Perth and Kinross witnessed extensive military activity in the 17th century. Significant battles took place during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the 1640s and following the deposition of James VII at the end of the 1680s. The region has three post-medieval battlefields registered in Historic Environment Scotland’s Inventory of Historic Battlefields: Tippermuir (1644), Killiecrankie (1689) and Dunkeld (1689).
Tippermuir (MPK2168; BTL39) has the dubious claim to fame of being the first battle in the War of the Three Kingdoms to have been fought in Scotland. It took place near to the modern village of Tibbermore and was the first victory by the Marquess of Montrose on behalf of Charles I. Today most of the presumed battlefield site is arable land (Historic Environment Scotland 2012). There has been no modern archaeological investigation on the battlefield, although in the early 19th century the New Statistical Account claimed that it was ‘no uncommon thing’ for local residents to find ‘gun bullets, broken spurs, and many other memorials’ (Tulloch 1845, 1031).
However, military activity was not restricted to set-piece battles. The movement and encampment of successive armies during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms will have had an impact on the landscape of Perth and Kinross. Indeed, at times lands were deliberately laid waste. For instance, in 1645 the forces of the Marquess of Montrose burnt the Campbell estates at Breadalbane beside Loch Tay. Evidence of such destruction in the archaeological record would be of considerable interest.
The fighting in 1689 in Perth and Kinross has received a degree of archaeological attention. The area to the north of the pass where the Battle of Killiecrankie (MPK5256; BTL12) took place has been investigated twice this century, both as part of the Two Men in a Trench television programme and before the widening of the A9 (Pollard and Oliver 2003; Kilpatrick and Bailie 2017). The effective use of metal detecting, with accurate recording, has produced a significant distribution of battlefield artefacts, such as musket balls and belt fittings, from Killiecrankie.
Dunkeld (MPK17972; BTL32) saw bitter fighting about a month after Killiecrankie, and Dunkeld Cathedral (MPK2445) is still pock-marked with musket ball impacts from this time. Houses and garden walls were used as defensive positions, and many of the buildings in Dunkeld were ultimately burnt. Dunkeld is particularly interesting as an example of fighting in an urban environment – something that was extremely unusual in post-medieval Scotland. Further archaeological investigation of this aspect of Dunkeld’s past could be of great interest. Much of the 17th-century settlement at Dunkeld was not far from the cathedral and today is largely not built upon; geophysical survey of this area suggests that there are surviving archaeological features (Kellogg and Jones 2006).
The 18th century saw no major set-piece battles in Perth and Kinross. However, the region was not spared conflict. The burgh of Perth experienced a significant period of occupation by Jacobite forces during 1715 and 1716. Meanwhile, in November 1715 the burghs of Crieff and Auchterarder were burnt by Jacobites returning from the Battle of Sherrifmuir. It seems likely that these destructive incidents will have left a trace in the archaeological record.
The 1745 Jacobite rising brought further disruption to the region. The burgh of Perth again experienced Jacobite occupation, though no actual fighting, and it was in Perth that in September 1745 Charles Edward Stuart publicly claimed the throne in the name of his father. The region was also affected by the later stages of the rising. In the spring of 1746 Blair Castle (MPK5500) was unsuccessfully besieged by Jacobite forces – the last time a castle in mainland Britain was besieged. Blair Castle and its surroundings have undergone significant changes since the 18th century, but the use of artillery during the siege means that physical investigation of relevant locations could perhaps be worthwhile.