Culloden Battlefield Visitor Center Interview With Catriona McIntosh


Memorial Cairn

A dreich and dreary summer day in 2016. The Scottish moor seemed seeped in moisture, contrasting heather in golds, ochres, reds and brown around me. Small wild flowers, many like my Pacific Coast homeland. I found myself pondering how many seeds had come with migrants from this Scottish landscape. We have the invasive broom and other plants that came from there. The land was lonely, even with vibrant colors. I stood on a path with massive graves beneath me. I felt the presence of the bones, the loss of life. Not a big battle by today’s standards, but at the time and place, a hard fought battle with Scottish soldiers fighting for the king they wanted, following a prince with little battle experience.

Visitor Centre Opening Times:
1 Feb – 31 Mar, 10:00-16:00
1 Apr to 31 May, 09:00-17:30
1 Jun to 31 Aug, 09:00-18:00
1 Sep to 31 Oct, 09:00-17:30
1 Nov to 23 Dec, 10:00-16:00

The feeling of remorse and remembrance can be felt, even if you do not come from Scotland or the area and did not grow up with the history. I read of the Battle of Culloden when I was at university and had been reading on the history of Ireland and Scotland, determined to someday get to see where the battles actually took place. Even with all of the reading, it had not prepared me. To stand on the moor and see that these men faced great odds, they may have been native to the landscape, but the landscape provided no shelter and with the might of the Government army bearing down with heavy artillery. Despite what many thought and portrayals of the Highlanders during Victorian times, the Jacobite Army did indeed have it’s own artillery and modernized weapons. The fighting of the location made it difficult to get some of the equipment there. The army was defending its food supply in Inverness. They say the battle was little more than an hour.


On a dreich July morning I boarded a public bus in Inverness to make the trek to the Culloden Battlefield Blàr Chùil Lodair Visitor Centre. I figured it was fitting weather and since the battle site had such tragic history involved, the weather really got me in the frame of mind to ponder on one of Scotland’s tragedies and great loss of life and culture. Many have recently become familiar with the battle through the recent TV series and books, Outlander, written by Diana Gabaldon. In Dragonfly in Amber, the heroes try to thwart a terrible battle that saw the loss of over 1500 men in April of 1746. The popularity of the books and then the series has sent massive amounts of people to its visitor center. And they have not been disappointed. The center may seem small, but the exhibit is very submersive and the field itself with it’s clan markers leaves a lot to the imagination, and yours will be filled. You may want to pick up some flowers and many visitors bring flowers to mark clan sites. If your family clan is not listed as being known to have been there, you can still leave them. Some came and fought with other clans and were not identified. Many had come from France and some Spanish to fight in support of Prince Charles.

culloden exterior

7 Myths About Culloden Busted

I have to say that it was one of the best exhibits I had been to in Scotland, very real and the access to the moor with a walking tour narration helps you feel the presence of so many ghosts. The narrations are done from both the perspective of the Government and Jacobite Armies. You will see how open the space is, the fact that the Jacobites had ground to defend that could be soggy at best. The fields are currently much drier than in the past. Spend some time looking at the clan maps that show where the officers and their men stood to help give you a visual of how the battle went.

Below is my interview with Catriona McIntosh at Culloden Battlefield Blàr Chùil Lodair Visitor Centre


31052272653_ae8dd78016How did your museum get it’s start, and how have you seen it grow in the last five years?

Culloden Battlefield has been a site of interest since the time of the battle. From the 19th century the Gaelic Society for Inverness raised money and preserved aspects of the battlefield; and the Forbes of Culloden family added the iconic memorial cairn and headstones in 1881.

The National Trust for Scotland became involved in the conservation of the site from 1937, when Mr Alexander Munro of Leanach Farm presented two plots of land, and then later in 1944 Mr Hector Forbes of Culloden gave the memorial cairn, Kings Stables and the Graves of the Clans to care the National Trust for Scotland, and over the next decades the area expanded and changed.

As it now stands the current Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre officially opened in 2008. We have a permanent exhibition which takes the visitor through the Jacobite Rising of 1745 campaign from the roots to the culmination on the moor.

What do you consider the most challenging part of running a museum of your kind?

Culloden Battlefield is an emotive site and means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. One challenge that inspires us is talking to people about the realities of the conflict– we look after a site which has around 1500 people buried in mass graves, through our exhibition and learning programming we deal with the themes of women in conflict and child soldiering.  Culloden and the Jacobite Rising can be highly romanticised both in popular culture and in history books.

What is the planning process for creating new exhibits? Do you have any behind the scenes video or articles that future visitors can look at?

Our exhibition is permanent with programming and events varying within the season. The sites amazing volunteer team run costumed presentations and handling kits during peak season, these kits, highlights tours and presentations are updated and tweaked and each volunteer brings their own flair.

Sadly we don’t have much in the way of ‘behind the scenes’ on site other than staff offices.

A great place to look at in advance of coming to the site is our blog looking at everything from the battle to historical figures; and also check out our events page

It’s the 2017 season coming and what are your plans for exhibits this coming year?

Our visitor numbers are projected to increase this year and we build annual plan of events 6-8 months in advance of the next season – currently we are planning 2018 and beyond.

For more, check out:


Inverness; Touristination Place


Inverness has seen a huge upturn in visitation these last two years due to the Outlander Effect and renewed interest in the Battle of Culloden and the Jacobite trail. When I was in Inverness in the summer of 2016, the streets were swarming with many tourists from all over the world. I had wanted to visit the area because I had an interest in seeing where the Battle of Culloden had taken place, and of course the famous Loch Ness area, but also the trip to Inverness through the Highland via train was breathtaking. If you are lucky enough to be able to drive the winding road to visit this amazing seaside town, do. There are plenty of places to stop off for a picnic and gazing at large imposing, majestic Monros.


Inverness (Inbhir Nis) is situated on the mouth of the river Ness at the Moray Firth, it was home to the Pictish people. The city is near where the King MacBeth murdered King Duncan in the 11-Century. Many clans battled over lands in the area including the MacDonalds, Monro and Macintosh. And even Oliver Cromwell paid a visit with troops and occupied it. It is close to the famous Culloden Moor where the last battle of the Jacobites was in 1745.

Things to Do

Castles there are, Inverness Castle is imposing, but is a recent fixture build in 1836 by William Burn that was built on the site of a previous defensive structure. This castle is not open to the public, but you can view from the grounds. Castle Urquhart is at Loch Ness and is a great clamoring ruin that can be viewed. It’s been featured in films and series. I love ruined castles just as much as the “tour” castles, I like to climb the grounds and imagine what they must have been like ages ago and what the people were doing there.

Another must see and experienced is Culloden Moor is where the famed battle took place in 1745 and the visitor center is one of the best historic sites I have been to. The chilling interactive display that takes you through the history of the battle and allows you to wander through each side of the combatants as you walk the story wall is very moving. When you get to the battlefield you will feel the presence of those lost with stone markers and spirits. Many bring flowers and place them by identified clan sites, or there is the stone for the rest of the clans that joined without official envoy. I visited on a true Scots day filled with dreich and was soaked through with wet and memory. Whatever your flavor of emotion, it is one of the sites where you will be humbled.

The Food

There are many great seaside and riverside restaurants. I tried my first Cullen Skink soup in Inverness. What is that? Well, it’s not lizard soup which well, with skink that came to mind. It’s a delicious fish soup common in the coastal towns. I tried a few restaurants on the river during my stay, there were so many. Good thing I was hiking to the Clava Cairns the next day. Don’t forget that  one of the most popular edibles in Scotland is Mac and Cheese, and some places deep fry it.

Top Ten Reviews

The Loch

Oh, yeah. The main reason for going back this time is to actually get a tour around the lake. On my last visit the time got swallowed up by Culloden and Clava Cairns explorations and I did not make the full hike to the lake up the river Ness. This visit I hope to get around the lake a bit and do some hiking, and maybe crawl over that castle. Of course, the famous attraction at the Loch, Nessie, is what most tourists seek. Science girl here. While it’s possible that there are  some huge fish in a lake like this, I doubt a monster really exists. But everyone can have  their fun with it, it’s great for the kids. Fun theories I have read over the years include prehistoric plesiosaurs. If you like having fun with legends like this, there are plenty of tourist trinkets to be found in the shops and taking a cruise on the loch is a must.

And on To Skye and Lewis

If you’re in the neighborhood, you should check out the isla around the area. One of my reasons for heading back to Inverness is to make it to Skye and Lewis. Last season i was only able to view the Hebrides from shore and boat, I did not step on any islands. This year I plan on visiting these two and exploring their shores and inland wonders. I recommend Travel’s With a Kilt Blog article on Skye for some pointers on hiking and other amazing sites on this island. Lewis is home to the Standing Stones of Callanish, and amazing collection of standing stones sure to inspire your dreams. Getting to Lewis is a bit of a trek, and you may find tours from Inverness that cover Skye and Lewis that will take up a whole day. 


Weekend Things to do on the Isle of Skye

Travels With a Kilt

Hike Around Inverness

10 Scottish Castles That Inspired Outlander

Best Places to Get Cullen Skink

Inverness Restaurants

Loch Ness Activities

Other Useful Links

Visit Inverness

National Trust Culloden

Culloden House

Inverness Botanics

Loch Ness Centre

Learn Gaelic

Castle Urquhart