Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre

Written by Chris Thornton | 12th of September 2023
Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre.

Culloden Battlefield, located near Inverness, is more than just an open field in the Scottish Highlands; it's a poignant reminder of one of the bloodiest and most significant battles in Scottish history. On the 16th of April, 1746, this seemingly serene location witnessed a clash that would forever shape Scotland's future and identity. In less than an hour of fierce combat, the hopes of the Jacobites were crushed, marking an end to their rebellion. This article delves into the history, significance, and modern relevance of the Battle of Culloden and its site.

The Jacobite Risings

The Jacobite Risings, which spanned from the late 17th century to the mid-18th century, were a series of rebellions and uprisings across Scotland, England, and Ireland. Their primary goal? To restore the Stuart monarchy to the British throne.

Who were the Jacobites?

The term 'Jacobite' comes from 'Jacobus,' the Latin form of James. Jacobites supported King James II of England (and VII of Scotland) and his descendants, who were Catholic. They were primarily ousted from the throne due to religious and political conflicts, particularly their Catholicism in a dominantly Protestant Great Britain.

What were the Jacobites fighting for?

At its core, the Jacobite cause was about restoring the Stuarts to the throne. Beyond the political dimension, it also represented broader socio-cultural and religious tensions, including the opposition to the union between Scotland and England in 1707.

The lead-up to the Battle of Culloden

The 1745 Jacobite Rising, often referred to as 'The '45,' was the last and perhaps the most famous of the Jacobite Risings. It began with Charles Edward Stuart, commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender, landing in Scotland. With considerable charisma and ambition, he aimed to reclaim the thrones of Scotland, England, and Ireland for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart.

The last pitched battle on British soil

The disastrous Battle of Culloden occurred on the 16th of April, 1746.

Jacobite Army

The Jacobite forces made up primarily of Highland Scots, were fiercely loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie. They believed in the restoration of the Stuart monarchy and had achieved significant successes leading up to Culloden. However, by the time of this battle, they were exhausted, under-supplied, and poorly positioned, facing the well-trained and well-equipped British army.

British Government Troops

Commanded by the Duke of Cumberland, the British government army was a professional force. They were well-provisioned and trained, with both infantry and cavalry units, as well as artillery. The British sought to end the Jacobite rebellion once and for all and reaffirm the Hanoverian claim to the British throne.

Initial positioning and strategy

The battlefield's geography did not favour the Jacobites. Boggy ground impeded their infamous "Highland charge," a tactic that had previously brought them success. Conversely, the flat terrain gave the British artillery and musket fire an advantage.

Bonnie Prince Charlie took a defensive stance, lining up his troops to draw the British towards them. The Duke of Cumberland, on the other hand, utilized a more strategic approach, capitalizing on his army's strengths and the terrain.

Culloden Battlefield information board.
A diagram from the visitor centre showing troop positions.

The combat and its pivotal moments

The battle was intense and short-lived, lasting less than an hour. Despite their initial hesitance, the Jacobites launched their charge (against the wishes of Charlie's best commander - Lord George Murray), hoping to engage in close combat, where they believed they had the advantage. However, the marshy ground slowed their advance, and they suffered heavy casualties from British musket fire and cannon volleys.

On the left flank, the Jacobite charge initially had some success, but in the centre and on the right, they were repelled. British dragoons exploited gaps in the Jacobite lines, causing further chaos and devastation.

Outcome and casualties

The British government forces decisively defeated the Jacobites. It's estimated that of the approximately 5,000 to 7,000 Jacobites who fought, around 1,500 to 2,000 were killed or wounded. The government forces, numbering about 9,000, suffered relatively minimal casualties compared with estimates of about 50 dead and 300 wounded.

This overwhelming defeat marked the end of the final Jacobite rising and threat to the Hanoverian throne.

Aftermath of Culloden

Following the battle, there were brutal reprisals. The Duke of Cumberland earned the moniker "Butcher Cumberland" for the ruthless manner in which Jacobite prisoners, supporters, and even many uninvolved Highlanders were treated.

Measures, such as the Disarming Act and the Dress Act, were introduced to suppress Highland culture, ensuring that a rebellion of this kind could not happen again.

The Highland Clearances and further socioeconomic shifts in the coming decades transformed the Highlands, dispersing its people and reshaping its culture.

Our visit to Culloden Battlefield

My wife Janette and I visited Culloden Battlefield in early September on a beautiful sunny day. Despite living relatively near Culloden Moor, this was our first visit to this pivotal location in Scottish history.

We had driven past Culloden many times on the way to Inverness, but the battlefield wasn't visible from the A96. We were quite amazed to see a state-of-the-art visitor centre when we pulled into the car park. I knew it had been revamped, but the building is large and impressive.

Culloden Battlefield car park and visitor centre.
The car park and visitor centre.
Culloden Battlefield disabled parking.
Disabled parking bays.

Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre

Entering the visitor centre, I noticed a gift shop and a cafe to the left and the main reception directly ahead. Our National Trust for Scotland membership came in handy again, and we could access the museum completely free! While we got our ticket, the receptionist mentioned that a tour would start within the next five minutes; great timing! The tour was also free as part of the NTS membership - fantastic value for money.

The stimulating and sensitive Culloden Visitor Centre.
The visitor centre is a very modern-looking building.
Culloden ticket office.
Buying tickets at reception.

Culloden Battlefield Tour

Just as we arrived at the tour, the group left the building and assembled at the rear of the building. The tour guide checked everyone's tickets, and then we followed her along the battlefield path. The tour guide was very knowledgeable about Culloden and controlled the group well. As it was a paid tour, anyone trying to join the tour was told to leave; very brutal but fair to those who had paid. So if you see a tour, don't join it!

Culloden Battlefield Tour.
On our tour of the battlefield.
Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre.
Looking back at the visitor centre from the moor.
The Jacobite supporters were defeated at Culloden.
Culloden Battlefield.

The tour had about three stops, explaining the troop positions of both sides, burial ground locations and Leanach Cottage. This small cottage with a heather thatched roof existed in a slightly different form during the Battle of Culloden. It's said that survivors of Culloden sought refuge in this cottage but were sealed inside and burned alive by government troops.

Leanach Cottage
Leanach Cottage.

The final step of the tour was at an external wall of the visitor centre itself, with bricks jutting out from the wall. The bricks proportionally represent the deaths from the Battle of Culloden; there are few bricks from the government side, a blank space, and then many bricks representing the Jacobite losses.

Culloden brick memorial wall.
The wall shows deaths on both sides. The Jacobite "bricks" vastly outnumber the governments.

The tour was pretty short, and there wasn't much to see on the battlefield; I think if I had paid for the tour, I would have felt a little down. The foreign tourists in our group did really seem to enjoy the tour, though, so maybe just us, as locals, didn't fully appreciate the tour.

Following the tour, we had our own walk around the battlefield. We read some of the information panels and visited the memorial cairn. We also found the now famous Fraser memorial stone, made famous by the Outlander TV show with its links to the fictional Jamie Fraser.

Wide view of Leanach Cottage and Culloden Visitor Centre.
Leanach Cottage and the visitor centre.
Culloden information board.
An information board explaining troop positions and other locations around the battlefield.
Red flags at Culloden.
The red flags mark the government lines.
Government red flag.
Another government line marking flag.

Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre

Following our walk from the battlefield, we explored the visitor centre. There are many corridors here filled with informational panels and artefacts from the battle. It starts with the lead-up to the battle, the battle and then the aftermath.

Culloden coins.
Coins from the time of Culloden.
Culloden museum.
Information boards are everywhere.
Information boards.
Information can be found all over the visitor centre.
Wall information.
Kids might find all the text a little boring.

The museum has many interesting items, including muskets, pistols, cannons, swords and shields and a selection of musket balls discovered on the moor.

Culloden musket balls
Musket balls found on Culloden Moor.
Culloden cannon ball.
Musket and cannon balls.
Culloden museum exhibits.
Museum exhibits.
Large room at Culloden   Visitor Centre.
A large area with a cannon, and an area for talks.
Culloden weaponry.
Muskets and flintlock pistols you can hold.
Culloden cannon
A replica of one of the cannons used at Culloden.

At the final area of the museum, some of the staff put on a talk and did a demonstration of how plaid was folded for highland dress; the tourists were very interested.

A staff talk at Culloden.
A talk by the visitor centre staff.

We finished our visit with a trip to the gift shop, which had many lovely items, including heather gems and Culloden's very own whisky miniatures.

Gift shop with Culloden Whisky
Culloden Battlefield Gift Shop.

Visitor Information

Entry fees:

Adult - £14.00
Family - £30.00
One adult family - £25.00
Concession - £11.00
Young Scot - £1.00

Opening times:

1st of May - 1st of Oct, daily, 09.00-18.00.
2nd of Oct - 3rd of Dec, daily, 09.00-17.00.
4th of Dec - 22nd of Dec, daily, 09.00-16.00.
23rd of Dec - 2nd of Jan 2024, closed.
3rd of Jan - 3rd of Mar, daily, 09.00-16.00.
4th of Mar - 31st of Mar, daily, 09.00-17.00.

Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre on Google Maps
O.S. Grid Reference: NH 745450

Culloden, Inverness, IV2 5EU

Contact details:

Telephone: 01463 796090
Email address:

Public transport stops at the visitor centre.

Macgilliveray Stone grave marker at Culloden.
Macgillivray Stone.
Grave markers at Culloden.
Mass graves at Culloden.
Clan Macgillivray Stone at Culloden.
Another Clan Macgillivray Stone.
Clan Fraser stone.
The Clan Fraser stone was made famous by its link to the Outlander TV series.

FAQs on Culloden Battlefield

Here are a few frequently asked questions on Culloden Battlefield.

How to get to Culloden Battlefield?

From Inverness:

  1. Leave Inverness, travelling east along Culloden Road / B9006.

  2. Look for a right turn marked with a National Trust sign for Culloden Battlefield.

  3. Parking is available to the left and right, but you can continue to a much bigger car park outside the visitor centre.

Culloden Battlefield Google Maps

There is a dedicated bus service to the visitor centre.

Is Culloden Moor worth visiting?

To be honest, it depends. If you are interested in Scottish history or have ancestors who fought there, visiting the battle site will have a special significance. If you are visiting as something to do while in Scotland, you might be a little disappointed; it's just a large bleak moor with flags marking the troops' positions. There are some friendly Highland Cows on the north side of the battlefield.

The visitor centre is state of the art, and the tour guides are knowledgeable, but it depends on your interest in history. I would say it is worth visiting, but there is less to see and do than other historical sites I've visited.

What happened on Culloden Moor?

Culloden Moor, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands, was the site of the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746. This battle was the final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite Rising, marking a turning point in British history. The Jacobites lost to government troops.

How many died at Culloden Moor?

1300 men in total were slain at Culloden, with 1250 of them from the Jacobite side. Many more would have died later from their wounds.

Can you visit Culloden Battlefield for free?

The battle site can be visited for free by following the paths outside the visitor centre. You can access the moor's grave markers, cairn, and various information boards. You can get a more panoramic view from the visitor centre roof for free.

You cannot enter the visitor centre exhibits for free without a National Trust for Scotland membership.

How much does it cost to visit Culloden Battlefield?

Adult - £14.00
Family - £30.00
One adult family - £25.00
Concession - £11.00
Young Scot - £1.00

Do you need advance tickets for Culloden Battlefield?

No, it's a large centre and should be able to accommodate you at short notice. If you would like a tour, it might be best to book this in advance just in case they are maxed out when you visit.

How far was the Battle of Culloden from Inverness?

It's about 5.6 miles from Inverness to Culloden Battlefield.

Is the Culloden Museum worth it?

It's a wonderful facility and worth it, but only if you are interested in Scottish history. I do think children would be bored at this museum in all areas. Most exhibits are information panels on walls; there are weapons to see in cabinets but very few interactive displays to keep kids' attention.

Is it free to go to Culloden battlefield?

The battlefield itself can be visited without entering the visitor centre. If you want to see the paid section of the museum, you will have to pay for a ticket. National Trust members can access the museum and get a battlefield tour for free.

Is Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre suitable for children?

There is no overly gory content on the displays, but all of the content is about fighting in killing; it depends if you want younger children to learn about that. Children may find the actual battlefield boring, and the museum has limited things for kids to do... but how can they make the site of a terrible battle "fun"?

What else is there to see near Culloden Battlefield?

This area has so much for tourists, but the closest attractions would be Clava Cairns and Culloden ViaductCawdor Castle isn't much further away, which has a great deal to offer.

Culloden Monument.
Culloden Monument.
Culloden Monument inscription.
Inscription on Culloden Monument.

Key information on Culloden Battlefield

  • Culloden Battlefield is the site of the last pitched battle on British soil a short distance east of Inverness.

  • The battle was between the British government and the Jacobites.

  • Today's battlefield has a large visitor centre with a cafe, toilets, exhibits, audio/visual displays and artefacts from the battle.

  • Tours are available from reception if you purchase a premium ticket (£3 more expensive).

  • Visiting the battlefield is free; access to the visitor centre museum is by ticket only. It's possible to access the visitor centre's roof for free to get a more panoramic view of the battlefield.


Many people who visit Culloden experience great sadness at the events on that bleak moor, but I felt more anger than anything else. The senseless loss of life of my ancestors and the quite frankly terrible leadership of Charles Edward Stewart, I don't see why he is seen as a tragic hero. Perhaps I would have more respect for him if he had fought and died with his men instead of scurrying off to Italy.

The National Trust Visitor Centre explains the battle well; it's a fantastic facility, highly educational and well-run. It is highly recommended for adults with an interest in Scottish history.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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Kamar G
9th of November 2023 @ 18:18:48

Absolutely loved this article! Beautifully written and explained! Your effort is very appreciated!