Inventory Battlefield

Battle of SheriffmuirBTL17

Date of Battle: 13 November 1715

Status: Designated


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Designation Record and Full Report Contents

  • Name
  • Summary Information
  • Overview and Statement of Significance
  • Inventory Boundary
  • Historical Background to the Battle
    • The Armies
    • Numbers
    • Losses
    • Action
    • Aftermath and Consequences
  • Events and Participants
    • Context
  • Battlefield Landscape
    • Location
    • Terrain
    • Condition
  • Archaeological and Physical Remains and Potential
  • Cultural Association
    • Commemoration and Interpretation
  • References


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
NN 81036 2861
281036, 702861

Overview and Statement of Significance

The battle of Sheriffmuir is significant as the only major engagement in Scotland during the 1715 Jacobite Rising. The battle was a chaotic affair, with the outcome very much debatable, but it was sufficient to bring an end to the rising. It is also involves one of largest Jacobite armies ever fielded in Scotland, with only Falkirk in 1746 exceeding it.

After the death of James's eldest surviving daughter, Queen Anne, in 1714, the throne was taken by George of Hanover, leaving the House of Stuart with a weakened claim to the throne. The Earl of Mar began a renewed uprising with the raising of the Scottish standard in September 1715. After gathering their forces in Perth the Jacobites advanced southward, sending a separate force into England via Edinburgh. Mar's army met the Government's smaller force on the high ground to the east of Dunblane. The outcome of the battle was to be inconclusive, with both sides claiming victory. However, Mar's failure to secure a decisive victory and take control of central Scotland meant defeat for the uprising. This was further secured the following day by the surrender of the Jacobite forces in England. The arrival in Scotland of the deposed James Stuart in December could not turn the tide and the 1715 Rising ended with the exile of Mar and the execution of a number of key English Jacobites. Although the Jacobites were beaten, they were unbowed and the next rising happened just four years later.

Inventory Boundary

The Inventory boundary defines the area in which the main events of the battle are considered to have taken place (landscape context) and where associated physical remains and archaeological evidence occur or may be expected (specific qualities). The landscape context is described under battlefield landscape: it encompasses areas of fighting, key movements of troops across the landscape and other important locations, such as the positions of camps or vantage points. Although the landscape has changed since the time of the battle, key characteristics of the terrain at the time of the battle can normally still be identified, enabling events to be more fully understood and interpreted in their landscape context. Specific qualities are described under physical remains and potential: these include landscape features that played a significant role in the battle, other physical remains, such as enclosures or built structures, and areas of known or potential archaeological evidence.

The Inventory boundary for the Battle of Sheriffmuir is defined on the accompanying map and includes the following areas:

  • Land to the east and south-east of Kinbuck village and the south bank of the Allan Water. The probable location of the Jacobite camp and the direction of their advance.
  • Land to the north of Sheriffmuir Big Wood. The approach route of the Jacobite army.
  • Lands to the east and north-east of Dunblane. The direction of the approach of the Government troops. The main route was probably along the old west/east road running from Dykedale and Kippendavie which survives as a path.
  • Sheriffmuir Big Wood and lands to the south and east including The Linns and lands surrounding Sheriffmuir Inn. The area of the initial fighting.
  • Lands to the south and west of The Linns including Waltersmuir Wood and the Wharry Burn. The direction of the rout of the Government left and the Jacobite's pursuit as determined through archaeological fieldwork. This includes the south bank of the Wharry Burn which has high potential to contain graves associated with the battle.
  • Lands to the north and north-west of Sheriffmuir Inn. The direction of the rout of the Jacobite left and the pursuit by the Government troops.

Historical Background

The Jacobite army, which numbered some 7,000 men, was led by the Earl of Mar, while the Government army, numbering around 3,000 men was led by the Duke of Argyll.

The battle was essentially an encounter action, where the two sides meet on ground of which neither was fully certain. However, both sides had been in readiness for battle since the previous evening, when the Jacobites camped to the east of the Allan Water and the Government army slept in battle formation to the north of Dunblane, expecting the Jacobites to attack from the north.

On the morning of 13 November, a reconnaissance party, including Argyll, climbed up on to the moor to view the Jacobite army below and to the north. This move precipitated the advance of a strong party of Jacobites, under George Keith, up the slope which led onto the moor from the north. In the mistaken belief that the Government reconnaissance marked a wholesale shift of the army onto the moor, word was sent back to the main Jacobite host, which promptly shifted from line into four columns and began a rapid advance up the slope. This march appears to have been somewhat disordered and when the columns attempted to change back into line, upon reaching the top of the hill, the cavalry which should have been deployed on the left ended up in the Jacobite centre, where it was to play no significant role in the ensuing battle. One reason for this failure to deploy on the left may have been the presence of an extensive morass or marsh which is mentioned in both Jacobite and Government accounts. Although it had frozen over night the wet ground still provided an impediment to movement. The Jacobite left appears to have become compressed against this feature, to the extent that the men here were deployed 15 deep.

In the meantime the Government army marched across the Jacobite front without noticing the true location of the Jacobite right, as it was concealed in a hollow way. When it came to a halt, the Government line was seriously outflanked on its left by the Jacobite right. The Government right may have overlapped the Jacobite left but this is less certain. Before the Government line was put in order, having turned to the left to face the Jacobites, who were oriented east to west, the Jacobite right attacked the Government left. After discharging volleys of musketry the Jacobites charged and put the Government left to flight. The Jacobites, including Mar among their number, set off in pursuit and a running fight ensued in the direction of Dunblane to the west and Stirling to the south. There is a colourful eyewitness account of red coated soldiers fighting back to back on the midden mound at The Linns, a farmstead over half a mile to the south-west of their original position. All of these men were killed. With the Jacobite right and centre departed from the field, the left, which lacked cavalry protection, was put to flight by dragoons on the Government right. The pursuit was joined by several regiments of Government infantry, which included Argyll and Wightman. The Jacobites made a fighting retreat, with a number of skirmishes interrupting their progress down the hill, back in the direction of their initial advance.

The pursuit of the Jacobite left was only broken off when the Allan Water was reached, with some Jacobites drowning as they tried to cross. As the day drew to a close the victorious Jacobite right, which had no idea of the fate of the left, returned to moor, where the only troops remaining on the field were the cavalry. In the meantime the Government right returned from the Allan Water and took up position in enclosures below the moor. With evening drawing on, neither side wished to re-engage, and the Government force was allowed to march back to Stirling unmolested, while the Jacobites returned to Perth. Casualty rates are uncertain but the Jacobites may have lost around 400 men, killed, wounded or captured, and the Government army somewhere in the region of 500.

Although neither side could claim victory, the Battle of Sheriffmuir was effectively a Jacobite defeat on strategic grounds. They had engaged a much smaller Government force and yet failed to cross the Firth and take control of the central belt, which included the towns of Stirling and Edinburgh. It is possible that had Mar chosen to press home an attack late in the day he may have been able to break what was left of the Government force, but he was not a decisive leader, with one Jacobite going as far as wishing 'for one hour of Dundee' a reference to the Viscount Dundee, John Graham of Claverhouse, the leader of the first Jacobite uprising killed at the battle of Killiecrankie in 1689.

The Armies

The Jacobite force was a mixed body of Highlanders and Lowlanders, with the main body composed by the former. Both came from different military traditions and these were to be displayed on the battlefield, with the charge by the Highlanders on the right and the delivery of volley fire by the Lowlanders on the left flank. Many of these troops had no previous experience of combat. Additionally, Mar was not an experienced military commander and relied on advice from a small group of trusted senior officers, several of whom had seen service on the continent. In contrast, the smaller Government army was relatively well experienced and comprised both Scottish and English units, and in Argyll they had a seasoned commander.


Government: The Government army consisted of over 3,000 men, which has been defined as 960 dragoons with 2,200 infantry (Reid 1990).

Jacobite: The Jacobite army was far larger, estimated at 807 horse with 6,290 foot. However, the quality of the troops was far lower than the seasoned veterans on the Government side.


Although accurate figures are hard to obtain, it would appear that both sides lost between 300-400 dead, though casualty figures for the Government side seem to be the proportionally higher of the two, with perhaps as many as 1,000 killed captured or seriously wounded, giving a 40% loss of effectives (Argyll's official return was 500 killed or captured). Government estimates list 700 killed or captured, while Mar claimed 60 dead. The total was undoubtedly higher and it has been claimed the Jacobites may have lost as many as 1,500 killed, captured or seriously wounded, which would stand at a 17% loss of effectives (Szechi 2006).


A battle map of 1715, which alas is missing the part with the actual battle on it, shows the Jacobites arrayed in two lines on Kinbuck Moor close to their camp on the eastern bank of the Allan Water, which was some 3-4 km to the north of Dunblane. Dotted lines then show their route up onto the moor to the south-east.

The climb onto the moor was precipitated by the presence of Government troops on the high ground, which Jacobite scouts believed to be the entire enemy force. In order to remove this threat to his left, Mar ordered Keith to lead a portion of the Jacobite force, including some of the cavalry and the MacDonalds, up onto the moor. This movement was observed by Argyll, who had climbed up onto the moor from his camp in Dunblane with a reconnaissance force in order to monitor Jacobite movement to the north. Now fearing that his right was under threat, he ordered his entire army, which was arrayed in line on the low ground in front of Dunblane, to turn to the right and march up onto the moor to block the Jacobite advance. The army marched from the west and arrived just in time to find the Jacobites trying to order their lines.

The Jacobite reconnaissance had only got part way up the hill when they observed the Government army on the move, and so in response, the entire Jacobite army was ordered up. The move had required the Jacobites to shift from line into column and then back into line again once they reached the moor, a complicated move even for a well drilled and highly trained army, but for the Jacobites it made for a confused final deployment. The initial two lines, with horse on the right of the first line and left of the second, had the western clan regiments in the first and the northern clans in the second, along with the Lowlanders. These two lines were split into four columns for the advance up hill, at the top of which Keith's troops were already formed. By the time the remainder of the army was arrayed in a single, rather disordered line, the cavalry were split between the centre and the right. The situation was further complicated by the presence of a large moss or marsh, on the Jacobite left. Under normal circumstances this may have been put to some advantage but with the lack of knowledge about the terrain and the confused and hurried arrival of the Jacobites, it appears to have proved more of a problem than an asset.

The night before, movement on the moor would have been nigh on impossible, at least for cavalry, due to the generally wet nature of the ground, but a hard overnight frost provided a firmer footing. Despite this, eyewitness accounts explain that the moss was still very difficult to negotiate, with at least one Government soldier being unhorsed as his mount became mired in the mud.

The constraints placed on the positioning of the army certainly suggest that the Jacobites only just made it to the top in time to face the Government army and did not have the luxury of manoeuvring themselves into a more suitable position. This situation is described in several accounts from both sides. Sinclair, who stood with the Jacobite army, described the movement thus:

'on our first coming we saw the enemie's colours and screu'd bayonets all marching in haste towards our left alonge our front, within two hundred yards of us ..'

Argyll himself writes:

'I marched by my right so fast, as to get my Right very soon over against their Left, which they put to a morass''

Colonel Harrison, a Government officer, gives a similar picture:

'As the right of our army came over against the left of the rebels which they had put to a morass, his Grace finding that they were not quite formed, gave orders to immediately fall on, and charged both their horse and foot.''

As soon as the Government right, which was at the head of the column in march, crossed the front of the Jacobite left, it went on the attack. The Jacobites, who were reported here to be standing 15 deep, delivered at least two volleys, which pushed back one of the Government dragoon squadrons (Evans). However, a charge by the Scots Greys, who had disengaged from the Government right and moved well out beyond the Jacobite left flank, put the disordered line into flight. The left and centre fell back and commenced a retreat all the way back to the Allan Water, stopping every now and again to make a stand against their pursuers before falling back once more. In joining the pursuit with the right, Argyll quickly lost sight of his left. It was only when he was informed by his infantry commander on the right, Major General Wightman, that he had no idea what had happened to the rest of the army that Argyll realised his army was divided into two, with one half potentially in trouble. In response, he broke off contact close to the Allan Water, though not before a fierce fight had taken place on the river bank.

Indeed, disaster had befallen the Government left, as the Jacobite right, which in any case outflanked it, launched a charge before they were ready to receive it. It would appear that as the Government army crossed the Jacobite front the right wing went unseen as they were positioned in a hollow way, which may have been an old mill leat shown a map of 1766 and a late 18th century estate map, both of which also show the location of the marshes very clearly.

The Highland units almost immediately turned the Government regiments before them. Despite attempts by Lord Torphichen, who was in command of a reserve dragoon squadron, to rally the men and make them stand and fight, the Jacobite advance remained unchecked and the Government left was soon streaming from the field. For many, the rout did not end until they had reached the safety of Dunblane or Stirling.

Mar also broke off his own pursuit, perhaps because he did not feel confident enough to enter Dunblane, and made his way back to the moor, where units of cavalry from both sides had been left isolated and uncertain of what action to take as the maelstrom of battle abandoned them. The Jacobites regrouped on Kippendavie, while on the low ground Argyll and around half his force took up defensive positions behind a series of dykes and for a while it looked as though the Jacobites meant to assault this position. Had they done so they may well have been successful as they far outnumbered Argyll, though their well defended position may have evened out these odds ' added to this the men of both sides were by now exhausted and had probably lost the will to fight on. As the light began to fail, however, Argyll was able to shift unmolested to Dunblane and the Jacobites moved north to Ardoch.

Aftermath & Consequences

In tactical terms, Sheriffmuir was a far from decisive engagement. Large proportions of both armies were chased off the field by their opposite numbers, causing the battle to break down into a number of straggling, running fights. Argyll and Mar joined in the pursuits executed by their successful right wings and in doing so displayed total disregard for what was happening to the rest of their armies back on the battlefield. Mar can perhaps be forgiven for this as he was not a veteran soldier, but Argyll should have known better. Mar's greatest error came late in the day, when he failed to take advantage of Argyll's much reduced force ' though it is possible that his opponents defensive position behind dykes and walls made the proposition a less attractive one than historians tend to think, and his men were also exhausted. Whatever the reasons, in allowing Argyll to return to Dunblane unmolested and withdrawing his own force to the north, he effectively threw away his chance of accomplishing one of the campaign's major aims ' to cross the Forth and take control of Stirling and then Edinburgh (a smaller Jacobite force had already failed to achieve the latter on its way to join English Jacobite forces at the border).

Despite its rather untidy outcome there can therefore be little doubt that the battle had great historical significance. Strategic failure by the Jacobites allowed the Government to quickly reinforce its badly denuded forces in Scotland and also led to a haemorrhaging of deserters as clansmen returned to their homes (maintaining a force in the field for an extended campaign was a serious problem for Jacobite commanders through the entire period of the uprisings). Combined with defeat of the Jacobite force in England at Preston, Sheriffmuir resulted in the failure of the 1715 uprising.

Events & Participants

Following the death of William III, who reigned with Mary, the eldest daughter of James VII & II, in 1702 the crown went to Anne, James's eldest surviving daughter and the last of the Stuarts to reign. Her death without issue in 1714 caused a constitutional crisis which was only settled with the coronation of George of Hanover as King George I.

With the last chance of a peaceful Stuart restoration gone, the Jacobite cause was taken up by the Earl of Mar, a Tory favourite of the late Queen Anne who found no favour with George. He raised the Jacobite standard at Braemar on 6 September and an army was quickly mustered from Highland clans staunchly loyal to the Stuart cause. After further recruitment in Perth the Jacobite army marched south, whilst the Government army moved north from Stirling to Dunblane.

Mar's subsequent failure to cross the Forth and take control of central Scotland, coupled with Jacobite defeat in the north of England, marked the end of the fighting. Things had gone so badly for the Jacobites that even the arrival of the exiled James (the son of James VII & II) from France could not turn the tide and with his return to France in January 1716 the Rising came to an end.

The Duke of Argyll was a staunch supporter of the Government and fought for the British army in the War of Spanish Succession under the Duke of Marlborough. He was commander-in-chief of British forces in Spain in 1711 and Governor of Minorca from 1712. He supported the Hanoverian succession in 1714, and was rewarded after Sheriffmuir and the collapse of the Jacobite rising by being made Duke of Greenwich. In 1742, shortly before his death, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army.

Figures of national importance who fought in the battle include Mar and Argyll, but also a number of prominent personalities who were to go on to be involved in later Risings. On the Jacobite side there was James Keith, who was also to fight at Glenshiel in 1719, was a teenager at the time of Sheriffmuir but would go on to the position of field-marshal in the Prussian army and become a close friend of Frederick the Great, while Alexander Gordon of Auchintoul was a General in the Russian Army. James elder brother George Keith, tenth and final Earl Marischal would also go on to serve in the Prussian forces in the years after Sheriffmuir. Another Jacobite supporter was Alexander Forbes, 4th Lord Forbes of Pitsligo, a noted writer who would also take part in the 1745 rising at the age of 67. Rob Roy MacGregor and his men had accompanied the Jacobite army, but they did not take part in the battle, at the time being in the vicinity of Cromlix. Several notable individuals on the Jacobite side were killed in the battle, including MacDonald of Clanranald and John Lyon, the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.

Major General Wightman was also present on the Government side, who was to go on to command the victorious Government army at Glenshiel. The most notable person to die on the Government side was Lord Forfar.


The 1715 Jacobite Rebellion, sometimes referred to as the 'Great Rebellion', represented the third and by far most serious threat to the Government and crown since the usurpation and exile to France of James VII & II by William and Mary in the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688. It did not take long for the supporters of James, who called themselves Jacobites after the Latin for that name, to take up arms in Scotland on behalf of the 'king across the water'. The first rebellion, pursued while James was fighting his cause in Ireland, erupted in 1689 and saw a resounding Jacobite victory against the forces of Government at the battle of Killiecrankie on 29 July of that year. Unfortunately for their cause, however, the Jacobite commander, John Graham of Claverhouse, was killed in the battle. The rebellion came to an inglorious end on the slopes of Cromdale on 1 May 1690, while James was to suffer at the hands of an army led by William of Orange at the Boyne on 1 July and final defeat at Aughrim on 12 July.

Defeated but unbowed, James returned to France to hatch new schemes with his French hosts, but with his death in 1701 it was left to his son, also James (the Old Pretender to his foes or James VIII & III to his supporters), to pick up the gauntlet. These labours were to bear fruit in the wake of the Union, when in 1708 a French fleet carrying 5,000 troops and the young James, set sail for Scotland, where they intended to land on the Fife coast and join with a Jacobite army. The fleet was intercepted by the Royal Navy, however, and abandoning all hope of a successful landing, the French fled the confines of the Firth of Forth and the scheme was abandoned.

The next opportunity was also to coincide with a major shift in the balance of power with the death in 1714 of Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch to reign, and her replacement by George of Hanover. With all hope of a peaceful Stuart restoration lost, the mood was ripe for further unrest. This was further fomented when the Earl of Mar, who had served both William and then Anne, was denied Royal favour by George, in part for his Tory affiliations. Effectively ostracised, Mar returned to Scotland and in his chagrin raised the Stuart royal standard at a gathering of the clans at Braemar on 6 September 1715. In return, James, who probably only learned of Mar's intentions after the event, showed his favour by appointing him his commander-in-chief and raising him to the Duke of Mar. Thus, the 1715 uprising was set in motion.

The Jacobites took Perth without struggle and there the army grew, and by October Mar had well over 7,000 men under his command, with more still coming in to join him. On the Government side, it was left to the Duke of Argyll, who unlike Mar was an experienced soldier, to put down the uprising. Taken somewhat by surprise, the Government army in Scotland at the time totalled only around 3,500 men and Argyll's calls to London for reinforcements were largely ignored as the threat within England was seen as a priority. This was realised late in October when some 2,000 Jacobites under MacIntosh of Borlum, joined with a force of English Jacobites at Kelso, though not before they had failed to take Edinburgh Castle on their way south. The English campaign was to be confined to the north as the Jacobites tasked with rising for James in the south-west were either arrested or fled before they could be. The combined Anglo-Scottish force got as far south as Preston before circumstances forced it to stand and fight. The battle in reality was a short siege and lasted from 12 November to 13 November. After putting up a stiff resistance, the Jacobites were forced to surrender on the very same day as the battle of Sheriffmuir would seal the fate of the cause in the north.

Battlefield Landscape

The exact location of the initial encounter of the two armies on the moor has been a long standing debate. Recent archaeological investigation in 2006 has given a more accurate impression of the location of the battle. Key here has been the identification of the morass or marsh which is mentioned in a number of eyewitness accounts as marking the location of the Jacobite left. Following the recent archaeological survey, which combined historical accounts, map research and metal detecting; there is little doubt that this wet ground was the area of three interlinked marshes located to the north-west of where the Sheriffmuir Inn now stands. The information gathered from the survey suggests that the battle unfolded across the landscape as follows:

The Jacobite army marched from Perth via Ardoch and camped on the east side of the Allan Water on the night before the battle, somewhere to the north-east of Kinbuck. The Government army marched from Stirling and spent the night camped on ground just outside the town of Dunblane, with their line oriented east to west, anticipating an attack along the floor of the glen to the north.

On the morning of the battle, Argyll and some of his officers rode onto Sheriffmuir, the high ground to the east, from where they reconnoitred the Jacobite army below. By this time, the Jacobites were manoeuvring into battle formation, with the lines facing those of the main Government army several miles to the south. However, the Jacobites saw the Government party on the high ground and in reaction sent up a force to take a closer look. Before reaching the summit of the moor, this group reported back that the entire Government army was moving to a position of strength on Sheriffmuir, from where they could outflank the Jacobite right. The Jacobites therefore made a rapid march up the gentle slope onto the moor, shifting from line to column in order to do so. Accordingly, the Government army, which had not been shifting wholesale onto the moor, now did so as it was clear that the Jacobites were on the move and would soon be threatening their right from the high ground. The Jacobites fell into some disorder in their advance and ended up with the left flank bereft of cavalry support and trapped up against a morass on the moor. This morass is marked on several 18th century maps and was located to the north-west of the 19th century Sheriffmuir Inn, and where the ground is still very wet today. The cavalry which should have been protecting the left ended up in the centre of the line, while the right did have cavalry support. The Jacobite army at this point was oriented roughly east to west across the wide terrace onto which they had climbed.

In the meantime, the Government army marched up onto the moor from Dykedale and Kippendavie, probably using an old road running west to east. The Government line simply turned to the right from its position on the low ground and marched up in extended line, with what was to be the right at the head of the column and the left at the rear. The Jacobites achieved the summit first and were trying to shake themselves out into some sort of order, shifting from four columns into a battle line, when the Government army marched across their front. The Jacobite right appears to have gone unnoticed during this march, as it was concealed in a 'hollow way', possibly an old mill leat (lade) shown on 18th century maps.

The Government march did not halt until the right had outflanked or at least come level with the Jacobite left. The fact that the Government army was considerably smaller than the Jacobite meant that the Government left was dramatically outflanked by the Jacobite right, which appears to have been concealed. The Government line then turned to the left to face the Jacobites but before they were entirely in position the Jacobite right launched its attack. The Government left was quickly turned and pursued to the south and west by the Jacobite right.

The archaeological survey identified battle related artefacts, in the form of musket balls, horseshoes and other objects, in the open fields which fringe the forestry, both to the west and south-west of the initial encounter site, including the fields where the farmstead of The Linns was located (where a private house now stands). These finds relate to the flight of the Government left and the pursuit by the Jacobite right.

The Jacobite left, however, had also been chased off the field by the Government right. Although the morass on the Jacobite left provided some protection from a flanking attack, the Jacobite troops on this part of the field were pressed up against the morass, which was in any case partially frozen and so not entirely impassable for dragoons on the Government right. Other Government troops may have moved around the morass to the east in order to enter into the pursuit of the Jacobite left off the hill to the north and west. Finds made in the paddock to the west of the Sheriffmuir Inn appear to relate to the Government attack on the Jacobite left.

The battle was fought on the high undulating moorland of Sheriffmuir. Sheriffmuir is located on a high plateau at the western end of the Ochil Hills. The gently sloping land drops down to the banks of the Allan Water to the north and west. Although the landscape of the moor has been altered through the planting of areas of commercial woodland, enclosure and drainage of marshland, key landscape features and views are largely intact and it appears that the overall character of the battlefield survives. The topography of the moorland, which played a key role in the battle, is well preserved in places as open farmland and moor and the approach of the Jacobites up the slopes from the north to the higher ground is clear.

The greater part of the location at which both armies faced one another prior to launching their flank attacks is currently covered by coniferous forestry plantations, some of which date back to the 19th century. This forestry masks the topography of the core of the battlefield and prevents key views out across the moorland to be gained. The remainder of the land within the Inventory boundary is generally free from development and the potential for surviving archaeological evidence is high.


Until recently, secondary accounts have generally placed the initial deployments and action over a mile to the south-west of the Ordnance Survey and NMRS records for the battlefield, which at Sheriffmuir is usually taken to be the place at which both armies encountered one another to give battle. There has been some disagreement over the exact location, however, and also the orientation of the opposing lines. One of the earliest works to include a map of the battle shows north to south alignments (MacKay 1898), and this general orientation was followed by Seymour (1979) and Smurthwaite (1993), though the latter's lines are far too extensive for the size of armies, and indeed stretch off the moor and part way down the hill to the north (a prime example of the problems associated with writing the history of a battle without visiting the ground over which it was fought). Seymour (1979), on the other hand shows the deployments considerably further to the east than other authors, though still well to the west of the OS site. More recently there has been a move to shift the orientation of the lines to east to west, as demonstrated by Reid (2004), Inglis (2005) and Szechi (2006), though again they differ as to the exact location. This orientation is in keeping with the findings of a recent archaeological survey which combined historical accounts, map research and metal detector survey (Pollard 2006). Unfortunately, the area indicated by this study as the battlefield core has over the past century or more been covered with commercial forestry.

However, metal detector survey in fields outside the forested areas has revealed battle debris related to the Government attack on the Jacobite left and the Jacobite pursuit of the Government left. Most of the evidence related to the latter, with musket balls, horseshoes, buttons and other battle related debris scattered across the fields to the south and west of the MacRae monument and in the vicinity of Linns, which itself figures in an account, collected in the 19th century, of redcoats being put to the sword on the midden mound of the farmstead (Monteith 1887). Some suggestion of fighting on the Jacobite left was found in the form of a few musket balls, buttons and a shoe buckle in fields immediately to the west of the Sheriffmuir Inn.


Commercial woodland has dramatically altered the appearance of the moor since the time of the battle. In 1715, the moor was treeless ' though Roy's map from the 1750s shows some tree planted parks on the lower parts of the moor to the west and a small stand of trees on the approximate battle site. Site survey and historic map analysis has re-located the site of the bog which influenced the location of the Jacobite line ' it appears on the 1766 map and on later estate maps as the Black Moss of Cairnstoun (there were actually three probably interlinking areas of moss here) and is also suggested on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map, which shows numerous burns running out of the area occupied by the moss (though not the moss itself), and which at the time had still to be planted with trees. Today, this area, to the north-west of the Sherrifmuir Inn (built in the early 19th century), is occupied by woodland but in many places the trees stand in several feet of water as the area has retained its boggy character (recently a wide corridor of trees was removed from this area for the very reasons previously described ' this clearance has given a very good idea of the extensive nature of the terrace over which the initial stages of the battle were fought).

No sign of the old mill leat shown on the 1766 map, and which may have concealed the Jacobite right from view, has been located ' it may have been entirely removed by forestry. However a more recent leat, also shown on the 1766 map and later estate maps, can still be seen and has recently been re-cut as a field drain.

Eyewitness accounts collected in the 19th century (Monteith 1885) make mention of a farmstead at Linns, where a number of red-coated Government soldiers were killed by Jacobites on the midden of the house. Linns still exists today, though a new building replaced earlier remains in the 1980s. A number of battlefield artefacts were found in the fields surrounding the buildings and these are thought to indicate the route of the retreat of the Government left and their pursuit by the Jacobite right.

A number of features on the battlefield or close to it enjoy legal protection. A concrete and steel replica of the German Atlantic wall and the associated trenches and bunkers used for D-Day training in WWII is located to the north-east of the battlefield and has been designated a Scheduled Monument. Also scheduled are the standing stone to the east (White Stone) and the stone row to the north-west. The Sheriffmuir Inn is a listed building, as is the MacRae monument.


A large part of the battlefield is covered by forestry plantations ' though at least some of the ground over which the opposing left flanks retired are still clear of trees and on the basis of previous work (Pollard 2006a) may accommodate battle debris, possibly as far away as the eastern banks of the Allan Water. It is uncertain what damage afforestation and associated management works may have done to the battle archaeology ' though work at Culloden suggests that this will have been severe (Pollard forthcoming).

Archaeological & Physical Remains and Potential

19th century accounts mention a variety of finds from the moor, including pistols and swords but no artefacts are extant and their provenance is unproven. Local traditions say that bodies were encountered by soldiers digging latrine pits during World War II on the banks of the Wharry Burn to the south of the farm at The Linns. This location would not be at odds with reports of Government troops being killed around The Linns, nor with finds of battle debris from its environs (Pollard 2006).

Sheriffmuir is one of relatively few Scottish battle sites to have benefited from archaeological survey. Metal detector survey in 2006 guided by information gleaned from the contemporary accounts and maps revealed a pattern of battle debris, including musket balls, buttons, horseshoes and other material, relating to the retreat from the moor of the left wings of both armies. Unfortunately, however, it seems likely on the basis of this work, that the position of both armies as they faced one another prior to the attacks was planted with conifer trees in the 19th and 20th centuries. Where the tree plantations give way to open fields, archaeological survival is relatively good with scatterings of battle debris located to the east of the Sheriffmuir Inn and to the south and east of the Macrae monument in the vicinity of Linns.

The 'Gathering Stone' is a prehistoric standing stone located within Sheriffmuir Big Wood. It is said to have marked the spot where the Jacobite army raised its standard prior to commencement of the battle. Following the recent archaeological survey the stone's location may indeed coincide with the approximate position of the Jacobite right. According to local tradition the stone was broken by navvies working on the railway in the mid 19th century after falling out with locals. The stone is marked on the 1766 Commons map but is labelled on that as the 'Karling Stone'. Crossed swords marking the supposed site of the battle are also shown on the map, not far to the south-east of the stone.

Surrounding the stone are linear trenches and circular depressions which are likely to relate to the military training exercises which took place on Sheriffmuir during WWI and WWII. The linear features have been visually identified from their typical characteristics by archaeologists as practice trenches with possible collapsed dugouts attached and the deep, circular depressions as probable shell holes.

The location of the initial encounter is largely obscured by coniferous tree plantations, which in some cases date back to the 19th century. It is uncertain what impact this forestry will have had on buried archaeological remains; other battlefields in Scotland similarly covered with forestry have yielded very few artefacts from modern archaeological survey.

A feature probably relating to the Government advance is the road which appears to have carried the bulk of Argyll's army up onto the moor from its initial positions at Dykedale and Kippendavie near Dunblane. This road has been preserved as a footpath which climbs up the hill from the town and terminates at the Macrae monument, beyond which point its route would appear to roughly correspond with the modern road, which travels on toward the Sheriffmuir Inn.

Cultural Association

The battle has strong cultural associations and appears in a number of poems and ballads and an early 18th century painting. Robert Burns penned the poem The Battle of Sherramuir in 1787. The song Will Ye Go To Sheriffmuir appears to be later than the Burns poem and has been associated with James Hogg. A common theme is the uncertain outcome of the battle, perhaps best summed up by the ballad Sheriffmuir, which includes the lines:

'There's some say that we wan and some say that they wan. And some say that nane wan at a' man.'

There are two purpose-built monuments to the battle on the moor. The largest of these is a cairn-style obelisk dedicated to the dead of the MacRae clan built in 1915. Not far from the MacRae monument is a much smaller cairn monument erected by the 1745 Association in 2002.

The Gathering Stone was broken into pieces by labourers in the 19th century, following which it was encased within an iron cage. It is still a focus for wreath laying on the anniversary of the battle.

Commemoration & Interpretation

There is a painting of the battle, possibly by Peter Tillemans (an 18th century Flemish artist responsible for the painting of the Battle of Glenshiel) or John Wootton (an 18th century English painter famous for sporting and battle scenes). The hills in the background were at first thought to represent the Ochils as they appear to the east of the battlefield, which would suggest a north to south orientation for the opposing armies. However, a more recent examination has suggested that the hills are a better match with those to the north west of the battlefield and therefore more in keeping with the east to west orientation suggested by all other sources.



Mackay, E. 1898 The Battle of Sheriffmuir: related from original sources. Stirling.

Baynes J. 1970 The Jacobite Rising of 1715.

Brander, M & Macgregor. J. 1975 Scottish and Border Battles and Ballads. Seeley, London.

Getmapping. 2002 British Battles: Amazing Views. : HarperCollins, London.

Inglis, B. 2005 The Battle of Sheriffmuir. Stirling Council Libraries Community Services.

Pollard, T. 2006 Sheriffmuir Battlefield: Data Structure Report. GUARD 2214, University of Glasgow.

Rae, P. 1717 The History of the Rebellion. John Martin, Edinburgh.

Reid, S. 2005 Battles of the Scottish Lowlands, Battlefield Britain. Pen & Sword, Barnsley.

Seymour W. 1979 Battles in Britain and their Political Background, 1066-1746. Book Club Associates, London.

Smurthwaite, D. 1993 The Complete Guide to the Battlefields of Britain. Michael Joseph, London.

Tayler, A. & Tayler, H. 1936 1715 : the story of the rising. Nelson, SI

Tomasson, K. & Buist, F. 1967 Battles of the '45. Pan, London.

Information on Sources & Publication

Sheriffmuir is a relatively well documented battle. There are a considerable number of contemporary written accounts of the action, with information including eyewitness accounts from both sides. These sources were recently consulted in an effort to accurately locate the site of the battle (Pollard 2006).

There are also several graphic depictions of the battle. A printed plan of the battle drawn in 1715 and including very useful written annotations is lodged in the National Library of Scotland. This gives the contemporary terrain, distinguishing field from open pastures, and shows the original Jacobite deployment on Kinbuck Moor and their advance to the battlefield. However the critical other half of the plan, showing the battlefield core with deployments and action, is missing from the copy in the National Library of Scotland.

Also important here are a number of historic maps which although post-dating the battle provide important clues as to the location of the battle when used in conjunction with the written accounts, and indeed the results of archaeological investigation. These include estate survey plans for Kippendavie, drawn up in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and perhaps most importantly a Division of Common-Grounds map drawn up in 1766, which shows features such as tracks up onto the moor which may have been used in the Jacobite advance and the marsh upon which their left flank was anchored.

There is a healthy body of secondary source work relating to the battle, with several 19th/early 20th century studies ' some of which make extensive use of primary sources. The most recent thorough account and analysis of the 1715 uprising appeared in 2006 (Szechi 2006); although this is more concerned with the politics and military organization of the overall campaign than with the minutiae of the battle, it does include a cogent description of Sheriffmuir (the battle maps, based on Roy, show the lines oriented E-W; the location is some distance further to the north than that identified through archaeological analysis and indeed as proposed by most other historians).

Primary Sources

National Archives

SP 54/10/45A Mar to the Governor of Perth. Giving an account of the events of the battle of Sheriffmuir: they attacked the enemy at noon and 'carry'd the day entirely'. Also with a list of prisoners, including those wounded, and reporting the death of Strathmore and Macdonald of Clanranald 1715 Nov 13

SP 54/10/45B Account of the battle of Sheriffmuir by the Jacobite side undated

SP 54/10/47 Provost of Edinburgh, sending an account of the battle of Sheriffmuir 1715 Nov 14

SP 54/10/48 Argyll to Secretary Townshend. On the battle of Sheriffmuir, giving losses and prisoners; also asking when the Dutch reinforcements will arrive 1715 Nov 14

SP 54/10/49 Postmaster Anderson, on Sheriffmuir, '^wherein bless'd be God we had the better, and hope soon to hear, that what remain of the rebels are intirely routed' 1715 Nov 14

SP 54/10/50 Rothes, reporting that Sheriffmuir was a considerable victory for Government forces 1715 Nov 15

SP 54/10/51 Argyll to Secretary Townshend. On Sheriffmuir: inquiring into the retreat of some of the army; on those officers who deserve recognition for their actions; and reporting that the rebels are in the position they held before the advance, and are gathering their forces for another attack 1715 Nov 15

SP 54/10/95 Lord Torphichen: account of the battle of Sheriffmuir [1715 Nov]

SP 54/10/96C Andr[ew] Hume to Pringle. On the news from Edinburgh; desertions from the Jacobite army since Sheriffmuir and rumours of an offer of surrender; the ill health of Tweeddale and the hopes of Forfar's recovery; also on the plight of a rebel prisoner 1715 Nov 29

SP 54/10/97 Gen Wightman, giving his account of the action at Sheriffmuir, and contradicting the report of the bad behaviour of Lord Stair's regiment under the command of Major Otway during the battle; also recommending Col Lawrence, formerly a prisoner at Perth 1715 Dec 1

SP 54/10/104 Pollock, reporting that the clans are sending men to ensure the return of those men who deserted after Sheriffmuir, and he is in no position to stop them 1715 Dec 2

SP 54/10/115B Argyll to Secretary Townshend. Giving thanks for being granted leave; reporting that there is no news of the Pretender's landing; and giving an account of the behaviour of the left wing of his forces at Sheriffmuir, some of whom did not do their duty 1715 Dec 6

SP 54/11/72A Sutherland, on the difficulties he faces and the lack of support he is given; he has spent all the money he has got or could borrow, in the king's service; also recommending clemency for Sir Robert Gordon, who left the rebels before Sheriffmuir 1716 Jan 30

Account of the battle of Sheriffmuir: in a letter from a gentleman in Stirling to a friend in Edinburgh. [S.I.: s.n.

An account of the engagement near Dunblain yesterday the 13th instant, betwixt the King's Army under the command of his Grace the Duke of Argyll, and the rebels commanded by Mar. Edinburgh: Printed by the heirs and successors of Andrew Anderson, 1715.

Meston, W 1716 A true and particular account of the battle at Sheriff-Muir: with an exact list of all thenobility, general officers, chiefs of clans, and number of private men, in the King's army in Scotland; under the command of the Duke of Mar. To which is added, a form of prayer and thanksgiving usrd on Thursday, January 26, 1716, for the King's safe and happy landing. To the memory of the Right Honourable John Earl ofStrathmore : who was kill' d at the battle of Sheriffmuir, near Dunblain, November 13th, 1715.

Wightman, Major General. 1719 Notes of a Lecture after the Victory over the Rebels, and on the return of the honorable Major General Wightman, with the troops under his command, from the Highlands to Inverness, upon the 20th June, 1719. James McEuen & Co, Edinburgh.

Keith, J. F. E. 1759 Memoirs of Field Marshal Keith: containing the most remarkable occurrences of the wars, wherein he was engaged. G. Burnet, London.

Cartographic & Illustrative Sources

National Library of Scotland

Map of battle: 3 identical left hand parts of a printed plan showing the contemporary terrain, distinguishing field from open pastures, and showing the original rebel deployment the previous night and their advance to the battlefield. The critical eastern half showing the main battlefield with deployments and action is missing. A brief description of the action is provided in the key.

Secondary Sources

Mackay, E. 1898 The Battle of Sheriffmuir: related from original sources. Stirling.

Baynes J. 1970 The Jacobite Rising of 1715.

Brander, M & Macgregor. J. 1975 Scottish and Border Battles and Ballads. Seeley, London.

Brotchie, T. C. F. 1913 The Battlefields of Scotland: their legend and story. Dodge Publishing, New York.

Bulloch, J.M. 1911 The 2nd Duke of Gordon and the part he played at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. Dunbar, Huntly

Getmapping. 2002 British Battles: Amazing Views. : HarperCollins, London.

Hunter,T. 1883 Woods, Forests and Estates of Perthshire. Henderson, Robertson & Hunter, Perth.

Inglis, B. 2005 The Battle of Sheriffmuir. Stirling Council Libraries Community Services.

Pollard, T. 2006 Sheriffmuir Battlefield: Data Structure Report. GUARD 2214, University of Glasgow.

Rae, P. 1717 The History of the Rebellion. John Martin, Edinburgh.

Reid, S. 2005 Battles of the Scottish Lowlands, Battlefield Britain. Pen & Sword, Barnsley.

Seymour W. 1979 Battles in Britain and their Political Background, 1066-1746. Book Club Associates, London.

Shearer, J. E. 1911 The Battle of Dunblane Revised - Sheriffmuir, 1715. Reprinted from 'The Stirling Sentinel'. [With maps.].

Shearer, R. S. 1859 Shearer's Illustrated Tourists' Guide to Stirling, Cambuskenneth Abbey, Bannockburn, Bridge of Allan, Dunblane, Sheriffmuir, &c, &c. R. S. Shearer, Stirling.

Smurthwaite, D. 1993 The Complete Guide to the Battlefields of Britain. Michael Joseph, London.

Sotheby & Co. 1952 Catalogue of the well-known and important collection of Scottish weapons etc, formed by the late J. Milne Davidson: including flint-lock pistols by Murdoch, Caddell, Campbell, etc, Jacobite swords, the target of Alexander 2nd Duke of Gordon at Sheriffmuir: also armour and weapons... which will be sold at auction. Tuesday, February 26th, 1952. Sotheby, London.

Szechi, D. 2006 1715: The Great Jacobite Rebellion. Yale University Press, London.

Tayler, A. & Tayler, H. 1936 1715 : the story of the rising. Nelson, SI

Tomasson, K. & Buist, F. 1967 Battles of the '45. Pan, London.

Whyte, L. & Whyte, K. 1990 On the Trail of the Jacobites. Routledge, London.

About the Inventory of Historic Battlefields

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

The inventory is a list of Scotland's most important historic battlefields. Battlefields are landscapes over which a battle was fought. We maintain the inventory under the terms of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We add sites of national importance to the inventory using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

The information in the inventory record gives an indication of the national importance of the site(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the site(s).

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