‘Ah yes,’ she sighed. ‘We did Culloden yesterday. Waste of a morning, really. It’s just a moor. But did you try the coffee with Drambuie?’
Is there something perverse in me that preferred Culloden when it truly was ‘just a moor’?
Culloden is a bleak spot on the sunniest of days. On that April morning in 1746 when Bonnie Prince Charlie’s men lined up, bellies empty, feet wet, it must have seemed a particularly hopeless place. The simple grave markers are a reminder of what followed. An hour or two of carnage. Bodies stripped by looters of anything of value and tumbled into mass pits. The pressed Highland clansmen, the Irish and the French in the Jacobite army, and the Duke of Cumberland’s well shod Royalist infantrymen. They were all far from home, whichever cause they died for.
Imagine though if some seer had said to them, ‘in the future, 250 years from now, people will come walking over your grave. “Nothing much to see here” they’ll say, and then they’ll go into a building, over there, to buy a wee teddy bear in a kilt and get a toasted sandwich.’
The disquiet I feel when I visit these places is vaguely akin to what I feel about the way children are taught history today. Modules. The juicy bits. The marketable elements. They are essentially those episodes of history that can be turned into a field trip. And if it’s just a boring old moor with a few wonky grave markers, never mind. You can always bring home a Battle of Bannockburn baseball cap. Why do they sell Bannockburn merchandise at Culloden? Well, it’s all Scotland isn’t it? And the gift-wrapped Prosecco and chocolate truffles? No, you’ve got me there. I wonder if it's a big seller?
I was discussing all this with an acquaintance who was involved in the search for the body of Richard III.
The Drambuie coffee though, I will agree, is very good indeed.