The Jacobites supported the exiled Catholic Stewarts, the ancient Royal family of Scotland, who lost the throne with the deposition of James VII of Scotland (James II of England) in1688. Jacobites, often with the support of France, tried to reclaim the Scottish and English thrones through military action for first James and then his son Charles (Bonnie Prince Charlie), in a series of Risings between 1689 and 1746. James was known as the Old Pretender and Charlie as the Young Pretender. The repercussions of the failure of these Risings led to military suppression of the Highlanders (tartan and bagpipes were made illegal) and ultimately led to the ethnic cleansing of the Highlands through the Clearances. Thousands of our kith and kin left Scotland for Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand……were your ancestors among them?
The two key events of Jacobite history for Stirling were the 1715 Battle of Sheriffmuir and the 1746 siege of Stirling Castle. The ‘15 was funded and led by the Earl of Mar whose ancestor had built Mar’s Wark, Stirling’s magnificent late medieval Renaissance Mansion and who lived in nearby Alloa Tower. On November 13th 1715 at the Battle of Sheriffmuir, 7000 Jacobites were trying to get to Stirling to capture the crossing point over the Forth and thus control Scotland, however, they were cut off at Dunblane by 3500 Government troops and neither side triumphed and the Rising ended.
Start your visit at the MacRae Monument. Drive to Dunblane, at the roundabout on the B8033 follow the sign for Sheriffmuir along Glen Road and at the top of Glen Road turn left just before the ‘dead end’ signs and follow the road up the hill. Stop at the MacRae Monument which commemorates the fallen from the Battle of Sheriffmuir. You are now on the front line of the battle, the valley in front of you is the Wharry Burn which presented a major obstacle to Government troops as they fled the Jacobite charge. Behind the MacRae Monument along the woodland path is the Gathering Stone, the traditional location where the clans gathered ahead of the battle but more likely to be an ancient standing stone.
The next point of interest is 30 years in the future in 1746 and starts in the Smith Museum in Stirling on Dumbarton Road. The museum has free parking, a very nice restaurant and the oldest football in the world. However, we are here to see the key to the Stirling City gate which was presented to Bonnie Prince Charlie at 2pm on the 6th of January 1746. While the City supported Bonnie Prince Charlie’s ambition to reclaim his ancient birth right, the Castle which was under military control refused and blew up part of the ancient Stirling Bridge to stop the Jacobites travelling north. The Jacobites then built two artillery positions to bomb the castle into submission.
Leave the Smith and walk up towards the Castle, you are now walking through the 800 year old Royal Gardens and past Stirling’s City Walls, which were built in the mid1600s to keep Henry VIII’s forces out of Stirling as he tried to force the young Mary Queen of Scots to marry his son Edward. Walk into the old cemetery, which is well worth a visit and climb to the highest point in the cemetery and visit Ladies Rock, the view is astonishing and on a clear day one of the best in Scotland. It was here on the 7th of January 1746 in the cold and the snow that the Jacobites struggled to build their artillery position. The Castle watched their efforts and let them fire off a few rounds and then let loose all those canons, which you can see from Ladies Rock. The Jacobites were wiped out in half an hour and in the exchange Mar’s Wark, which is to you right, lost its roof!
You are now in the heart of Stirling, and after remembering the fallen, why not do what Bonnie Prince Charlie never achieved……enter the Castle.