A handful of visitors watched a ceremony at the spot Robert the Bruce is said to have planted his standard the night before he led his troops into battle.
However, more than 15,000 people are expected to flock to the site, on the outskirts of Stirling, this weekend for a series of dramatic re-enactments and a “celebration” of Scottish culture and history. Ten children with roots from different parts of the UK, including England and Wales, took part in the ceremony, which was carried out following a procession – led by a sole drummer – from the new £9.1 million visitor centre to the historic rotunda monument.
The National Trust for Scotland, which organised the ceremony to mark the official date of the battle, also staged a series of free events at the visitor centre, as well as historical tours of the battlefield site, where Bruce was victorious over Edward II’s forces – despite being outnumbered by around three to one.
Speaking at the official ceremony, culture secretary Fiona
Hyslop said: “The Battle of Bannockburn was so important in shaping the future of Scotland, but it also reflects the psyche of Scotland – battling against all odds, a sense of nationhood and a sense of pride. These are reflected through all the generations.”
Ms Hyslop said she was confident this weekend’s Bannockburn Live event – which will feature six recreations of the battle, a clan village and encampments – would be a “fantastic” success, despite the event being dogged by poor ticket sales.
Although 45,000 tickets went on sale for the event last summer, VisitScotland was forced to take over the running of the festival in January amid fears it was heading for a significant financial loss. A planned third day of the event was dropped and the capacity lowered from 15,000 a day to just 10,000, partly due to an unexpected clash with the UK’s main Armed Forces Day event in Stirling on Saturday.
Ms Hyslop told The Scotsman: “Clearly, the Battle of Bannockburn was significant in the history of Scotland, but also in terms of what it represents in terms of loss of life. It’s important to remember that it is a battlefield and thousands of people died.
“In terms of this weekend, when we will have both Bannockburn Live and Armed Forces Day, in different ways they will reflect the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in battle – at different times, for different reasons.”
Sir Kenneth Calman, chairman of the National Trust for Scotland, said: “We are pleased to be joined by youngsters representing many of the peoples who fought here on those fateful days.”
Robert Bruce, 68, had travelled from San Diego to take part in the anniversary events. “I don’t know if I am directly related to Robert the Bruce, but I’ve done DNA testing to prove that I have Scottish ancestors,” he said.