The Haunted Battlefield of Culloden, Highlands
A recurring theme runs through tales of hauntings. History. Old buildings, castles, public houses, prisons, hotels and theatres are all accepted locales for your average spook. But surely the battlefields carry the most mortal history. Where blood was spilled for king and country. Where hundreds of young men lost their lives. Run through by sword or pike, fallen under the archer’s volley or the rifleman’s musket. Britain has plenty of these.
For centuries, Scotland and England were regularly at war. Cross-border hostilities dating back to the First and Second Wars of Independence, the English Civil War and the Covenanter wars. Britain’s history is flecked with the blood of young men. The Battle of Langside, fought in Glasgow’s southside between those loyal to Mary Queen of Scots and her numerous enemies, has left Queen’s Park and the nearby Camphill Woods haunted. The park’s boating lake the scene of battle re-enactment.
And lets not forget the Romans (Knowle Hill in Surrey is one area that is said to be haunted by the Roman Army). But the Jacobite uprisings of the 18th Century, with its heavy whiff of romance and tragedy seems to encourage the haunting presence of the dead.
The Jacobites fought for the restoration of the Stewart line to the British throne. Taking their name from ‘Jacobus’, the Latin name for James, the name of their exiled monarch, they led spirited uprisings in the late 17th Century. Comprised of Highlanders, Irish and French reservists, their cause took them to battle in places like Killiecrankie Pass, Perthshire . There they were triumphant but paid a heavy price. The Jacobite leader, John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, was slain in battle. Legend has it that an apparition of a woman raiding the dead men’s pockets appears on the battlefield.
Fast forward to 1745. This was the year. This Jacobite rising under Bonnie Prince Charlie would go down in history. The ‘45s as they were known, would be slaughtered and Jacobitism would die out as a military movement. It was by Inverness, on Culloden’s field that the Duke of Cumberland’s men routed the Jacobites in less than an hour. It was a ruthless massacre.
The Jacobites had their victories in that rising. The Highland charge struck fear into the government’s troops; uncouth, but effective. But with a wearied army on heavy ground they stood no chance. Said to be Britain’s most haunted battlefield, it is the site of the country’s last pitched battle. It was the last stand of the Jacobites.
The story of the ghosts of Culloden follow a similar pattern. On the anniversary of the battle, the rancour from the battlefield can be heard. Witnesses have reported a man in Highland dress, trudging funereally through the area. The mounds where the bodies are buried stand silent; neighbouring woodland also receiving visitations from the Highlanders’ ghosts.
Whatever the veracity in such a tale – and, of course, there is a vacuum of scientific evidence – Culloden has a subdued atmosphere. And so it should. There, a great number of young men died, taking their cause to their graves.
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