A visit to the Old High Church in Inverness
Having lived in Inverness for nearly two decades I thought that I had seen pretty much everything there is to see in the Highland Capital and nothing much could surprise me – how wrong I was!
At a recent meeting I decided to take my lunch break outside, as it was such a lovely, sunny day and found myself at the Old High Church in Church Street in Inverness. I had heard that there was a lot of history at this site and decided to find out more.
The Old High Church is the oldest church in Inverness and is located on the banks of the River Ness on an ancient hill called St. Michael’s Mount. It is thought that there has been a church at this site since St. Columba first came to Inverness to convert the Picts to Christianity (and also became the first person to record a sighting of the Loch Ness monster!).
But it is the Old High Church’s graveyard where you can still find a direct connection to the times of the Jacobite Uprising in 1745/46. At the battle of Culloden in 1746 the Jacobite army was defeated by government forces and the Old High Church was one of the places where Jacobite prisoners were taken after the battle. A plaque in the churchyard explains that those prisoners condemned to death were executed in the churchyard itself. Near the West door of the church you can see two headstones, one with a groove in the middle and the other directly opposite some distance away – the condemned prisoner had to sit on this stone while the executioner’s gun rested in the groove of the other stone. Standing there on a bright summer’s day listening to the happy sounds of buskers in Church Street and visitors wandering along the River Ness it’s hard to imagine such a dark time in Highland history!
With the popularity of the “Outlander” TV series there has been a lot of interest in Jacobite sites around Inverness and Loch Ness and this site is surely a must-see. Anyone interested in Jacobite history will of course want to visit Culloden Battlefield itself – you can visit the battlefield free of charge and explore the memorial cairn, clan graves and flags marking the positions of the Jacobite and government lines on the day. The visitor centre offers a lot more detailed information and also an audio guide to the site, which is very informative.
Well-known or hidden – Inverness’ historic Jacobite sites give you a fascinating insight into one of the most turbulent chapters in Highland history.