Killiecrankie: a walk into some Scottish History
“I went above the pass where I met with another water very deep, it was about eighteen foot over betwixt two rocks, I resolved to jump it, so I laid down my gun and hat and jumped and lost one of my shoes in the jump.”
Those were the words of Government fighter Donald McBean who leapt the raging River Garry at the Pass of Killiecrankie, escaping the victorious Jacobite soldiers pursuing him.
The Battle of Killiecrankie has gone down in Scottish history as a legendary rout by the Jacobites in this first Jacobite uprising in 1689. Unfortunately, they were defeated a month later at the Battle of Dunkeld having lost their leader, Viscount ‘Bonnie” Dundee, to Government forces at Killiecrankie.
Walking along this picturesque wooded gorge now, it’s hard to imagine it being the site of a deadly battle: wood anemones twinkle like stars on the earthen bank, punctuated by the soft yellow glow of primroses; birds chatter in the trees above.
We visited the Pass of Killiecrankie with a group of friends, most of who had small children. From the visitor centre we followed a trail down to Soldier’s leap – where the aforementioned McBean had jumped to safety, albeit with only one shoe – from there we walked along the river for about a mile until we reached a footbridge.
The trail stayed close to the river, the Killiecrankie viaduct towered above us at one point, I bet the trains using this line afford fantastic views for their passengers.
Our little party reached to footbridge and we all took turns checking out the view: only 10 adults are allowed on the bride at one time, a self-regulated safely precaution. I don’t want to tumble down into the black river below, I’ll leave that to the bungee jumpers throwing themselves off the adjacent, gorge-spanning, Garry Bridge (who weren’t to be seen while we were there).
We turned around and slowly meandered back to the visitor centre, little legs were getting weary, passing the Balfour Stone: a recumbent stone marking the grave of Brigadier Balfour (Government) who was fatally wounded during the Battle of Killiecrankie.
The rain had stayed off and we had all enjoyed the walk.
Killiecrankie is just south of Blair Atholl where we had spent the May Day Bank Holiday weekend camping, on the Blair Castle Caravan Park. We were comfortable and cosy in our new van/truck/Thunder, everyone else braved the inclement weather and camped under canvas.
It was a great opportunity to spend some time in the van, testing out the electrics and living space. The day before we’d stopped off at Ikea, driving up to Scotland from Yorkshire, and I’d bought new bedding and a few bits and bobs to make living in the van easier.
We learned that the central heating in the camper unit sure does live up to all expectations: it was so warm and cosy, we had to open the windows a few times! It made a great refuge for sodden, cold children and a precious, princess dog!
The campsite is great for families, the kids enjoyed exploring and it is in a fabulous location: Blair Atholl is just a short drive up the A9 from Pitlochry.
Have you explored this bit of Scotland?
By Rachel A Davis
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