Here in the UK, Outlander has finally made it to our TV screens (I’m rewatching episode one as I type!). As tempting as it is to binge-watch on the box — even on a sunny day — how about exploring some of the places and histories that inspired author Diana Gabaldon herself?
Alongside the other Scotlanders travel bloggers, I spent two days weaving through Stirling, Perthshire and Angus on the trail of the country’s Jacobite tales. From bloody battles to closet supporters, this trail is an ideal way to explore Jacobite history (and see some of Scotland’s most stunning historic buildings).
Read more about my pitstops below, discover the full trail here and — if you’re in Edinburgh — don’t forget to pay a visit to the National Museum, where there’s a dedicated and detailed exhibition about Bonnie Prince Charlie and his supporters until November 2017.
Alloa Tower, home of Erskine rebels
Tucked within trees that disguise an adjacent supermarket, Alloa Tower is an unexpected slice of medieval history in one of Scotland’s smaller towns. Not only is this gem the largest surviving stronghold of its type in the country, but its stones contain some rather intriguing stories that you can discover when you step across the threshold.
For centuries the ancestral seat of the Erskines, Alloa Tower — or rather its owner — became embroiled in the Jacobite rebellion when the Stuarts were denied the Scottish throne. John Erskine, the sixth Earl of Mar, actually led the 1715 rising. Don’t just marvel at the obvious Jacobite connections though; make sure you ask the guides to tell you about the lesser-known wives and women of these Jacobites, who suffered mistreatment and abuse at the hands of their men. More information can be found here.
Outlander-famous Doune Castle
A few decades ago it was Monty Python fans who were wearing away Doune Castle’s cobblestones, but now it’s avid Outlander viewers. Even compared to when I first visited last year, Doune Castle has become a well-worn gem in the Scottish tourist circuit thanks to its TV appearances. You might even struggle to get a parking space!
Regardless of the crowds, Doune is impressive. Unlike some ruins, Doune’s been remarkably unscathed through the years and the skeleton of the building can be easily explored, from the kitchen to the royal bedchamber and great hall. During the Jacobite years, government troops held the keys before the rebels overthrew them in 1745. Read more and see visiting information here.
Huntingtower Castle, the hidden gem
A stone’s throw from the A9 highway to Inverness, Huntingtower Castle is an enigmatic and sprawling ruin with its fair share of magical stories. Right now in the height of the Scottish summer, there are some beautiful florals in the fields and flowerbeds that frame this fifteenth-century structure (which used to comprise of two separate tower blocks… And to this day, no-one’s entirely sure why).
Don’t let the delicate plants deceive you, though. In the run-up to its Jacobite connections, Huntingtower played host to the ‘Ruthven Raid’ where young king James VI was held captive for almost a year. Then in the seventeenth century the castle became the birthplace of the Murray brothers who would — in several decades — become embroiled in the Jacobite uprising of 1715. Get further visitor information here.
Killiecrankie, a beautiful battleground
A valley bursting with greenery, slashed boulders and a bubbling river, it’s hard to believe that this idyllic spot was once the scene of a fierce and bloody battle. Nowadays you can wander the quiet trails and discover the area’s history at the adjacent National Trust for Scotland visitor centre but — just a few centuries ago — it was a different story.
As a pivotal pass from the Highlands to the Lowlands, Killiecrankie became the backdrop for the first Jacobite rising and one of the bloodiest defeats for government soldiers in 1689. Despite the alleged bravery of a Redcoat soldier — who leapt 18ft across the River Garry to escape the rebels — the Jacobites ran off with victory. Read more about this beautiful and significant spot here.
House of Dun & its secret symbolism
Designed by lauded Scottish architect William Adam — whose son Robert dreamt up Edinburgh’s New Town — the House of Dun is a splendid and symmetrical Georgian manor. Found within lush Montrose countryside, the grounds itself with their landscaped lawns and wild woodlands are a treat to visit alone… But whatever you do, don’t miss a tour of the house itself.
Dun was built for David Erskine, 13th Laird and a judge employed by the government. However — as you’ll notice in the ornate plasterwork around the rooms — he may have had dubious loyalties to the rebellious Jacobites. Spot the rosebuds, mythical figures and rejection of the crown in the decoration, all symbols of illicit loyalties (this theory isn’t helped either by the fact that David’s cousin from Alloa Tower led the 1715 rising!) Find out about visiting the estate here.
Which spots on the Jacobite Trail would YOU like to visit?
This post was written in collaboration with the National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, National Museums Scotland and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. See more on social media using #jacobitetrailblazer!
Read the other Scotlanders blogs below!
Travels with a Kilt (Neil) — The best castles in Aberdeenshire
Mad About Travel (Patricia) — Ruta Jacobita por Escocia
Kay Gillespie for the Scots Magazine — The new Jacobite Exhibition