Bannockburn is a famous battlesite where Robert the Bruce defeated the English in the 1400s. We have a romantic suspicion that the Hays we descended from were given their land in the area after this battle as a reward for fighting for the Bruce. But that wasn’t the reason we were visiting Bannockburn.
Three years ago I met the guys who were designing the visitor centre here, as I was researching battlefield interpretation for the First World War project my company worked on recently. They had shown me some visualisations and described how it was to be a multi-user 3D computer game. I had been dying to see how it turned out, so that was the real reason for the visit.
And wow. It is an immersive, 3D, game-based experience that uses amazing animations and projections for battlefield recreations. The visiting group plays the roles of all the armies in the battle. It is run by a gamemaster, and works for all ages. We absolutely loved it and I think it really does show the way that history can be gamified.
This was the drive to Stirling.
There is nothing to say really, we were just in awe.
The drive was a little bit scary..
We stopped a few places along the way including Pitlochry where Ant lived and worked 20 years ago. We went up into the hotel and he looked around all his old haunts. He was a bit worried that a girl who moved there for him 20 years ago might still be there waiting. He was actually serious.
The scenery was incredible – it had only been a day of snow but it made the trip magic. What wasn’t quite so magic was arriving in Inverness to find that the Culloden Visitor Centre was closed, and so was the Family History Research place we had planned to visit.
But anyway, we trudged through the battlefield in the snow – stood on the site where over 800 scots were slaughtered, and then the rest were either hung, run off their land, or progressively moved out of the Highlands by clearing of the land for sheep farming.
That was 1746, and so now the journey is back down to Armadale, to find Drumbowie farm where we think the Hays ended up after Culloden.
We spent the night at Mat and Marie’s in Glasgow, got snow-bombed by Michael and Euan and then headed off into the Thundersnow. This was the name for the weather system arriving through the UK. It wasn’t actually that bad at all, it was just some snow. We planned to get to Inverness that day, but would make a call once we got to Pitlochry depending on the conditions.
We are heading to Inverness because as far as we can tell the Hays didn’t settle onto farms in Armadale, our final destination, until around the 1780s. So our theory is that after the battle of Culloden, they were driven off their land and ended up as tenant farmers. Our plan is to work out a bit more of the story and also find the ruins of the farmhouses. And to survive the Thundersnow.
Finding Loxy and getting her up to Scotland
Seeing Loxy for the first time was quite a moment. I arrived at Nene Overland by taxi and was dropped off amidst maybe fifty Landrovers all parked along two rows. I walked along looking at each one, searching for the number plate. I found it, and I looked up. She looked at me. We were made for each other. To add to the chemistry we were both in identical outfits.
The plan now is to drive up the country, meet Ant in Glasgow and then explore some family history sites, perhaps with some whisky tasting along the way.