Hootlander - Part 5

The Culloden Battlefield Experience

Visit the Culloden Battlefield Experience!!!

Visit the Culloden Battlefield Experience!!!

After a good, long, alcohol-induced sleep and a huge hearty fried breakfast, Skye and the gang are raring to go. As if by stuporous magic they are transported to the Culloden Battlefield Experience! Admission to the National Trust for Scotland Visitor Centre is £11, but the group thinks it is well worth the money. There is an engaging interactive display, the death mask of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and many relics from the battle on display. But for most it is the walk around the grave markers of the clansmen who perished that is the high spot of the visit. At the visitor centre they learn that the battlefield had experienced a 28% increase in visitors between 2017-18 due to the “Outlander Effect”.

The guide at the centre tells the group that the real name of the site is Drumossie Moor. “The Clan Fraser grave marker is the first one you will come to. Fans of Outlander are very interested in the Fraser Clan and are keen to make that connection. The Fraser grave is special for many visitors, and fans are always very touched. Please leave nothing; take only photos.”

Unfortunately, the Clan Fraser grave is permanently sealed off to the public. A notice explains “Due to the 'High Traffic' to the memorial and the bad winter weather, the area around the grave has become a muddy quagmire and needs to be restored. Please remember that this is a graveyard—and leaving little tokens, stones, flowers and cards is not appropriate.”

“That's a pity. I really wanted to leave these forget-me-nots at the Clan Fraser grave—I made them myself,” sobbed Grace Glendunning.


Most of the ladies in the group are tearful as they perambulate the battlefield. Mrs Finkelstein is weeping and says, “It's a pity that Claire and Jamie couldn't avert the Battle of Culloden. So sad that history couldn't be altered and that Claire had to go back to the 1940's and that Jamie went on to fight against the Redcoats and Black Jack. Surely he must have died in the battle?”

“No,” interposes, Gladys, “I have seen Episode one of Series three and it begins at this battlefield, littered with dead and dying, Jamie lying among them. But he survives..”

“Oh, I'm so glad to hear that, “Mrs Finkelstein says dabbing her tears from her chubby cheek.

The group learned that defeat over the Jacobite Rising at Drumossie tore apart forever the clan system of the Scottish Highlands. It was one of the most mishandled and brutal battles ever fought in Britain.

At the Visitor Centre gift shop the group was able to buy many 'Outlander' gifts such as 'Outlander playing cards' £10, The Outlander Kitchen – Cookbook”£35, 'Claire's wedding ring' £24, The Making of Outlander Book £50. 'Je Suis Prest' (Fraser Clan motto) coffee mug £18, Official Outlander Colouring Book £17, 'Outlander calendar' £16, Walkers “Outlander” Shortbread £11. 'Craig Na Dun Traveller’s Society Blanket' £47, 'Lallybroch is calling' teeshirt £23, a Destiny 'Outlander' Dice game £28, the Season One Collectors Box (special edition) £90, The Season Two collectors box £47.

“These are real bargains compared to buying them at the Games in the US,” said Gladys...and look you can order an Outlander Great Kilt in either Outlander, Fraser or MacKenzie tartan for £499 and a Jamie Fraser Bonnet for £129.”

Angus is fingering the weaponry, “Look Skye, an ebony handled dirk for £99 and an 18th Century style dagger for £25. I'm going to buy both.”

“I'm going to get this Sgian Achlais armpit dagger for £69 to add to my outfit,” said Skye.

Laden with their purchases, reluctantly the group makes their way back to the bus. The mood is thoughtful yet there is a deep sense of satisfaction among the Ootlanders.

Hamish always feels very uncomfortable at this commercialization of a cemetery of his ancestors, but put aside his qualms, thinks about the money and tries to be upbeat.

“I ken that ye hae a' bin wantin tae travel back in time so its off noo tae the ither 'Craig Na Dun', the noo.”

“Did he say Craig Na Dun-oo?” asks Ethel.

Clava Cairns.jpg

“Dunno”, answers Skye.

Clava Cairns is another special ancient burial site with several chambered burial cairns and monoliths. It has become the stand in for the standing stones called Craig Na Dun in 'Outlander' because it is quite near to Culloden. However it is not on a hilltop and it doesn't have a circle or henge of stones but at Clava there is a (now famous) split stone where several of the ladies in the group put their hand through and, like Claire, risked being hurtled through time to 1743 or later. Unfortunately, they all remained in this time zone.

“We're going to lunch in the Priority Hotel, “announces Hamish as the bus pulls into the town square of Beauly. The set lunch is soup and sandwiches but you can go 'a la carte' if you wish.”

Skye opens the menu and gasps, “Wow, what a feast for the eyes and the belly!”

There are Loaded Potato Wedges or Deep Fried Brie to start. Five types of Burger including Venison Burger, Aberdeen Angus Rump Steak Sizzler, Meatballs and pasta. Then there are the Bumper Burger with fries. And that’s just the lunch menu. When he looks at the dinner menu his mouth waters and drools... Culloden Chicken - chicken stuffed with haggis and drenched in Drambuie sauce; Medallions of Venison with white pudding and gravy; Slow cooked leg of lamb with mash and rosemary; Rib-eye steak, prime sirloin and Surf and Turf.

“Just leave me here in Heaven,” begs Skye.

“I wonder what a chicken has to do with Culloden,” muses Angus. “Maybe it was a Redcoat chicken?”

After the Potato Wedges and the Bumper Burger, followed by Toffee Apple Pudding and a couple of whisky's, Skye is feeling very mellow and lighter to the tune of 50 quid. Angus and Skye go for a little amble to walk off the lunch. They come upon a little shop off the main street that has the sign above the door. “Outlander Past Lives Experience”.

“Let's go in and see what this is all about,” says Angus. Once inside they are greeted by a plump lady dressed in 18th Century Highland clothes.

“Failte, I'm Annie Nicholson and I'm a hypnotist able tae unlock a person's secret history and find oot whether ye may hae once cut doon a redcoat wi a claymore at Culloden, or been in the Hanovarian army. I did a regression with one American lady who went straight back tae the battlefield and remembered dying there. She described to me how she felt as the life went oot o' her. I had a hypnotic regression myself and found oot that I used tae be a man and a Jacobite warrior.”

“Wow, that's amazing. How much does it cost for a session,” asks Skye.

“Well a full three-hour regression would be £250,” says Annie. “But if ye are in a hurry I can dae a quick divination for £50 that takes about ten minutes.”

“We'll need to get back to the bus by 2.30,” Angus reminds Skye.

“Oh, plenty time then. You just sit down here. What's your name?”

“Skye Purenduffle,”

“Just look at me, Skye, and watch the swinging amber jewel in front of yer eyes as we walk doon the road to Culloden and see the Highland warriors all arrayed in their fine tartans, waiting for the battle tae begin. Can you see yersel there Skye? I can see you among the Frasers, I think, yes, yes, you are there in your Fileadh Mhor with your targe and broadsword.”

“Aye, I'm there lassie, dinna fash yersell,” exclaims Skye, with a glazed look in his eyes. “Je suis prest.”

“The pipes are playin the piobroch, can ye hear? It's the Clanranald Salute...the signal to charge.” Annie presses the play button on her little cassette player.

“Aye, I hear the pipes...I'm charging across the field intae the battle. There are explosions, gunfire. I'm hit but I run on with my claymore and kill a Redcoat...but I go down...everything is dimming...it's over.”

“You can wake up now Skye, the session’s over.” says the medium.

Skye pays the £50 and leaves the shop with Angus, but Skye is still in a semi trance state. Angus and Skye wander into the square and find their way to Beauly Priory. A strange eerie mist drifts around the old ruins creating a dream like ambiance. An information panel tells them that Beauly Priory was a Valliscaulian monastic community founded in 1230. The French monks gave the place the name Beau Lieu (beautiful place) – Beauly. The Abbey was gradually secularised, and after the Reformation, by 1634, it became owned by the Bishop of Ross. It is now a scenic ruin but extensive, and a main visitor attraction in Inverness-shire. The site was used for scenes in Outlander.

While walking through the ruins Skye thinks he sees a shadowy figure moving in the mist ahead. It looks like a Highland warrior, but he is gone before Skye can get near.

“Did you see him?' asks Skye

“See who?” responds Angus.

“The Highlander.”

“No, I didn't see anything. You must be seeing things. Anyway, it's time we got back to the bus.” adds Angus.

Once the Outlanders return to the bus and regain their seats, Hamish drives the group onwards to Castle Beaufort, also known as Castle Dounie which is near Beauly. Hamish tells everyone that it is a baronial mansion built in 1880 although there has been a castle on the site since 12th century. Beaufort is the seat of the Lords Lovat of Clan Fraser which is, of course, Jamie’s clan. The castle came into the hands of the Frasers in the late 13th Century but in 1650 Dounie was attacked and burned by Cromwell.

The Fraser estates were inherited in 1699 by Simon Fraser “the Fox.” Lovat became deeply involved in the Jacobite cause. He was exiled to France and tried to recruit nobles to the cause and converted to Catholicism He returned to Scotland supposedly after renouncing the Jacobite cause but then joined the ‘45 rebellion. He was captured and executed after the battle of Culloden. Dounie was raised by the Duke of Cumberland and the estate forfeited.

In 1774 the estate was returned to Lovat's son. Sadly, the house was sold in 1994 to Stagecoach bus company owner Ann Gloag by the 15th Lord Lovat to meet inheritance taxes. The house is now Private and there is no admission to the public. The current Lord Lovat vowed to buy back the castle after he had to sell it to meet death duties after his father was killed in a drag hunt at Beaufort and after his grandfather died in 1995 (the 15th Lord Lovat was a hero of the D day landings.) “We can visit the lodge where old Harrovian Simon now lives when not doing stockbroking in London”, says Hamish as a consolation.

Castle Leod

Castle Leod

The Outlanders carry on to Castle Leod near Strathpeffer. It is only open a few days each month and is the seat of Clan Mackenzie. Fortunately, the castle is open when the group arrive and after paying their £7 admission fee the current Laird greets them and tells them that the castle was granted to John of Killin, 10th Chief of Clan Mackenzie (1485-1561) after he fought at the Battle of Fodden.

In 1746 George Mackenzie 3rd Earl of Cromartie forfeited the estate following his support for the Jacobite uprising. He estates were restored to his son in 1784. The castle was restored in the mid 19th century and remains the home of the Earl of Cromartie. Widely considered to be the inspiration behind Castle Leoch and home of the laird of Clan Mackenzie in Outlander, it was suggested as a film location as it is completely authentic. But it was passed over in favour of Doune Castle. Apparently Historic Scotland gave fee free access to their properties in return for publicity. The current laird of Leod wanted some money from the film company for the upkeep of his old pile.

Skye is still in a hypnotic state and is still thinking he is an 18th Century Highlander. After a long day the group return to the Kinsmull Hotel in Inverness for another splendid meal. To the astonishment of the other Outlanders, Skye takes his T-Bone steak in his bare hands and gnaws at it then takes out his sghian-dhubh and stabs it into the table after cutting a large piece of meat off the bone.

“Are you feeling OK ?” asks Jones

“Never better,” replies Skye with meat juices dribbling down his chubby chin and adds. “This is the best way to eat steak, just like a real Highlander, don't you think?'

Jones looks around and sees that the restaurant has emptied!