Clan Fraser grave at Culloden damaged amid ‘Outlander effect’

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The Clan Fraser grave at Culloden Battlefield is to be sealed off to the public for repairs after the site was damaged by visitors.

The ground around the grave marker has eroded away given “high traffic” to the memorial and bad winter weather.

The Outlander books and televisions series charts the run up  to the Battle of Culloden and its aftermath with fans driving an increase in visitors to the site near Inverness. PIC: Sony Television Entertainment 2018.

The Outlander books and televisions series charts the run up to the Battle of Culloden and its aftermath with fans driving an increase in visitors to the site near Inverness. PIC: Sony Television Entertainment 2018.

The Clan Fraser grave marker, a scheduled monument, has become a popular destination for Outlander fans given clan connections to the key characters in the hugely successful books by Diana Gabaldon and the subsequent television series.

READ MORE: Historian asks ‘are we going to lose Culloden?’

It is included in several Outlander-themed tours with the battlefield experiencing a 28 per cent rise in visitors last year alone.

Now, the grave marker and surrounding area is due to be temporarily roped off to visitors to prevent further deterioration of the site while repairs get underway.

The Clan Fraser grave and damaged ground. PIC: NTS.

The Clan Fraser grave and damaged ground. PIC: NTS.

READ MORE: Culloden Moor, April 16 1746 - the worst place on earth

National Trust for Scotland has applied to Historic Environment Scotland for permission to carry out works to the land around the Clan Fraser grave, which is protected by law.

The application said: “The project proposes to repair visitor damage to the turf surface around the Clan Fraser memorial stone within the area of the Graves of the Clans.”

After repair and replanting work, the site will reopen but will be closed off again during prolonged spells of wet weather to prevent further damage.

The Clan Fraser grave marker before erosion set in. PIC: Flickr/sobolevnrm.

The Clan Fraser grave marker before erosion set in. PIC: Flickr/sobolevnrm.

Katey Boal, interim property manager at Culloden said: “As part of our ongoing maintenance at the battlefield, we’re planning to reseed grass around the Fraser stone.

“High traffic is a factor here, but the wet and cold weather this winter has exacerbated this.”

Last year, Culloden Battlefield welcomed 180,000 visitors with Outlander credited for the rise by tourism and heritage bosses.

The early story charts the run up to the Battle of Culloden and its aftermath, with key character Jamie Fraser played by Scots actor Sam Heughan.

Ms Boal added: “There has been an increase in interest thanks to Outlander. We see this as an excellent opportunity to engage with a new audience, giving these visitors a deeper insight into the real-life events that inspired the series.”

Earlier this year, the Jacobite society a Circle of Gentlemen urged Outlander fans to pay more respect when visiting Culloden battlefield amid reports of selfie-taking and picnics at clan graves.

Michael Nevin, chairman of the 1745 Association, which works to safeguard Jacobite heritage and increase understanding of the period, said he would support any conservation of the clan graves.

He said: “Looking at the statistics, there has clearly been a measurable “Outlander effect” at both Culloden and Prestonpans.

“As an economist, I would say this is great in bringing money and jobs into the Scottish economy. Equally, those responsible for the preservation of battlefields and monuments do need to ensure that their historic integrity is not compromised by Outlander fans.

“I think this would be the primary concern of members of our Association.”

Steve McLeish, of Outlandish Journeys, who runs historical tours around sites linked to the books and television series, said: “When you come into the battlefield and follow the Jacobite line, the Clan Fraser grave is the first one you come to. Every one comes up to that one first.

“Fans of Outlander are interested in the Fraser Clan and they are always keen to make that connection. I think you would expect that.

“I take my groups around all the grave stones - we spend equal time at them all - but the Fraser one is the special one for many. People are usually very, very touched to come to Culloden and it is a special thing for them to see the clan graves.”

Hugh Allison is a former manager of Culloden Battlefield and now runs historical tours around the Highlands, including an Outlander-themed trip.

Mr Allison said: “Probably as far back as 2000 there were people coming to the battlefield and asking where the Clan Fraser grave was. It was becoming very obvious that this was something people were interested in.

“Of course, when it goes from book to television and all of the modern media, that is a whole new market open up. Of the tens of millions of people who follow Outlander, a lot of them will want to make their way to Culloden at some point.

“There is a responsibility question and I think that responsibility is double of even triple handed.

“There is a responsibility of the visitor and there should be that attitude ‘leave nothing and take only photographs.

“What people are doing however is leaving a whole load detritus at the stone. It is covered in little tiny stones, for example, but people need to leave it so it can be enjoyed by everyone.

“Tour operators also have a responsibility to remind people not to leave things behind.

“There is also the responsibility of the guardians of the site. They need to be able to anticipate changes to footfall and make allowances for it. Work needs to be done timeously to insure the ground doesn’t become a quagmire.

“Diana Gabaldon is on record as asking her fans to be responsible, so she herself is also being responsible.”

The markers on the battlefield were put in place in 1881. Test show that the battlefield does contain mass graves but it is not believed the markers accurately depict the spots where clansmen lay.