Blog posts of '2023' 'March'

Significant Battles in Scottish History - Scots Connection

Circa AD 84   Battle of Mons Graupius
Publius Tacitus, the historian of the Roman Empire, recorded that Gnaeus Julius Agricola, when Governor of Britain, marched on and defeated a great force of Caledonians in an as yet unidentified location between Strathmore and Moray. The Romans, with 8,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry, were allegedly greatly outnumbered, the strength of the Caledonians being estimated at 30,000.  After this event it was claimed that Agricola had finally succeeded in subduing the tribes of Britain.

Circa 603   Battle of Degsastan
Such information as exists comes from the chronicles of the Venerable Bede, a Northumbrian monk who lived at the start of the 7th century. The location of this battle is thought to have been in Liddesdale. The Venerable Bede tells us that King Aidan of Dalriada was defeated by Ethelfrith of Bernicia, King of Angles, and almost all of the Gaels taking part in the action were killed.

Aberlemno Kirkyard 8th century Pictish stone, depicting the nearby Battle of Nechstansmere
Aberlemno Kirkyard 8th century Pictish stone, depicting the nearby Battle of Nechstansmere

20th May 685   Battle of Nechtansmere (or Dunnichen)
Near Forfar, in Angus, King Brude of the Picts defeated Angles under Egfrith, King of Northumbria.

735   Battle of Athelstaneford
In today's East Lothian, Angus (or Oengus) King of Picts is said to have won a great battle against Athelstane, King of Northumbria.  Tradition has it that on the eve of the battle, King Angus prayed to Saint Andrew, Patron Saint of Scotland, and, the following morning, a cross of white cloud against a blue sky was seen. According to Walter Bower,  a  Scots Augustinian monk (1385-1449), King Athelstane fled from the battlefield, but was killed close to today's village of Athelstaneford, where now stands the Scottish Flag Heritage Centre. Legend also has it that he was decapitated and his head placed on a pole on an island in the Firth of Forth. However, a major dilemma exists concerning Bower's account in that a King Athelstane is also on record as having existed at the end of the following century, and that he won a great battle against the Scots under their King Constantine at Brunanburh (see below).

937   Battle of Brunanburh
This King Athelstane, a grandson of Alfred the Great, was allegedly the first King of all England.  In 937, King Constantine II of Alba invaded England with Welsh and Danish support and, according to the Annals of Ulster, was conclusively defeated. The exact location of the battle is unknown but it is thought to have been on Merseyside.

Circa 1018   Battle of Carham (sometimes known as Battle of Coldstream)
This battle was fought at Carham-on-Tweed in England between the Scots, led my Malcolm II and Owen of Strathclyde, against the Northumbrian army. The ensuing Scottish victory established Scotland's possession of the Lothians.

Circa 1040   Battle of Kinghorn
Writing in the 16th century, John Bellenden (or Ballantyne), Archdeacon of Moray and Canon of Ross,  makes mention of a Scandinavian invasion being repelled by Macbeth in the vicinity of Kinghorn in Fife, but detail and confirmation are illusive.

15th August 1057   Battle of Lumphanan
This was the confrontation in Aberdeenshire where Macbeth was killed by Malcolm Canmore with the support of the Saxon King Edward the Confessor. Canmore was determined to avenge his father, Duncan I, who had been killed by his own men led by Macbeth in 1040. In William Shakespeare's politically expedient version of the story, the battle takes place at Dunsinane, north of Perth.

17th March 1058   Battle of Essie
Having ruled as King of Scots for just over six months, the 25-year old Lulach, Macbeth's stepson, was killed by Malcolm III in a confrontation in Strathbogie.

22nd August 1138   Battle of the Standard (sometimes called Battle of Northallerton)
In support of his niece, Matilda, who claimed the English throne in opposition to the incumbent King Stephen (who was married to another of his nieces), David I of Scotland marched an army to Cowton Moor in Yorkshire and was heavily defeated. King David and his surviving force fell back to Carlisle where they re-grouped and a truce signed within a month.

2nd October 1263   Battle of Largs
The most significant event of the Scottish Norwegian wars of the 13th century. The Norwegian army was led by King Haakon, and the Scots by Alexander III. The Inner and Outer Hebrides, Kintyre, and the Isle of Man, had paid homage to the Kings of Norway since around 1110.  When news reached Haakon that the Scottish king was planning to seize his territorial  possessions, he set off  with a mighty fleet of ships and joined forces with King Dougal of the Hebrides and King Magnus III of Man.
Having raided the coastline, however, Haakon moved south to the Firth of Clyde on the West Ayrshire coast where he was attacked by a large Scottish force, estimated at around 8,000 men. Although claimed as a Scottish victory, the ensuing skirmish simply culminated in both sides retreating.  Winter was approaching, and Haakon sailed to Orkney, planning to return in the following year, but he fell ill and died on 15th December. Two years later, King Alexander successfully invaded the Hebrides and negotiated with Haakon's successor, King Magnus.  Under the Treaty of Perth in 1266, Scottish sovereignty was purchased in return for 4000 marks and an annual payment of 100 marks in perpetuity.

Scottish Battles - The Wars of Independence
1296 - 17th March 1328 The First War of Scottish Independence began when King John Balliol of Scotland refused to support King Edward I of England in his French campaign. Hostilities came to an end after thirty two years with the signing of the Treaty of Northampton in 1328.

27th April 1296 Battle of Dunbar
When King John Balliol of Scotland refused to support King Edward I of England in his French campaign, Edward marched an army on Scotland. After capturing Berwick-upon-Tweed, he lingered for a time before marching on Dunbar. The Scots occupied the high ground but as the English broke ranks to cross a gulley, they abandoned their position assuming that the enemy was dispersing. The result was that the Scots were decimated in a single charge. Large numbers of Scottish noblemen were subsequently taken prisoner and either executed or pardoned.

July 1297 Battle of Biggar
To avenge the death of his wife, Marion Braidfoot, who had been miserably killed by William Heselrig, the English Sheriff of Lanark, there is a local tradition that William Wallace and his guerilla forces won a significant victory over the English on the outskirts of the Lanarkshire town of Biggar.

Sir William Wallace, Aberdeen, William Grant Stevenson (1849–1919). Bronze statue, 1888
Sir William Wallace, Aberdeen, William Grant Stevenson (1849–1919). Bronze statue, 1888

11th September 1297 Battle of Stirling Bridge
Having been victorious at Dunbar a year earlier, Edward I's commanders John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey, and Hugh de Cressingham, seriously underestimated the determination of the Scots to be free from English domination. The bridge at Stirling was only wide enough to allow two horsemen to cross side-by-side, and the Scottish leaders William Wallace and Sir Andrew Moray allowed the English army to cross the bridge, thus creating a bottleneck, before attacking. As a consequence, the English were massacred and Surrey retreated to Berwick.
One tragic outcome was that Sir Andrew Moray was killed in the fighting. Soon afterwards, Wallace was knighted by the nobles of Scotland and appointed Guardian of Scotland. The site where the battle took place is upstream from today's Stirling Bridge.

22nd July 1298 Battle of Falkirk
Incensed by the news of his army's defeat at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Edward I of England, who had been preoccupied fighting the French in Flanders, returned home to march on Scotland. After various set-backs en route, Edward discovered that the Scots were at Callendar, close to Stirling, and seized the initiative. It was the efficiency of the English longbows against the Scottish spear men which won the day, and it is estimated that over 2,000 Scots were killed. Nevertheless, the English army which numbered almost twice that of the Scots force suffered a similar number of casualties.
With a large number of the survivors having deserted the cause, Sir William Wallace resigned as Guardian of Scotland.

24th February 1303 Battle of Roslin Glen
This was a victory against the occupying forces of Edward I of England and although of considerable significance, does not have the pre-eminence it surely deserves, possibly because it did not involve particularly large numbers.
An English force under Sir John Segrave was marching north from Northumberland, supposedly towards Linlithgow, when they were surprised by a contingent of Scots led by John Comyn and Simon Fraser beside Roslin Glen on the outskirts of Edinburgh. During the confusion, the English army was divided into three, so that there were, in effect, three confrontations. It was an overall victory for the Scots and it was said afterwards that the waters of the River North Esk ran red with blood.

Circa February 1304 Battle of Happrew
Men under Sir William Wallace and Sir Simon Fraser were defeated by soldiers led by Sir John Segrave near Peebles. The following year, Wallace was captured at Robroyston, near Glasgow. He was taken to London and executed.

Robert the Bruce at the borestone, Bannockburn, Stirling. Charles d'Orville Pilkington Jackson(1887-1973). Bronze statue, 1964
Robert the Bruce at the borestone, Bannockburn, Stirling. Charles d'Orville Pilkington Jackson (1887-1973). Bronze statue, 1964

19th June 1306 Battle of Methven
Although implicated in the murder of his cousin John Comyn at the Church of the Greyfriars in Dumfries, Robert the Bruce was nevertheless inaugurated as King of Scots in the following month at Scone. So far as Edward I of England was concerned, this was an outrage, and he appointed Aymer de Valence, Comyn's brother-in-law, to give no quarter to Bruce or his followers. Valence and the Comyn faction therefore based themselves in Perth. Bruce's soldiers were quartered nearby at Methven, but were surprised during the night and were all but destroyed. Bruce escaped, but after this he abandoned knightly chivalry and resorted to Wallace's more ruthless guerilla tactics.

11th August 1306 Battle of Dalry (sometimes known as Battle of Dalrigh or Strathfillan)
Having gone on the run and retreating west from their defeat at Methven, King Robert's supporters were confronted near Tyndrum in Argyll by the MacDougalls of Argyll, who were related to the Comyn Family. Tired and demoralised, the King's men who had survived the earlier battle were once again routed, but Bruce managed to escape.

April 1307 Battle of Glen Trool
This was a minor skirmish, but nevertheless a victory for the Scots. King Robert had been a fugitive for several months, but in the spring of 1307 re-appeared in Galloway with a force of Highlanders. After a raid on an English encampment on Clatteringshaws Loch, Aymer de Valence was advised that Bruce was to be found at the head of Glen Trool in today’s Galloway Forest Park. He sent his cavalry commander John Mowbray off to capture him, but Mowbray's men were ambushed and driven back and Bruce and his men disappeared into the surrounding countryside.

Scottish Battles - Loudon Hill to Old Byland

10th May 1307 Battle of Loudon Hill
Having rallied his supporters, King Robert was back in business again and came up against his old adversary Aymer de Valence, now Earl of Pembroke, ten miles north of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. This time the English soldiers were obliged to approach their enemy over bogland, and rapidly fell victim to the spears of Bruce's men. Over one hundred were killed before the remainder rapidly dispersed.

22nd May 1308 Battle of Inverurie (sometimes known as the Battle of Barra)
King Robert was taken ill on his march north towards Aberdeenshire after his victory at Loudon Hill, but the spring of 1308 nevertheless found him and his army camped at Meldrum, close to Inverurie. John Comyn, 3rd Earl of Buchan, was a cousin of the murdered John Comyn, Lord of Buchan, and determined to bring the King to justice. However, he proved indecisive. Many of his followers had been assured that the King was too ill to fight and when King Robert appeared before them, Buchan's men turned and fled. Buchan himself escaped to England where he died the same year.

Circa 1308/1309 Battle of the Pass of Brander
This was a conflict between King Robert I and the Macdougalls of Argyll, kinsmen of the murdered John Comyn. There is variance as to exactly where (Brander or Ben Cruachan) and when the incident took place, but it is generally understood that the Macdougalls were caught in a vice between King Robert and Sir James Douglas and put to flight.

Depiction of the Battle of Bannockburn, Holkham Bible c.1330
Depiction of the Battle of Bannockburn, Holkham Bible c.1330

23/24th June 1314 Battle of Bannockburn
This was the decisive victory of the Scots against the English in the First War of Scottish Independence. Although King Robert had largely succeeded in re-establishing the Kingdom of Scots, Stirling Castle still remained under English command and it was here that Edward II determined that he would confront the Scots once and for all. With an army numbering 4,000 men he marched north, mustering his forces at Berwick and crossing the River Tweed at Coldstream.
The English army arrived at the Bannock Burn, just out of range of the canon shot of Stirling Castle, on midsummer's eve. Priot to the battle, a young English knight, Henry de Bohun, a nephew of the Earl of Hertford, challenged King Robert to a dual and was struck to the ground by the King's axe.
Following the example set by Sir William Wallace, the King's army, which had been rallied from every corner of Scotland, was largely composed of spear men. The very size of the English army worked to its detriment, with its large numbers dispersing in confusion as the Scots emerged from the cover of the woods. As the English formation broke, a great shout rang out from the Scots and victory was assured.

25th August 1330 Battle of Teba (in Andalusia, Spain)
It had always been King Robert's desire to take part in a Crusade as a form of penance for the murder of his cousin John Comyn in 1306. It was therefore his dying wish that his embalmed heart be taken on such a mission by his good friends Sir James “The Good” Douglas; Sir William St Clair and his brother, John St Clair; Sir William Borthwick; Sir Simon Lockhard of the Lee; Sir William Keith; Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig, and Sir Walter Logan.
In the spring of 1330, therefore, a party of Scottish knights and esquires set off to mainland Europe with the heart and a letter of recommendation from the King of England to King Alfonso XI of Castile who was at the time embroiled in a war against Muhammed XI, Sultan of Granada.
Arriving in Seville at the end of July, the group were welcomed and at once seconded to the Castello de la Estrella, which was being occupied by the Sultan's forces. It was perhaps a headstrong but excusable misunderstanding. The Moors were assembled beneath the castle walls and, assuming that King Alphonso's army was behind him, Sir James led a charge into the midst of enemy. He was immediately surrounded and killed, calling out as he threw the silver casket containing King Robert's heart ahead of him: "Now pass thou onward before us, as thou wast wont, and I will follow thee or die."
Ironically, the Castilians won the day, but only two of the Scottish knights, Keith and Lockhart, survived. The bodies of Sir James and the other fallen knights were returned to Scotland along with the heart of King Robert in its silver casket. It was soon afterwards interred at Melrose Abbey.

14th October 1322 Battle of Old Byland
After their great victory at Bannockburn, the Scots regularly raided into England without resistance. Taking advantage of the prospect of a civil war in England, King Robert encouraged his commanders Sir James Douglas, Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray and Walter Stewart to mount a foray into the North East while King Edward II was preoccupied with bringing his rebel barons to heel. At first, the Scots incursion was largely ignored but when Edward had finally suppressed his close-at-hand opponents at the Battle of Boroughbridge, he determined to retaliate on Scotland and invaded.
King Robert immediately adopted a scorched earth policy, retreating north across the Firth of Forth. Edward, his troops ravished by hunger, succeeded in reaching Edinburgh and destroyed Holyrood Abbey. Meanwhile, the Scots army had moved in a circular movement to the south west, crossing the Solway Firth into England and, turning east, intercepted the homecoming English army in North Yorkshire. The subsequent confrontation turned into a rout with Edward's commander, John de Bretagne, 1st Duke of Richmond, taken prisoner. Edward himself was forced to make a rapid escape from Rievaulx Abbey.

Scottish Battles - The Second War of Scottish Independence
1332 – 3rd October 1357 The Second War of Scottish Independence began with the invasion of Edward Balliol, son of the exiled King John, and a party of the “Disinherited”, whose lands had been confiscated after King Robert I's victory at Bannockburn. The hostilities officially ended twenty five years later with the signing of the Treaty of Berwick in 1357.

12th August 1332 Battle of Dupplin Moor
King Robert I's death in 1329 revived the claim of the House of Balliol to the Scots throne.
The recently crowned David II, was only four years old, which created a vulnerable situation not helped by the sudden death of his Guardian, Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray. The following year, David was married at the age of five to Princess Joanna, sister of Edward III of England, which should have alleviated the situation, but it appears not.
Landing at Kinghorn in Fife, Edward Balliol and his followers, backed by the English king, reached Forteviot where they were challenged by an army led by Donald, Earl of Mar, who had succeeded Moray as Regent. A second force led by Patrick, Earl of Dunbar was approaching from the south, but Mar, rather too confident in his strength of numbers, was lax in his watch which allowed the enemy led by Sir Alexander Mowbray to cross the River Tay and make an initial attack. The subsequent arrow fire from the English ranks caused havoc. and both Mar and Lord Robert Bruce, the natural son of the late King Robert, were killed.
A few weeks after his victory, Edward Balliol was crowned King of Scots, but with the general hostility shown towards his faction across Scotland, moved his power base to Galloway.

17th December 1332 Battle of Annan
Four months after his victory at Dupplin Moor, King Edward Balliol and his supporters were surprised and attacked as they slept at Annan, in Dumfriesshire, and forced to flee over the Border into England. The victors, who were loyal to David II, were led by Sir Archibald Douglas, brother of Sir James “The Good” who had died at Teba in Spain in 1330. Also involved were John Randolph, 3rd Earl of Moray, Simon Fraser, and King Robert I's grandson, Robert, High Steward of Scotland.

19th July 1333 Battle of Halidon Hill
Driven out of Scotland by supporters of David II, Edward Balliol appealed to Edward III of England for assistance. Despite King David being his brother-in-law, Edward dropped all pretence of neutrality and decided to invade Scotland on Balliol's behalf. Berwick-upon-Tweed was put under siege and at Halidon Hill, north west of the town, Edward's army confronted the Scots under Sir Archibald Douglas. From the beginning, the English archers wrought havoc on the advancing Scots. Among the Scots dead were Douglas, the earls of Ross, Sutherland and Carrick, seventy barons and five hundred knights.
Edward III did little to press home his advantage, but his success at Halidon Hill was seen by many as avenging his father's defeat at Bannockburn.

30th November 1335 Battle of Culblean (Kilblain)
Scotland was divided between the Balliol and the Bruce factions, and in May 1334, the ten- year old King David and Queen Joan were sent to France where they were placed under the protection of Philip VI. At the same time, the 3rd Earl of Moray and Robert, High Steward, became Guardians of the Kingdom.
The unrest continued, and following a relatively successful skirmish in August 1335, a loyalist army under Sir Andrew Murray defeated David, Earl of Atholl and other supporters of Edward Balliol at Culblean (Kilblain), close to Kildrummy Castle in Aberdeenshire..

Battle of Neville's Cross, the Froissart of Louis of Gruuthuse, c. 1470
Battle of Neville's Cross, the Froissart of Louis of Gruuthuse, c. 1470

17th October 1346 Battle of Neville's Cross
It was the Auld Alliance with France that drew Scotland into conflict once again with England. By 1346, it had become apparent that Edward III was intent on continuing what would become known thereafter as The Hundred Years War with France, and the unprepared French king Philip VI appealed to the King of Scots for help. Having enjoyed Philip's hospitality for most of his childhood, the twenty-two-year old David II was unlikely to refuse.
Believing the English army to be preoccupied with the Siege of Calais, a Scots invasion of England took place in October with the Scots army taking up a position in Durham. The English, however, were prepared and an army from Cumberland, Northumberland and Lancashire had been mobilised by the Archbishop of York.
King David took up a position at Neville's Cross, the site of an ancient Anglo Saxon stone, and the battle commenced with neither side making any progress until the English longbowmen arrived. When it became clear that the battle was lost, Robert the Steward and the Earl of March retreated allowing the King to be captured. Among the dead was the former Regent, the 3rd Earl of Moray. King David spent the next eleven years of his life as a prisoner in London.
In 1357, following a treaty signed at Berwick-upon-Tweed, King David was released on the promise of a ransom of 100,000 merks. He returned to Scotland at once, but soon discovered that he was unable to meet the ransom demands. Queen Joan died in 1362, and although David married again, this time to Margaret Drummond, there was no children from either union. He died at Edinburgh Castle in 1371 and was succeeded by his half-uncle who became Robert II. Swathes of southern Scotland remained under the control of English forces, so he allowed his nobles licence to attempt to regain their territories.

25th June 1380 Battle of Benrig (sometimes called Horse Rigg)
With William, 1st Earl of Douglas, invading the West March of England, the Scots under George, Earl of Dunbar & March, defeated a force of 200 English near St Boswells led by Ralph, 3rd Baron Greystoke who was on his way to take possession of Roxburgh Castle. Greystoke was imprisoned in Dunbar Castle and later ransomed.

Scottish Battles - Otterburn to Lochaber

5th August 1388 Battle of Otterburn

"Last night I dreamed a dreary dream,
From beyond the Isle of Skye,
I saw a dead man win a fight,
And I think that man was I."
The Battle of Otterburn (Sir Walter Scott's Border Minstrelsy).

On a moonlit night in Northumberland, the Scots army under James, 2nd Earl of Douglas defeated an 800 strong English contingent under Henry Percy (“Hotspur”), son of the 1st Earl of Northumberland. To some extent both armies were taken by surprise; the English assuming the Scots were some distance ahead of them when they came across them setting up camp. Douglas was killed in the hand- to-hand fighting, but the Scots fought on unaware of the fate of their leader until the English dispersed. Hotspur was taken prisoner and later ransomed.

28th September 1396 Battle of the North Inch
Although the details are subject to much speculation and reinterpretation, this was a planned dual between the Clan Chattan Federation (which comprised clans Mackintosh, Macpherson, MacBean, Davidson, MacGillivrays and Shaws) and Clan Kay, which some historians believe to have been Clan Cameron, traditional enemies of Clan Chattan. For some time, King Robert III had been attempting to persuade the two warring factions to settle their differences amicably and, through the mediation of the 1st Earl of Crawford, it was agreed that a contest would take place. The Chiefs agreed and, in front of a large number of spectators including the King, met on the banks of the River Tay at Perth. Evenly matched, thanks to the last minute recruitment of Henry Smith, a local armourer, a violent conflict took place on the North Inch with Clan Chattan emerging victorious.

22nd June 1402 Battle of Nesbit or Nisbet Moor
Two years earlier there had been an English incursion into Scotland led by the traitorous George, 1st Earl of Dunbar and Henry “Hotspur” Percy. This had left many Border towns and villages in flames until Archibald, 4th Earl of Douglas, husband of King Robert III's daughter Margaret, had chased the perpetrators off.
The Scots retaliated with a series of raids over the Border and looting Carlisle. However, following one such foray a contingent of 400 Scots was confronted and defeated at Nisbet in Berwickshire by Dunbar and a large force of English soldiers.

14th September 1402 Battle of Homildon Hill (sometimes called Humbleton Hill)
This was the outcome of yet another pillaging foray by the Scots into England led by the 4th Earl of Douglas. On this occasion they were intercepted and overwhelmed on their return by an army led by Hotspur and Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, himself. Douglas was among the prisoners

Grave Slab of Gilbert de Greenlaw, Bishop of Aberdeen, slain at the battle of Harlaw in 1411
Grave Slab of Gilbert de Greenlaw, Bishop of Aberdeen, slain at the battle of Harlaw in 1411

24th July 1411 Battle of Harlaw
Essentially this was a clan battle fought near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire between the Gaels of the West Coast and the Highlanders of the East Coast. When the Duke of Albany, acting as Regent in Scotland, annexed the earldom of Ross, Donald, Lord of the Isles, marched on Ross with 10,000 followers. Having captured Dingwall Castle, he turned towards Aberdeen where he was opposed by Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar. A bloodbath followed with Donald retreating back to the Western Isles and there were heavy losses on both sides.

22nd July 1415 Battle of Yeavering
A force of 4,000 Scots invaded northern England while King Henry V was preoccupied at the Battle of Agincourt in northern France. They were decisively defeated on the edge of the Cheviot Hills by 440 men led by Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland.

1436 Battle of Piperdean
Dunbar Castle had been forfeited to the Scottish Crown by the 11th Earl of March and, with the assistance of the 2nd Earl of Northumberland, he made an attempt to win it back from its occupant, William, 2nd Earl of Angus, Warden of the Scottish Marches. Angus received warning of this and intercepted the English army at Cockburnspath in Berwickshire, taking a large number of prisoners.

June 1429 Battle of Lochaber
When James I returned to Scotland from captivity in England in 1424, he determined to bring his northern kingdom under his direct control. Alexander, 3rd Lord of the Isles, was equally determined to assert his rights, in particular his claim to the earldom of Ross. He therefore marched his Highland army up the Great Glen and burned the town of Inverness as a challenge. On his return journey, however, the King's supporters caught up with him near Fort William. In the ensuing battle it appears that various clans such as the Camerons and the Mackintoshes changed sides, and Alexander fled to the islands. He later surrendered to James in Edinburgh and following a period of imprisonment in Tantallon Castle was allowed to go free.

Scottish Battles - Arbroath to Flodden
23rd January 1446 Battle of Arbroath
This was a local dispute fuelled by the dismissal of Alexander Lindsay, son of the 3rd Earl of Crawford, Chief Justiciar of the Abbey of Arbroath, and the appointment of Alexander Ogilvy of Inverquharity in his place. Lindsay was ill-pleased and with 1,000 of his men took possession of the town and abbey. A battle took place and the Ogilvys, supported by Sir Alexander Seton of Gordon, were heavily defeated.

23rd October 1448 Battle of Sark (also known as the Battle of Lochmaben Stone)
This was the first decisive Scots victory over the English for fifty years. When the 2nd Earl of Northumberland led a force into Dumfriesshire, he was decisively defeated at Lochmaben by Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormonde (son of the 7th Earl of Douglas), George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus, and William St Clair, 1st Earl of Orkney.

18th May 1452 Battle of Brechin Muir
A feud between Clan Ogilvy and Clan Lindsay had been ongoing for some time, and yet another confrontation took place at Brechin where the 4th Earl of Crawford, the Lindsay Chief, was defeated by the Ogilvys in an alliance with Clan Gordon, led by Alexander, 1st Earl of Huntly.

1454 Battle of Clachnaharry
This clan battle was fought between Clan Munro and Clan Mackintosh on the banks of the Beauly Firth near Inverness. It was caused by a dispute over the amount of “blackmail”, or toll money the Munros were expected to pay for crossing Mackintosh land with their cattle.
There are varying accounts of what ensued, but it is generally thought that the Mackintosh chief was killed in the struggle. A monument marks the site of the battle.

1st May1455 Battle of Arkinholm
This was an incident in the ongoing conflict between the Royal House of Stewart and the Black Douglases who were considered a threat to the governance of James II. There were, in fact, two Douglas factions: the Black Douglases under the rebellious James, 9th Earl of Douglas, and the Red Douglases, represented by the earls of Angus, and who supported the King.
The fight took place near Langholm in Dumfriesshire. Douglas remained in exile in England, but his brothers Archibald, Earl of Moray and Hugh, Earl of Ormonde were captured and executed. Afterwards, the Black Douglases were attainted.

3rd August 1460 Siege of Roxburgh
Roxburgh Castle, which had been fought over on many occasions by the Scots and the English, had fallen to the English and was destroyed after the 19-year old James II was killed by one of his own cannons exploding next to him. Queen Mary (of Gueldres) raced to the scene with theis son, now James III, to encourage the Scots who were under the command of George, 4th Earl of Angus, and the castle capitulated.

Circa 1464 Battle of Tannach Moor
This was considered an epic confrontation at Wick between Clan Gunn from Caithness against Clan Keith and Clan Mackay from Strathnaver. A dispute appears to have arisen over land claimed by Clan Gunn's allies, the Oliphants, The Keiths won, but it appears that James IV later granted the lands to the Oliphants.

22nd July 1484 Battle of Lochmaben Fair
James III was not the most popular King of Scots, and exploiting the situation, his cousins Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany and James, 9th Earl of Douglas brought a troop of English cavalry into Scotland with the backing of the recently crowned Richard III. They misjudged the situation and when they turned up at the annual Lochmaben Fair in the hope of inciting an uprising, the townsfolk turned against them. Albany escaped while Douglas was taken prisoner and imprisoned at Lindores Abbey where he died four years later.

11th June 1488 Battle of Sauchieburn
A civil war had sprung up around the unpopularity of James III who was confronted by a group of dissident Scottish nobles, supposedly led by his 15-year old son, the future James IV. The battle which took place near Stirling went badly for the King, who was thrown from his horse. Various apocryphal tales surround his death which took place shortly afterwards, but there is no hard evidence to support any of them.

11th October 1489 Battle of Gartalunane
In the aftermath of Sauchieburn, there was considerable unrest among the Scots nobility and near Aberfoyle, the recently crowned James IV had to rapidly suppress a force led by Matthew, 4th Earl of Lennox and the 1st Lord Lyle. Lennox fled to England, while Lyle was later pardoned and restored to his office of Great Justiciary of Scotland.

Circa 1488/89 Naval Battles off Dunbar and Dundee
James IV of Scotland was particularly interested in ships and canon, and determined that Scotland's defences should be state-of-the- art. Scottish waters were often harassed by privateers sent north by Henry VII of England, and on one such occasion five of them were pursued and attacked by Sir Andrew Wood off the coast of Dunbar. The two Scots ships, Flower and Yellow Caravel won the day and the English ships were taken hostage. The following year, Edward VII sent his most able commander Captain Stephen Bull north to capture Wood. On 10th August 1489, Bull surprised Wood, but the latter succeeded in capturing all three of the enemy vessels, taking them to Dundee.

Flodden Field, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898). Gouache and gold paint on paper, 1882
Flodden Field, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898). Gouache and gold paint on paper, 1882






9th September 1513 Battle of Flodden (also known as the Battle of Branxton Moor)
With Henry VIII of England's invasion of France in support of the Holy League, James IV of Scotland was compelled through the terms of the Auld Alliance to invade England to cause a diversion. The English forces were led by Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (later 3rd Duke of Norfolk). James had placed his canon on a hill, but Surrey's forces had mistakenly continued north and, turning around to approach from another direction, rendered the Scots fire power largely useless.
The battle took place in Northumberland, and was the worst military disaster in Scotland's history with the King and virtually the entire nobility of Scotland being killed on the battlefield.
Scottish Battles - Melrose to Glenfruin

24th July 1526 Battle of Melrose
The young James V was being held under the so-called protection of his step-father Archibald, 6th Earl of Angus and various members of the Scottish nobility, and Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch was determined to free him. The King was being escorted from Jedburgh to Edinburgh when Buccleuch attacked the party at what was to become known as Skirmish Hill at Melrose. Buccleuch was injured in the fighting and, with heavy losses, obliged to retreat.

4th September 1526 Battle of Linlithgow Bridge
This was yet another attempt to release the 14-year old James VI from the custody of his step-father Archibald, 6th Earl of Angus. Having fallen out with Angus, who had become her second husband, the Queen Dowager Margaret, enlisted John Stewart, 3rd Earl of Lennox to her cause. Lennox raised an army to march on Edinburgh but was intercepted and his men dispersed at Linlithgow by James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran

24th August 1542 Battle of Haddon Rig
When Henry VIII of England broke with the Church of Rome, he wanted his nephew, James V of Scotland, to follow his example. But when James refused to meet him at York to discuss this, Henry sent an army north to assert his rights as Over Lord. When an English army led by Robert Bowes, Warden of the East Marches, invaded, they were met by the Scots under George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly, near Kelso and soundly defeated.

24th November 1542 Battle of Solway Moss
James V, anxious to assert his advantages after Haddon Rig, mustered a Scots army to retaliate on England, but was met by Sir Thomas Wharton and 3,000 men at Solway Moss. It was not so much a battle as a capitulation. James, who was ill from a fever at the time was at Lochmaben Castle, and withdrew to Falkland Palace in Fife. Within two weeks he had died at the age of thirty leaving only an infant daughter to become Queen of Scots.

15th July 1544 Battle of the Shirts (also known as the Battle of Kinloch-Lochy)
James V had imprisoned John of Moidart, 8th Captain of Clanranald and a dispute arose over who should take over the Clanranald Chiefship. A claim was made by Ranald Gallda, son of the 4th Captain of Clanranald. His mother was a Fraser, and when John of Moidart was released, Ranald took refuge with the Frasers of Lovat. Clan Donald supported by Clan Cameron then raided Fraser lands but were checked by George, 4th Earl of Huntly. The two sides met again at Kinlochbervie where Hugh Fraser, 4th Lord Lovat, the Master of Lovat, and Ranald Gallda were killed in battle. Tradition has it that in the intense heat of that summer day, the Highlanders discarded their armour and fought in their shirts.

27th February 1545 Battle of Ancrum Moor
Towards the end of his life, Henry VIII of England became increasingly determined that his son Prince Edward should marry the infant Mary Queen of Scots, and thus the two kingdoms embarked upon the period which became known as “The Rough Wooing.” Under the command of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, a substantial English army was sent north in 1544 to force the Scots to comply, and succeeded in burning Edinburgh and much of southern Scotland. The following year, the combined forces of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran and Archibald, 6th Earl of Angus took the English army led by Sir Brian Layton by surprise and scattered them, taking over 1,000 soldiers prisoner.

10th September 1547 Battle of Pinkie Cleugh (Black Saturday)
After Henry VIII's death, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, was appointed Duke of Somerset and Protector of the Kingdom, and continued to press for a marriage between the ten-year old Edward VI and the five-year old Mary Queen of Scots. Somerset advanced his army into Inveresk, near Edinburgh, and was met by the Scots under the command the 1st Earl of Arran, the 6th Earl of Angus, and 4th Earl of Huntly. It is estimated that over 5,000 Scots were killed, and as a result the infant Queen Mary was rapidly smuggled out of the country and sent to France where she was betrothed to the Dauphin, son and heir to the French king Henry II.

18th April 1548 - 14th September 1549 Siege of Haddington
After the Scottish Parliament had convened at Haddington to endorse the sending of Mary Queen of Scots to France, the English seized and occupied the town. For the following eighteen months it was bombarded by Scots and mercenary canon while its occupants did their best to remain alive. Eventually the plague, which was sweeping southern Scotland at the time, persuaded the Duke of Somerset to evacuate his troops, leaving Haddington in ruins.

15th June 1567 Battle of Carberry Hill
When Mary Queen of Scots married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell as her third husband, many of Scotland's Protestant lords who had previously supported her were incensed. By then, the majority were convinced that Bothwell was responsible for the murder of Mary's second husband, Lord Darnley. A month later, the Queen's supporters were challenged near Musselburgh, with Mary being taken prisoner and Bothwell escaping. Mary was imprisoned at Loch Leven Castle and the following month forced to abdicate.

Mary, Queen of Scots Escaping from Loch Leven Castle, William Craig Shirreff (1786 - 1805). Oil on canvas 1805
Mary, Queen of Scots Escaping from Loch Leven Castle, William Craig Shirreff (1786 - 1805). Oil on canvas 1805

13th May 1568 Battle of Langside
After escaping from her confinement at Loch Leven Castle in Fife, Mary Queen of Scots soon rallied her followers, but was opposed by her half-brother, James Stewart, the Regent Earl of Moray, who led an army to confront her in Renfrewshire. A cross section of the Scottish nobility still supported her, but as it transpired the ensuing battle only lasted forty five minutes with the Queen's supporters being dispersed. Mary and her contingent rode to Dundrennan Abbey in Galloway from which she departed to England, never to return.

3rd October 1594 Battle of Glenlivet
The catholic George Gordon, 6th Earl of Huntly, with a force of 2,000 supporters routed a force of 10,000 commanded by the protestant Earl of Argyll. The battle represented a victory of artillery and horse over irregular infantry.

7th February 1603 Battle of Glenfruin
According to tradition, two Macgregor clansmen had sought shelter in Colquhoun territory and slaughtered a sheep for food. When seized and brought before Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, the Colquhoun Chief, they were put to death. In retaliation, Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae, the Clan Gregor Chief, rallied four hundred men and marched on the Colquhoun stronghold at Luss. Although the Colquhouns largely outnumbered the Macgregors, they were decimated.

Scottish Battles - Tippermuir to Cromdal

1st September 1644 Battle of Tippermuir
The Scottish Government, having embraced the Covenanter Cause, entered the English Civil War and, as a result, King Charles I appointed the ever loyal James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose, as his Scottish commander. Montrose thereafter embarked upon a triumphant campaign in which he and his followers were often heavily outnumbered. Assisted by his Clan Donald henchman Alasdair MacColla and his Irish soldiers, he engaged with a substantial Government army near Perth and strategically routed the enemy, who were led by Lord Elcho and James Murray of Gask.

13th September 1644 Battle of Aberdeen
After his victory at Tippermuir, Montrose marched his men on Aberdeen, but the town's civic leaders refused to surrender. Montrose's drummer was killed by a sniper which sufficiently angered him to order an attack, whereupon the Covenanters were defeated and fled.

2nd February 1645 Battle of Inverlochy
Having returned from a recruitment drive on the west coast, Alasdair MacColla persuaded the Marquis of Montrose to attack the clan lands of the Marquis of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell and leader of the Government in Scotland. On his approach, however, Montrose received information that the Campbell forces had joined the Covenanting army at Inverlochy. Instead of taking his men on the direct route past Loch Lochy, he therefore decided to go over the mountain range of Allt Na Larach to Glen Roy, where his men were unlikely to be seen. It was an amazing feat of physical achievement resulting in their taking the enemy entirely by surprise, In the ensuing slaughter, the climax of which was a Royalist charge, over 1,500 Covenanters were killed.

James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, Willem van Honthorst (1594 - 1666). Oil on canvas c. 1647
James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, Willem van Honthorst (1594 - 1666). Oil on canvas c. 1647

9th May 1645 Battle of Auldearn
Having attempted to capture Dundee, James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose marched his men north where, at Auldearn in Nairnshire, the Covenanter Commander Sir John Hurry attempted to surprise him. The Royalist Scots, however, were not to be defeated, and Sir John, and those of his men who survived, sought refuge in Inverness.

2nd July 1645 Battle of Alford
After the Battle of Auldearn, the 1st Marquis of Montrose continued to raid Highland supporters of the Covenant and, fearing a second attack on Aberdeen, Major General William Baillie, now in charge of the Covenanting army, set out to intercept him. The two armies were of equivalent strength, although the Covenanters had superior horse power. The Royalist army positioned itself overlooking Alford and, in order to attack, the Covenanters were obliged to cross the river. Montrose waited until the enemy horses had crossed, and began his attack while the infantry were mid-stream. In the ensuing carnage, the Covenanters lost three quarters of their foot soldiers.

16th August 1645 Battle of Kilsyth
His resignation having been rejected by the Covenanting leaders, Major General William Baillie wasted no time in supplementing his army with a fresh intake of soldiers. When Montrose was advised of enemy reinforcements being supplied by Lord Lanark, brother of the 1st Duke of Hamilton, he decided to move between the two forces. Baillie sought to confront Montrose at Colzium, and once again over three quarters of the Covenanter troops fell in the ensuing carnage.

12th June 1648 Battle of Mauchline Moor
This minor confrontation was fought between covenanters opposed to the Engagement and government forces. Although there were remarkably few casualties, the day was won by the Royalists who were led by John Middleton, later created Earl of Middleton, and James Livingston, Earl of Callendar.

17th - 19th August 1648 Battle of Preston
A Scots army under the 1st Duke of Hamilton, who had switched allegiance from the parliamentary party to Charles I, invaded England and, although greatly outnumbering the enemy, was defeated by Oliver Cromwell in Lancashire. Hamilton was taken prisoner and later executed.

27th April 1650 Battle of Carbisdale
The execution of Charles I by the English Parliament reverberated around Scotland while his exiled son Charles II embarked upon a political game. He appointed the 1st Marquis of Montrose his Captain General and Lord Governor of Scotland while at the same time negotiating with the Covenanters.
Using Kirkwall on Orkney as his base, Montrose sent Major General Sir John Hurry, who had previously opposed him, but who had now joined the Royalist supporters, across the Pentland Firth to Thurso. Montrose followed later with several hundred Scandinavian mercenaries, expecting several of the Highland clans to rally to his side, but they did not. At Carbisdale, the Royalist army met the Covenanter army under Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Strachan, and were overwhelmed. Montrose escaped the battlefield, but was betrayed a few days later. He was taken to Edinburgh where he was sentenced to death and executed. On 1st May, Charles II disowned Montrose when he signed the Treaty of Breda in the Netherlands. Having accepted the Protestant Faith, he landed in Moray on 23rd June to sign the Covenant.

Cromwell at Dunbar, Andrew Carrick Gow (1848-1920). Oil on Canvas 1886
Cromwell at Dunbar, Andrew Carrick Gow (1848-1920). Oil on Canvas 1886

3rd September 1650 Battle of Dunbar
Infuriated by the Scottish parliament's negotiations with Charles II, the English parliament ordered Oliver Cromwell to invade Scotland, with John Lambert as his second-in-command. The English army crossed the Border in July, but the Scots at first adopted a scorched earth policy. In September, convinced that the English were planning to retreat, the Scottish commander David Leslie marched on Dunbar where he planned to intercept Cromwell's men. Cromwell, suspecting this, re-positioned his men at night and the following day won a resounding victory south of the town.

3rd September 1651 Battle of Worcester
On 1st January 1651, Charles was crowned King of Scots at Scone and, with the Scottish Covenanting army now supporting him, he circumnavigated Cromwell's army to march south into England. When English Royalists failed to rally to his cause, he was overwhelmingly defeated at Worcester. Charles then went into hiding before escaping to France and exile in Holland.

20th July 1651 Battle of Inverkeithing
After Dunbar, Cromwell and his army moved north into Scotland but were checked by David Leslie at Stirling. To overcome this, Cromwell gave instructions to General John Lambert for a naval invasion of Fife across the Firth of Forth from South Queensferry. Once it had landed, the Scots were driven back and overwhelmed.

19th July 1654 Battle of Dalnspidal
A force of clansmen from Clan Gregor was raised in support of the Royalist Cause by the 9th Earl of Glencairn. In July, under the Earl of Middleton, it was confronted by Sir Thomas Morgan, the Lord Protector Cromwell's Commander in Chief in Scotland, near Loch Garry on the Drumochter Pass. Faced with superior numbers, the Royalist soldiers rapidly dispersed.

26th November 1666 Battle of Rullion Green
Following the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the Scottish Government revealed plans to restore Episcopacy which caused outrage among its Scottish Presbyterian supporters. In the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh, a small party of rebellious Covenanters were intercepted and massacred by the Royalist General Tam Dalyell of the Binns. Over 1,000 prisoners were incarcerated in the churchyard of Greyfriars in Edinburgh.

1st June 1679 Battle of Drumclog
On hearing that a large Conventicle of Covenanters (a Presbyterian religious service held out-of-doors) was to be held near Kilmarnock Hill in Ayrshire, the Episcopal James Graham of Claverhouse, who had been appointed to put down such seditious gatherings by Charles II, set off to disperse them. His dragoons, however, became stuck in wet marshland and suffered significant losses.

22nd June 1679 Battle of Bothwell Brigg
James, Duke of Monmouth, natural son of Charles II, was the commander of a government force which, despite being heavily outnumbered, succeeded in dispersing the Covenanter army in Lanarkshire. Assisted by James Graham of Claverhouse (later created Viscount Dundee), this effectively dismembered the Covenanting movement, but failed to put a stop to the outlawed Conventicles.

22nd July 1680 Battle of Airds Moss
While a party of Covenanters led by the Reverend Richard Cameron was at worship near Cumnock, they were surrounded and slaughtered by a troop of Dragoons.

August 1688 Battle of Mulroy (otherwise known as the Battle of Maol Ruadh).
A territorial battle over the district of Lochaber which took place near Spean Bridge between the tribal conurbation of Clan Chattan, led my Lachlan Mackintosh of Torcastle, and Clan Cameron and the MacDonalds of Keppoch. A Commission of Fire and Sword had been issued against Keppoch, but when Mackintosh supported by Kenneth Mackenzie of Suddie attempted to reinforce it, they were strongly repelled by a force which included the MacMartins, a sept of Clan Cameron.

27th July 1689 Battle of Killiecrankie
The invasion of the Protestant William of Orange and the exile of the Catholic James VIII (II of England) had divided Scotland politically. While the majority of the Catholic and Episcopalian Highlanders remained loyal to the Royal House of Stuart, the largely Presbyterian Lowlanders of Scotland welcomed William and his Protestant wife Mary, James VIII's daughter. When William and Mary landed in England, James Graham of Claverhouse (now Viscount Dundee), rode north into Perthshire to raise a Highland army in support of the Jacobite Cause. The Government army was commanded by General Hugh Mackay of Scourie and, marching to relieve the siege of Blair Castle, the two armies met at the Pass of Killiecrankie. The Government troops were routed and dispersed, but Viscount Dundee was killed in battle.

21st August 1689 Siege of Dunkeld
In the aftermath of Killiecrankie, a violent skirmish took place at Dunkeld which ended in virtually the entire destruction of the town. Government troops under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William Cleland, a survivor of Drumclog and Bothwell Brig, occupied the town, and were fiercely attacked by the remnants of Dundee's army. It was a savage confrontation which ended when the the exhausted Highlanders fell back from whence they came.

1st May 1690 Battle of Cromdale
Near Grantown-on-Spey, a large Government army under Sir Thomas Livingston, Commander of the garrison at Inverness, encountered the Jacobite army under General Buchan. The Jacobites comprised soldiers from Clan Donald, Clan Cameron, Clan MacLean, Clan Macpherson and Clan Grant under Colonel Cannon, but were surprised with a cavalry attack and dispersed into the surrounding hills.

Scottish Battles - Preston to Culloden
Following the death of James VII & I in 1701, the claim to the British throne was taken up by his son, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, who became known as “The Old Pretender”. With the death of Queen Anne in 1701, and the British throne passing to the Elector of Hanover, who became George I, there was widespread disaffection. The Old Pretender had been in correspondence for several years with John Erskine, 22nd Earl of Mar and, in 1715, with the unpopularity of the Hanovarian Government in the ascendancy, called upon him to raise the Highland clans. By September, Mar had raised 8,000 men.

9th-14th November 1715 Battle of Preston
A Jacobite army under Brigadier William Mackintosh of Borlum crossed the Firth of Forth and marched south to join up with a force raised in Northumberland. The Highlanders were reluctant to cross the Border, but were reassurance that they would be welcomed. This was not the case and finding themselves surrounded by the Hanovarian army at Preston, they surrendered.

13th November 1715 Battle of Sheriffmuir
The Jacobite army led by the Earl of Mar was attacked near Dunblane by the Government army led by John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll. Although Argyll's forces withdrew, both sides claimed victory. The following month, The Old Pretender landed at Peterhead, but finding enthusiasm among his supporters at a very low ebb, returned to France.

The Battle of Glenshiel, Peter Tillemans (1684 - 1734). Oil on canvas 1719
The Battle of Glenshiel, Peter Tillemans (1684 - 1734). Oil on canvas 1719

10th June 1719 Battle of Glenshiel
A force of Spaniards accompanied by William Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Seaforth, George Keith, 10th Earl Marischal, and the Marquess of Tullibardine, son of the 1st Duke of Atholl, landed in Scotland to support the Jacobite Cause. They established themselves at Eilean Donan Castle where they were joined by Rob Roy Macgregor, Clan Macrae, Cameron of Locheil and Lord George Murray. When Eilean Donan came under fire from five Royal Navy ships and captured, however, it was found to have been largely abandoned. At nearby Glenshiel, the Government forces confronted the Spaniards and the Jacobites, but when the support that the Jacobites had been promised from the Lowland Scotland failed to arrive, they scattered.

His father having appointed him Prince Regent, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, “The Young Pretender”, raised the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan on the Scottish mainland to rally the Highland Clans. With men from Clan Donald and Clan Cameron, he marched on Edinburgh and took up residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

21st September 1745 Battle of Prestonpans (also known as Battle of Tranent or Battle of Gladsmuir).
With news of the Jacobite occupation of Edinburgh, Sir John Cope, Commander of the Government army in Scotland, rallied his soldiers at Dunbar and marched north towards the Capital. The two armies met at Tranent and, as dawn broke, Cope's dragoons were destroyed by a Highland charge. It took only ten minutes for the Government army to be totally overwhelmed.

23rd December 1745 Battle of Inverurie
With the intention of putting a stop to Jacobite recruitment, John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudon, Hanovarian Commander-in-Chief in the Highlands, sent a force of MacLeods, Grants and Munros to confront Lord Lewis Gordon and his Jacobites at Aberdeen. Finding themselves greatly outnumbered, they were driven them back into their own territory.

17th January 1746 Battle of Falkirk Muir
Having retreated from Derby, the Jacobite army reached Glasgow in January 1746, and moved on to lay siege to Stirling Castle. Meanwhile, the English Commander Lieutenant General Henry Hawley had brought his army from Newcastle to Edinburgh and came face-to-face with the Jacobites at Falkirk. The Government troops were massacred, but the Jacobites failed to press home their advantage. Hawley was soon able to re-group his army in Edinburgh.

15th April 1746 Battle of Littleferry (sometimes known as Battle of Bonnar Bridge)
Soldiers sent by the 3rd Earl of Cromartie, a Jacobite supporter, had attacked Dunrobin Castle, forcing the 17th Earl of Sutherland to flee. The Jacobites assumed they had won the day but, on marching off, were attacked and taken prisoner by the Sutherland men.

16th April 1746 Battle of Culloden
The last battle to be fought on British soil, the Battle of Culloden brought to an end not only the 1745 Jacobite Rising, but the old Highland way of life.
In January 1746, Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, younger son of George II, arrived in Scotland in January 1746 to take command of the Government army. In the meantime, his cousin, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, had based his Jacobite army near Nairn, close to Inverness. The battle was fought on bleak moorland in driving rain, contrary to the advice of Lord George Murray who rightly insisted that the marshy ground made the traditional Highland Charge extremely difficult.
In the event, the Jacobite army was routed. Afterwards, Jacobite supporters throughout the north of Scotland were ruthlessly hunted down and slaughtered. Prince Charles Edward Stuart, however, escaped, and spent the following five months as a fugitive before taking ship to France from Borrodale on the Island of Skye.

History of the Scottish Kilt
Highland mercenaries in the service of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden during the 30 years war.
Highland mercenaries in the service of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden during the 30 years war.


by Brian Wilton, Director, Scottish Tartans Authority. Copyright © 2023 Scots Connection Kiltmakers, Huntly.

“The garb is certainly very loose and fits men inured to it to go through great marches, to bear out against the inclemency of the weather, to wade through rivers, to shelter in huts, woods and rocks on occasions...”

From the language one can guess that we’re not talking about our ambassadorial Tartan Army on its way to a European football fixture but of earlier times - 1747 to be exact and the comments refer to that quintessential forerunner of today’s kilt - the Féileadh mór . . . the philamhor . . .the great kilt . .. the Scottish garment seen in drawings and portraits of chiefs and clansmen, of statesmen and soldiers over a period of at least a couple of centuries.

Made of up to 11 metres (12 yards) of single width cloth, cut in half and then sewn down the long edge, the ubiquitous great plaid was worn with - and then replaced - the traditional saffron robes of the 15th and 16th centuries - the wealthier inhabitants of the Highlands being the first to convert to tartan. Single width cloth (70cm / 27.5 inches) was the norm at that time and reflected the limits of the hand-weaver’s reach when throwing the shuttle from side to side.

Over the decades many thousands of tourists have applauded the demonstrations of just how the Highlander donned his philamhor: first laying his broad leather belt on the ground and then covering it with his plaid and carefully pleating the lower end of it. Then lying face upwards on it so that the bottom edge reached between the middle of his thighs and his knees. Then he would pull the flat bits of the plaid around his waist forming a kind of skirt and fasten the belt to hold it all in place. When he stood up, the bottom part of the plaid would look almost like today's kilt and the spare material would hang from his waist down to the ground. Then he would gather up the spare material, bunch it around his waist and hang the surplus over his shoulder. To keep it in place he would fix it to his shirt or jacket with a large silver bodkin ( a kind of pin) or a round brooch often decorated with precious stones.

As a piece of heritage theatre this goes down very well but as a slice of historical fact, it leaves more than a little to be desired! Finding such floor space in a tiny croft (one end of which was often inhabited by animals) would be nigh impossible, as would popping outside to lay on the ground amongst the mud, chicken droppings and other domestic detritus. If circumstances dictated a hasty exit (approaching redcoats or rent-seeking landlord) then any such dressing routine would have been unthinkable.

History of the Scottish Kilt Page 2
Highlander wearing the Philamhor belted plaid.
Highlander wearing the Philamhor belted plaid.

Only in the last few years has written evidence come to light to prove what historians suspected had to be the case, and that is that loops were sewn into the philamhor through which the belt (or if they were on the inside, a cord) would be threaded and the philamhor hung on a peg for the night. Donning the garment was then no problem and the lack of precisely folded pleats would not have bothered the Highlander one jot. Were he higher up the social scale then evidence suggests that his pleats would have been permanently sewn into the plaid.

Out in his natural environment of hill and moor, the Highlander’s philamhor was the Johnnie a’thing of outdoor clothing. Just by folding and tucking he could engineer pockets galore that would hold game birds or rabbits, tools or weapons and any other essential items. In hot weather the top could hang down off the shoulders and be tucked into the belt; in inclement weather the spare fabric formed the forerunner of today’s ‘hoodie’ and sheltered the wearer from wind, rain and snow.

The Highlanders were the hardiest of individuals and sleeping outdoors in all weathers and seasons was frequently the norm. Cocooned in his trusty philamhor, the Highlander could be as cosy as if wrapped up in a modern 15 tog duvet. Unlike a duvet user, if there was an icy wind blowing or snow in the air or on the ground, the Highlander would immerse his philamhor in a stream or lochan, whereupon the wool fibres would swell and form a near impenetrable barrier to the elements. It’s also reported that in sub zero conditions he would do the same which would result in the formation of a protective skin of ice on the outside of the philamhor whilst he, with his warm, moist breath, would remain snug inside.

Colonel Stewart of Garth in his zippily titled 1822 work Sketches of the Character, Manners and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland tells that in the historical novel Memoirs of a Cavalier, Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame) wrote of the Scots army in 1640:

"I observed that these parties had always some foot with them, and yet if the horses galloped or pushed on ever so forward, the foot were as forward as they, which was, an extraordinary advantage. These were those they call Highlanders; they would run on foot with all their arms and all their accoutrements, and kept very good order too, and kept pace with the horses, let them go at what rate they would."

Garth then went on to say: “This almost incredible swiftness with which these people moved, in consequence of their light dress, and unshackled limbs, formed the military advantage of the garb, but, in the opinion of the Lord President Forbes, it possessed others, which he stated in a letter, objecting to its abolition (in 1747), and addressed to the Laird of Brodie, at that time Lord Lyon for Scotland.

‘And it is to be considered, that, as the Highlanders are circumstanced at present, it is, at least it seems to me to be, an utter impossibility, without the advantage of this dress, for the inhabitants to tend their cattle, and go through the other parts of their business, without which they could not subsist, not to speak of paying rents to their landlords.’"