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Glencoe and Culloden Scotland Review

Updated on September 18, 2017

The Massacre of Glencoe

The Massacre of Glencoe took place on February 12th, 1692 at 5 am. This massacre is one of the worst atrocities carried out by the British Army against the Clans loyal to the Jacobites. In August of 1691, King William provided a pardon to the Highland Clans if they would swear an oath to him. They had until Jan 1st, 1692 to swear and document this oath.

Glencoe had three settlements and was the location of the Clan MacDonalds. The settlements were Invercoe, Inverrigan, and Achnacon. The Clan chiefs who were loyal to King James sent word to him in his exile in France for permission to sign this oath. King James did not respond until the middle of December, 1691. This did not allow the Clan Chiefs much time to travel to Fort William in the snow to sign this oath.

Alasdair MacIain was the 12th Chief of the MacDonald Clan at Glencoe. When MacIain arrived in Ft. William, he was told he had to go another 70 miles to Inverary to sign the oath there. He was given a letter of protection to make sure he was not penalized for being late.

Remnant of a House Foundation at Glencoe

We took a walk from the Visitor Center out to the glen to see if any ruins still exist.  We saw the original stone walls and foundation of one of the cottages that was burned to the ground, 320 years ago.
We took a walk from the Visitor Center out to the glen to see if any ruins still exist. We saw the original stone walls and foundation of one of the cottages that was burned to the ground, 320 years ago. | Source

Unsuspecting Victims

MacIain returned home thinking he had satisfied the oath requirements. Unfortunately John Campbell saw the opportunity to get revenge against the MacDonalds as MacIain was late signing the oath.

Campbell, a senior member of the Clan Campbell, created an alliance in London with the Master of Stair (Secretary of State). The Master of Stair convinced King William to give the order to extinguish the MacDonalds in the Valley of Glencoe.

The MacDonalds had the reputation for stealing livestock and hiding them in the secret valley near their settlements. King William believed the order was to wipe out a den of thieves in that valley.

Captain Robert Campbell and 120 of his men arrived in Glencoe near the end of January 1692 and sought hospitality in the settlements. They were given food and lodgings for the next 10 days as was customary in the Highlands. In the early morning of Feb 12th, Captain Campbell received the order to kill everyone.

The River Coe in Glencoe Village

Current Day River Coe in Glencoe Village.  photo taken in July, 2012.
Current Day River Coe in Glencoe Village. photo taken in July, 2012. | Source

Murder Under Trust

Starting around 5am, Captain Campbell and his troops began slaughtering the MacDonalds in their beds. Alasdair MacIain was killed first, getting out of bed.

All of the houses were set on fire and many clansman and woman ran outside – into the frigid February temperatures.

38 men, women, and children were killed in the massacre, with around 40 more dying due to exposure in the following hours.

The MacDonalds had been killed by “Murder Under trust”. It was considered by Scotland the worst form of murder to be committed.

When the British realized that the MacDonald Clan was murdered for revenge, by an order signed by the king, they attempted to cover up the blunder.

A small amount of the army soldiers were Campbells, and the story rose that that massacre was committed by the Campbell Clan, not the British Army.

No one was ever charged for this massacre.

Glencoe Memorial


Remains of the Day

Today there stands a memorial to the MacDonald Clan in the current village of Glencoe. Alasdair MacIain is buried along with many other MacDonald clan chiefs on a tiny island of Eilean Munde in Loch Leven, near the village.

Today the village is still nestled in the valley, with beautiful scenes of the surrounding mountain and Loch Leven. We stayed at one of the many local Bed and Breakfast Inns, and enjoyed dinner at the local hotel.

The next day, we headed back to Edinburgh, back through the gorgeous Highland mountains. We found many pull off places to take photographs of the mountains, waterfalls, and Lochs.

Edinburgh is located in the Lowlands, and the small towns we drove thorough and stopped for food or petrol were very charming. It seemed that every town or village had its own memorial statute honoring those Scots lost in the wars of the 20th century.

One thing we did learn about the Scots, they are very proud of their fallen soldiers (and their whisky).

July 2017 update:

We had the opportunity to revisit the Village of Glencoe on our second trip to Scotland. We again enjoyed the quaint village with all of the Bed and Breakfast houses lining the street. Each house has a unique style to them which reflects the individual owners personalities and tastes.

We did walk back to view the memorial as pictured above. It is always a very somber experience to visit the memorial and read the history provided there.

Massacre of Glencoe


Glencoe, Ballachulish, Highland PH49, UK

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Culloden Battle Marker


The Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Center

Culloden Battlefield today is the remnant of the moor (swamp) that was the location of the last battle between The Scots and the English. It holds the markers and Memorial Clan Stones placed to remember the fallen.

There is an impressive Visitor Center with a movie room that shows the 45 minute battle at 360 degrees (on all four walls).

There are many artifacts and historical references.

Out on the field, you can see the red flags marking the British Army line of defense. On the opposite side of the field are the blue flags designating the Jacobite Highlanders line of approach and attack.

What was the Battle About?

In a nutshell, the Scottish who remained loyal to their ousted King James Stuart (Jacobites) had been in rebellion against the British Whigs (combination of British and Scots).

The Scottish Jacobite troops were fighting against their own Highlander Black Watch regiment of the British Army. At this time, Prince Charles Edward Stuart was leading the Jacobite army.

At the time of this final battle, on April 16th, 1746, the Jacobite Army was exhausted. They were running out of supplies and they were scattered.

On the other side, The British Army was well rested, having taken a break the day before to celebrate their Duke of Cumberland’s twenty-fifth birthday.

Culloden Field House

Photograph of a 1700's era field house that remains and is maintained on the battlefield moor.
Photograph of a 1700's era field house that remains and is maintained on the battlefield moor. | Source

More History

Culloden is near the city of Inverness, where many of the Jacobite troops were. Prince Charles wanted to sneak up on the British during the night to take advantage of them.

Unfortunately, the Jacobite troops did not make it the entire distance from Inverness to Culloden as they were exhausted and confused. Their troops became dis-oriented in the dark and they had to return to Inverness.

The next day, The Prince took his completely exhausted army back to Culloden Field to face the British troops under the command of the Duke of Cumberland.

The battle was a disaster. It took less than an hour for the British troops to destroy the Jacobite Army.

To complicate matters, a large section of the field is swampy. A third of the Jacobite troops got stuck in the swampy moors and had to turn around to find another approach. Most of them actually met up with the retreating Prince Charles and the remnant of the Army.

In less than an hour, between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobites had been killed while only 50 British troops were killed and 259 wounded.


The battle took place not far from Inverness in the Highlands.
The battle took place not far from Inverness in the Highlands. | Source

The Aftermath

The aftermath of this battle was devastating to the Highlanders. The British Army and Navy were sent to Scotland to begin the “Pacification of the Highlands”.

Clan Chiefs were stripped of their power and their lands were taken by the crown. The Tartan and Kilt, the primary clan identifiers, were banned.

Over the next 10 years, Highlanders fled Scotland for the promise of a better life in the colonies. This is one of the first major Scottish exodus’ on record. This exodus predates their “Clearances” exodus in the mid 1800s, also to the Canadian, American, and Australian Colonies.

The “Clearances” were a result of the British owners of their land deciding to evict all of the people to make room for raising sheep. This was more lucrative than the rents they received from the people.

Clan Stone Markers






Impressions and Ft. George

As we walked the battlefield of Culloden, we were told by our guide that many of the Jacobites were unaccounted for after the battle. They believe there are many who were swallowed up by the moors, their bodies never to be found. We did see several Clan marker stones and the memorial cairn. A 20 foot structure built as a memorial in 1881.

We also stopped off at Ft George and toured it. Ft George never saw any military action, but it currently houses the garrison for the Scottish Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, of the Royal regiment of Scotland. It was built after the battle of Culloden to further protect against the Jacobite Rebellion.

Due to its location at the edge of the Moray Firth, it is a popular Dolphin sighting area. While we were there, the dolphins did not disappoint us. We watched them frolic in the waters for about 30 minutes or more.

Battle of Culloden Moor

Fun Fact

Fun Fact: There is no open lots or land to buy in Scotland. All farmland is either already owned by generations of a family, or owned by the "Council". Our relatives can buy small houses, townhouses, or rent apartments on small lots of residential property. I compare these Council areas to our states or Canada's provinces.

Which Do You Think Was the Worst Disaster?

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Culloden Moor

Culloden, Inverness, Highland IV2, UK

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    • Robilo2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Robinson 

      3 years ago

      Thank you - we really enjoyed driving around Scotland (our relative drove, not us) - we got to see 6 castles....

    • srsddn profile image


      3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      Interesting narration of history, Lori. It is difficult to imagine the conflict of loyalties and the consequences those days. Nicely covered by photographs. I liked the Hut. Voted up.


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