On the Trail of Charlie and the Jacobites

Kay Gillespie tries out the newly developed Jacobite Trail across Scotland


My Jacobite adventure saw me cross Lochaber & Argyll, Central Scotland, and Edinburgh & the Lothians. Each site was discovered from the comfort of a Scotrail train or on foot, armed with my camera and trusty plastic sword.

In partnership with Historic Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland, and the Royal Collection Trust, the trail follows in the footsteps of the Bonnie Prince as he made his way across Scotland.

Dumbarton Castle


Arriving at my first stop, I was undeterred by the drizzle at Dumbarton Castle, and quickly made my ascent into the structure. The castle is fascinating, and has the longest recorded history of any fortification in Scotland – dating back 1500 years.

The views down the River Clyde from the highest point – White Tower Crag – are worth the numerous steps to get there.

During the Jacobite uprisings, General George Wade transformed the castle into a military fort for the government garrison.

It was also used to imprison Jacobite supporters, including Aeneas MacDonald; one of the ‘Seven Men of Moidart’ who arrived at Glenfinnan with Charlie in August 1745.


Stirling Castle


I had previously only admired this castle from afar, so I was keen to get up close.

Staged dramatically on volcanic rock, the castle boasts an impressive defence structure, pretty gardens and the largest medieval banqueting hall that the country has even seen. The castle walls have witnessed significant battles, premeditated murders, and the passage of many kings and queens.

Stirling Castle played host to a string of celebrations for the Stuart monarchy, and was once home to Mary Queen of Scots as a child. In 1746 Bonnie Prince Charlie attempt to besiege the castle – albeit unsuccessfully – on his fateful march to Culloden.


Linlithgow Palace


This beautiful ruined palace sits serenely overlooking Linlithgow Loch, and the Scottish weather was kind enough to burst out some glorious sunshine for my visit.

As I ventured inside, an intricate fountain caught my eye, and the perfect panorama from the highest tower was the highlight. Linlithgow Palace was the Stuart’s royal residence, and the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots.

Bonnie Prince Charlie became the last of the royal Stuarts to visit the castle, during his march south to seize Edinburgh in 1745.

Following the brutal Jacobite defeat at Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland and government troops stayed at the palace before continuing their search for remaining Jacobites.

On their departure, the palace went up in flames, although it is thought that it was caused by an unattended fire which spread, and not any malicious spirits.


Edinburgh Castle


The focal point of city’s stunning skyline, Edinburgh Castle is a visual delight for visitors and locals alike. It is unsurprising that the castle has been highly desirable and captured at various times throughout history.

In present day it is the most visited tourist attraction in Scotland, welcome more than one million visitors a year – including travel bloggers with plastic swords.

After King James V11 was deposed from the throne in 1688, the Jacobites attempted to regain the castle on multiple occasions to no avail. Despite his success in capturing Edinburgh in 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie was also unable to lay siege to the castle.



Palace of Holyroodhouse


The palace was home-sweet-home to the Stuart Kings and Queens, some of whom were born and are buried on-site. Mary Queen of Scots was married twice in the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and it was within its walls that she witnesses the murder of her secretary and close friend David Rizzio at the hands of her jealous husband Lord Darnley.

It is of course still a royal residence today; the Queen stays at the palace during Holyrood week. I loved exploring the ruined Abbey and manicured gardens against the backdrop of Arthur’s Seat.

Once Bonnie Prince Charlie successfully seized the city, he set up court at the palace for several weeks, where he held daily council meetings to plan his next steps in claiming the throne for his father. It wasn’t all business however; Charlie ensured he was entertained by hosting balls and receptions in the palace.


Plan your journey on the Jacobite Trail with the dedicated website here, offering pitstop ideas and a map of locations.