom from the English invaders.

New invaders have now come to Culloden,  developers who want to build houses less 400 meters from the battlefield—and surprisingly, the Scottish government is set to approve those plans.



People in Scotland and around the world have voiced outrage that such a project would even be considered, much less approved.   Historic Scotland  has given their stamp of approval for the scheme, even though no representative from the government  authority has visited the site to see how it might be impacted.   The National Trust For Scotland (NTS), which owns and maintains the battlefield and visitor center, has expressed great disappointment in the decision, arguing that the approval creates a ” slippery slope”  for future housing schemes, which could result in the the degradation of the historic site at Culloden.

I grew up in Georgia, a Southern state that was the site of many battles during the American Civil War and the American Revolutionary War.  My father was a Civil War historian and ardent battlefield preservationist, who taught me from an early age that historic sites are tremendous visual symbols of what was and, more importantly, what should never be again–specifically, being ruled by a monarchy ( the Revolutionary War) or allowing the enslavement of our fellow men and women (the Civil War).  When you lose those places where people fought and died for their beliefs,  places that are the final resting places of so many souls, you betray their memory.  Moreover, you also lose a valuable teaching tool for future generations who will have no tangible connection to their past.  Textbooks, photos and videos can only go so far—to truly know your history, you must walk the same ground your predecessors walked, feel that sense of connection and emotion that comes from standing where they stood.  Once those historic places are sacrificed for commercial development, they are gone forever.



Do the souls of those long-dead Highlanders still walk the moor at Culloden?   Celtic mythology holds that there are “thin places” in the world where different planes of existence touch, and the past can sometimes be felt in the present.  If any such place exists in Scotland, it surely must be at Culloden,  where sadness seems to hover over the fields like Highland mist.  I have walked that moorland where Gaelic war cries of fierce, proud Highlanders once rang through the air, and I believe the spirits of those long-dead men are there still.   For me, any encroachment on the battlefield is a defilement of the war graves of brave  men—Scots, Irish and even English who fought with the Highlanders—who died for their country, their families and their way of life.

We will always have competing interests in the name of progress, when developers confront preservationists in the modern world.   Finding a balance between these two interests is difficult and one side (sometimes both)  often believes its arguments have been completely ignored or misunderstood.    In the case of important historical sites such as battlefields, however,  the bigger picture needs to be carefully considered.   Houses can always be built in other places—there will only ever be ONE Culloden.


Read more about the proposed housing development, and the arguments on both sides, here:






To sign an online petition to stop the proposed development at Culloden, click HERE.

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  1. Maria Cameron

    This sight is a memorial to be set as a place of pilgrimage for time eternal.

  2. Excellent article. We must preserve and protect our history and historical sites.

  3. roland o'dell

    We the English won swords no match for rifles

  4. Karen Murray

    sad they feel that’s the only place they can put up new housing. I feel all government officials everywhere lose track of what’s important. They lose their humanity.

  5. Chas Mac Donald

    What a lot of utter tripe. Misty eyed nonsense by people who claim to be Scots, but don’t trust the actual Scots in the country to look after it. Do some proper research, and contextualise it before you start wittering on anout things you clearly have no proper knowledge about. And while you’re at it, run along and look after your own turf. We’ll look after ours. The Highlands are sick and tired of being run by absentee landlords and their representatives. That was the true legacy of Culloden. Don’t inflict it a second time, because this time, the home army will win.

    • Pye O'Malley

      I have done the research, and I stand by my opinion and information. I don’t claim to be Scot–I have Scottish ancestry–but it doesn’t matter because people are allowed to comment ( or witter) on the destruction of historic places, where ever they may live. As for my own turf, my family has been active American battlefield preservation for more than 60 years; we have worked hard to inform people of the historic importance of protecting these sites where men fought and died, often in brutal conditions, for their beliefs, their country, their future, or simply to earn a living. I know quite well about the things of which I speak, including Culloden. Like any Celt, I enjoy a good debate, but resorting to name calling and trash talking as you have done, Chas, is a sign of an inability to support your own side of the argument. Come back when you can talk about Culloden in an informed and reasonable manner–I’ll be happy to re-discuss the Culloden preservation controversy with you.

  6. Scott Traubitz

    I’ve read many tails of the wars the Scots fought to be FREE. Being an American I was very impressed with your bravery from a very young age. I can stand with you in name if that helps. It has been a great dream of mine to visit Scotland and hopefully I can realize it before I depart this earth.

    You have the full strength of my heart,

    Sincerely, Scott Traubitz

  7. Pamela Adamson

    As a decendant of the Trail of Tears, I can say do whatever you need to do not to let this happen.
    Don’t let history be forgotten.

  8. Eleanor Ramirez

    I am Not a Scot far From it. Born and Raised in NY
    To Poor parents from the Island of PR. As far as could remember
    I have loved and appreciated and how I Loved the rich History of Scotand
    To Build on Hallowed Ground is unforgivable. Young people have lost
    So much in the treasure which is their History. Reading a book
    Is no match for actually walking the Grounds that hold the memory of all who died there
    The memory of what and who was worth dying for.
    Imagine a developer wanting to build house where the Nazi Camps were.
    Absolutely Unacceptable

    • William

      CNS you are small, cruel and silly. You lost a generation ago, now get out of the way.