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Beautiful and Bloodthirsty

Travel | October 2015

Edwin Lerne explores Killiecrankie, Scotland.

Killiecrankie: it is such a Scottish name, containing hints of warfare, bad temper and a particular kind of rugged beauty. On impulse, as we were heading northwards from Pitlochry, we turned off the A9 and took the old road up through the valley. We stopped on the bridge to see the Soldier’s Leap and the River Garry, with first views of the Highlands in the distance. The leaves were just beginning to turn and autumn would bring a beautiful golden feast.

The soldier in question was Donald MacBean, who was on the losing side in the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689. Confronted with a horde of dirk-laden Jacobites above him and the valley below, he chose the least-worst option and decided to jump across the river in an adrenaline-fuelled rush which took him eighteen feet over the Garry to safety.

It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Jacobites, however, as their leader, Viscount Claverhouse, was killed by a government soldier’s bullet soon after the fighting started. Deprived of the dashing Bonnie Dundee, the Jacobites were leaderless and unable to capitalise on their success. One of their number was a young man enjoying his first taste of battle, Robert MacGregor, later immortalised by Walter Scott as Rob Roy.

As we admired the view and looked northwards towards the Highlands, I made a crack about bungee jumping being optional. A few moments later a van arrived with ‘Bungee Jumping Scotland’ painted on the sides. Not for us. We continued northwards to admire the hills without risking the heights.


This story was from October 2015 issue. Subscribe Now