Saturday, 18 April 2015

Culloden Battlefield Site

We're just back from 5 days in the Highlands, so I'll be posting a bit about that.

Yesterday, we went to visit the Culloden battlefield site.  It's somewhere I've always wanted to go but have been put off by the amount of walking.  This time, no walking needed!

I checked the accessibility information on the website before we went.  Like a number of sites, they have mobility scooters available, as well as wheelchairs (which were the typical heavyweight ones found at such sites - fine for someone being pushed).  I asked the very helpful member of staff at the desk about the accessibility and she said the paths should all be OK, so I decided to try it with my wheelchair.

First off was the indoor exhibition.  There are sloped areas inside the building, but they are fairly gentle and weren't difficult to negotiate.  The entrance and car park is below the level of the battlefield site, which has a positive effect when you're up on the battlefield itself, so the slopes seem justified and they're well done.

The displays are excellent and easy to see from wheelchair height.  There are interactive elements which the boy liked and an immersive cinema that puts you in the middle of the battle, which was a big hit with him.  At the end is a display of weapons from the battle and he spent about 20 minutes looking at them.  Thanks to some re-enactors from Canada and New York, he got to try a couple of them out.

And then it was out onto the battlefield itself, in our case armed only with GPS enabled audioguides.  

The paths are gravel, but well compacted and fairly smooth - even in April and at the end of a fairly wet week.  The site is not as flat as it first looks (using a wheelchair makes you reassess your definition of "flat"!)  But I made it the whole way round.  The boy gave me a couple of "boosts" (I think he's using Mario as an analogy here!) on some hills, but I didn't really need them.  There was one very small section, by the Well of the Dead, which felt a wee bit tippy, but I made it up that on my own so it can't have been too bad.  


It's a large site and we chose to walk the longer route round (but we didn't walk any of the side paths, which lead to memorial stones).  Google tells me it's a distance of about 2km and includes the areas that the National Trust for Scotland have been returning to moorland - as they would have been in 1746.  

This route takes you along both the Jacobite and Government Lines (marked by blue and red flags respectively) and past most of the main memorials, including the cairn shown at the top of the post.  It was clear there had been some fans of Outlander (which just arrived on TV here) visiting recently, as the Fraser memorial was the only one with wee stones on the top, though some others had flowers (we visited the day after the anniversary of the battle).


It was by the cairn that I hit the only real problem with access - a section of path that had been resurfaced mere minutes before (there was a tractor there when we started our walk) and hadn't had enough footfall to compact it.  Luckily, the surround grass had been compacted so I could wheel across it instead.  I did get a bit stuck first, though - you can see my attempts to get across on just back wheels before I gave up! 

The last section took us past the Well of the Dead and the audio guide didn't satisfy the boy's curiosity about it.  Not sure I did either.  

Finally, it was time to bribe the boy so I could get a picture with me in it - this is outside Leanach Cottage, which is the only building on the site which dates from before the battle (Culloden House itself is about 3km away). 

All in all we had a great visit and I was really impressed at how they have managed to make an outdoor, historic site accessible.  A couple of bits would have been easier with something like a Freewheel (particularly the soft sand by the cairn as it was my front wheels that got stuck.  I plan to buy a Freewheel when I have some spare money, but it wasn't essential at Culloden.  

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