The visitor center had excellent exhibits describing both sides of the story until they merged and became one. There was so much to see and learn ~ from the root causes of the conflict, to the decisions made on both sides, to how the actual weapons used worked, displays of weapons, archaeological artifacts from the battlefield, re-enactments of battle, and at last, the aftermath and how it affected the Scottish people.
I walked the battlefield in company with other members of the tour. It was windy, damp and cold. We talked about how it must have been similar to what we'd heard the Jacobite soldiers had to deal with ~ how they'd walked through the night in the rain and cold, how some had walked for days. Today, there is a large memorial cairn to the memory of all those lost in the battle and markers placed where the different clans fell in battle. Over 1500 Jacobite soldiers fell but only 50 English soldiers.
To the side of the battlefield is this stone cottage, a reconstruction of one that was there during the battle.
I was intrigued by the combination of materials used to build it. Rock, sod and thatch.
To be on the front line of a battle like this was a death sentence. I found myself wondering at how mankind gets themselves in these positions where they feel life is worth sacrificing to these causes ~ knowing that they are likely going to their death.
I thought about how it must have been for the Jacobite soldiers walking across this expansive field, about how they were trying to advance quickly, maybe hoping to survive and what it would be like to slog through bog, stepping over the rough ground, the gnarly heather that in places was thigh high ~ trying to do so quickly to gain advantage ~ then later needing to retreat even more quickly over the same ground.
I thought about these Jacobite men ~ tired, lacking sleep ~ cold and with little to no food in their bellies ~ their wool soaked and heavy. Then about their families at home ~ waiting, wondering ~ did they know they would never see their men again? Did any of them have any idea of the terrible retribution that would follow? The relentless killing, of the starvation and persecution that followed in the days, weeks and years after.
To walk this field and see the exhibits was much more moving than I had imagined. It was fitting to see it during a damp grey day. I think we all felt the weight of it, as the coach was much quieter than usual as we left for our next destination.
Things definitely started to look a little brighter by the time we got to The Glenlivet Distillery! No photos allowed inside the buildings, but you can catch a small glimpse of the tall copper stills through the windows. The air was saturated with the smell of malted grain and whisky!
In the warehouses, the barrels were stacked to the rafters and left to "sleep". The angel's share filled the buildings with scent. The tour ended with a lovely tasting of the Glenlivet whisky of our choice. I had the 18 year old Scotch with it's lovely overtones of sherry!
We drove on towards Deeside, passing Corgaff Castle sitting in a lonely spot on the hills.
Our coach driver, Barry, was terrific at getting the coach through places you'd never imagine a bus could go, like over this narrow steep bridge, without any hint of problems!
At last we ended up along the River Dee, at Banchory Lodge. I loved this cherub statue in the rosebed. It had a poem inscribed around the base:
O'The Red Rose Is A Falcon
And The White Rose Is A Dove
The Red Rose Whispers of Passion
The White Rose Breathes of Love
~ John Boyle O'Reilly
The Banchory Lodge was so peaceful and quiet with wonderful views of the river. A nice place to land after a day of travel.