The Battle of Killiecrankie, fought in 1689, has made it into the top ranks of Scottish cultural consciousness. It was the first engagement in the Jacobite revolt, a surprising victory for the outnumbered Highlanders and the place where their leader, John Graham of Claverhouse, was killed and turned into the Jacobite hero, Bonnie Dundee.

It has inspired poems including Sir Walter Scott’s ballad “Bonnie Dundee”, songs, such as Robert Burns’ Braes o’ Killiecrankie, and legend. How many thousands have marvelled at the Soldier’s Leap in the Pass of Killiecrankie?

No surprise then that the Battle of Killiecrankie is now iconic. The slaughter was horrific. Up to 2,000 men were killed in a fast burst of brutal fighting. The Highland army had been lined up along Creag Eallaich, Gaelic for Battle Charge Rock, with Dundee in a central position roughly in front of where Urrard House now stands. They had between 1,300 and 2,000 soldiers. General Hugh Mackay, flanked by maybe 4,000 to 4,600 men, faced uphill, anchored by a stream, Allt Girnaig, on one side and another, Allt Chluain, on the other.

Battle commenced, late in the day with a classic Highland charge. To understand the momentum that the Highlanders had, it is important to note the topography of the slope. The natural terraces that occur – and are still visible – allowed the Highlanders to dip in and out of view of the Government forces as they charged down the hill. That offered an effective shield from musket fire which had a range of possibly 100 metres. Accounts of the action also refer to the effectiveness of the wild roar let out by the Highlanders in terrorising the Government forces. Suddenly the screaming Highlanders came back into view and were upon Mackay’s men. We know that some of the Government troops were so traumatised by the yelling that they turned tail even before battle was joined. battle clans
The fighting was concentrated in the strip of ground between the existing A9 and where Urrard House now stands along to the Girnaig. It is thought that Bonnie Dundee fell here and was taken to the nearby house called Raon Ruairidh that was probably situated on or near where Urrard is now. The early engagement was crucial to the battle, as the Highland charge by the Camerons and MacGregors quickly routed the Government troops on the right flank, thus leaving the rest of the army exposed.

This is where the battle was decided, where most casualties occurred and where people come regularly to commemorate the dead. Many of the natural features which are critical to interpret the battle are here. These will be lost, unnecessarily, under thousands of tonnes of earthworks to create new northbound carriageways.
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