Race to discover new secrets of Killiecrankie battlefield

Archaeologists looking for fragments of history from one of Scotland’s most famous and important battlefields have launched a new series of surveys of Killiecrankie.

The Battle of Killiecrankie was fought on the 27 July 1689 between a Jacobite army under the command of John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount of Dundee aka ‘Bonnie Dundee’, and a Government army commanded by General Hugh Mackay.

Charge of the Cameron forces at Killiecrankie in which Bonnie Dundee was killed

Charge of the Camerons at Killiecrankie

The armies came face to face at Killiecrankie as both were attempting to reach Blair Atholl to use it as a base for future operations.

The Jacobites had taken up position on the higher ground on the southern slopes of Creag Eallaich and the government forces deployed beneath them at the base of the hill.

For several hours the armies sniped on and skirmished with each other for most of the afternoon and into the evening until around 8pm when the Jacobites charged downhill and broke the government lines.

During the charge Dundee was killed and during the ensuing rout of the Government forces that Donald MacBane claims to have made his “Soldier’s Leap” across the River Garry. The Jacobites are thought to have lost 800 men, with around 2,000 casualties among the Government troops.

The battle is important for a number of reasons, including the first use of grenades in the UK and the first use of platoon firing in Britain.

Re-enactment of the battle by Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Re-enactment of the battle

But now part of the site, which is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland, is in the path of new road works being carried out to improve the main A9 route between Killiecrankie and Glen Garry.

“We have been progressing our plans to dual the A9, including the section between Killiecrankie and Glen Garry which includes the site of the famous battle of Killiecrankie,” said Jo Blewett Transport Scotland’s A9 Dualling Programme Manager.

“We are well aware of the sensitivities around what is an important inventory battlefield and we have been engaging extensively with the local community and key stakeholders since 2012. As the existing A9 already runs through the site of the battlefield, any of the dual carriageway widening options, on the northbound or southbound side, would have some impact on the battlefield.”

It is hoped the new surveys, which are expected to take three weeks, will further improve existing knowledge of the battle between the Jacobite army and Government forces.