Special Places

Pass of Killiecrankie

The Pass of Killiecrankie (Gaelic: Coille Chneagaidh meaning ‘Wood of Aspen’), is a mountain pass between Ben Vrackie and Tenandry Hill and is renowned for its outstanding beauty and natural history. The Pass has been gouged into the landscape by successive ice ages and melt waters. The River Garry flows at the bottom of the Pass over the course of a mile. 

In the past, the Pass of Killiecrankie was notorious amongst travellers as one of the most arduous and dangerous routes in Scotland. In 1680, the last wolf in Perthshire was killed here by Sir Ewen Cameron of Locheil, while in 1689 it was the scene of the Battle of Killiecrankie. This was a battle during the Jacobite uprising between government troops under the command of General MacKay and Jacobite rebels under the command of John Graham, Laird of Claverhouse and 1st Viscount Dundee, often referred to as ‘Bonnie Dundee’ The Government army lost nearly 2000 men to the Highlander’s 800. One who could count himself exceptionally lucky was a redcoat called Donald McBane. He fled back into the Pass with a number of clansmen in close pursuit. He escaped by jumping across the river between two rocks with a cataract running between them. The gap he cleared has since been measured as 18ft or 5.5m wide, and to this day the spot is known as ‘Soldier's Leap’.

The Jacobites won the day, but among their casualties was ‘Bonnie Dundee’, mortally wounded by a musket ball. A short distance north of the village of Killiecrankie there is a standing stone in a field still visible from the road. This is known as ‘Claverhouse's Stone’, and tradition relates that the wounded viscount was sitting against it when he died. While he probably died from a shot in the armpit his armour, preserved at Blair Castle, is shot clean through the middle of the chest. An armpit wound wasn’t a very noble cause of death so the Duke of Atholl had his ghillie shoot the hole, though he clearly aimed from inside the breastplate. Bonnie Dundee was buried in the vault underneath St Bride's Kirk in Old Blair. Without Dundee in charge, the 1689 Jacobite uprising rapidly failed: though it was only the first of a series that would cause conflict across Scotland and beyond until the Jacobites’ final defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Today this bloody episode adds a certain atmosphere and a different dimension of interest to a visit to the Pass of Killiecrankie. There are stories of carriages traversing the road through the pass in the 1800s (and cars in the 1900s) being pursued by ghostly forms; of a red glow appearing over the site of the battlefield; and of some visitors actually seeing the dead still lying where they fell, over three centuries ago…


Picture copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.


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Nearest Town: Blair Atholl
Nearest Postcode: PH16 5LF

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This entry was added by: Highland Perthshire Limited