Team to retrace doomed eve of Culloden night march

A group, including re-enactors, retraced the night march route in 2009

At a glance

  • A night march attempted by Bonnie Prince Charlie before the Battle of Culloden is to be recreated
  • The march of 15 April 1746 had been an attempt to attack government troops camped at Nairn
  • The National Trust for Scotland will use its event to raise funds to help protect Culloden Battlefield
  • It could be among the last to retrace the route due to new developments

26 January 2023

A night march made by Jacobite soldiers on the eve of the Battle of Culloden 277 years ago is to be recreated by a team from the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

A group of soldiers loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie had hoped to launch a surprise attack on British government troops camped at Nairn.

But the fighters, already hungry and exhausted from their efforts to reach Culloden, near Inverness, were forced to give up on their 12-mile march over moorland in darkness.

Many of them made the return journey to Culloden.

Just hours later, on 16 April 1746, the prince’s army was defeated in battle.

Culloden saw the deaths of about 1,600 men – 1,500 of them Jacobites.

A re-enactment on 15 April 2009 was believed to be the first since the original night march 263 years before.

Past experiences

The NTS team will undertake their walk to raise funds to help protect the battlefield, which the trust manages.

It could be among the last recreations of the route because of housing developments planned along its way.

NTS said: “We can mostly recreate the night march as the landscape till now has remained unchanged.

“However, new and proposed developments from the past 10 years are seriously endangering the wider battlefield landscape.

“Time is of the essence.”

A spokeswoman added: “Although others have recreated the night march in the past, they have not done so specifically looking at the effect of development on the landscape.”

She said the team had been lucky to draw on the experiences of past recreations, and the knowledge of the late Culloden historian Prof Christopher Duffy.

The night march re-enactment of 14 years ago saw 12 of 20 people complete the 10-hour, 24-mile round trip

A re-enactment on 15 April 2009 was believed to be the first since the original night march 263 years before.

Re-enactors and history enthusiasts were among those who joined battlefield archaeologist Dr Tony Pollard for the trek.

The project was done to show how far the Jacobite forces could have reached, and the challenges they faced from the terrain and night-time conditions.

Dr Pollard said at the time it also shed light on the endurance of the marchers, and the effect on morale when they were ordered to abort the planned attack.

Twelve of the 20 people who took part completed the 10-hour, 24-mile round trip between Culloden and the outskirts of Nairn.

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