The location of Ruthven Barracks is an interesting place – it was formerly the castle of two medieval clans that are no longer in existence. It can be seen from miles away and dominates the head of the valley. Needless to say, its strategic location was important.
What is the History of Ruthven Barracks?
The first castle was constructed in 1229. A year later, it became the main residence of Alexander Stewart, 1st Earl of Buchan and the younger son of Robert II.
Infamous for being excommunicated by Bishop Elgin for his acts against his wife, Stewart fought back by destroying Elgin Cathedral and much of Elgin, in 1390.
This castle was demolished in 1451 and replaced with a second castle and more modern fortification by 1459. It was used for defense during the Civil Wars and damaged by Viscount Dundee & Bonnie Dundee with the Scottish Jacobites in 1689
The government’s response to the 1715 Jacobite uprising was building four more fortified barracks in the highland’s villages. And Ruthven Barracks was one of them. To do so, all remains of the original castle had to be removed to make way for this one. The barracks took a lot of time to build and was finally finished in 1721
The barracks gave the government a solid base, crucial to control the Highlands.
The complex consisted of two large blocks of three-storey buildings each, with two rooms per floor. Vents were built throughout so troops could fire their weapons, and bastion towers are at opposite corners to the barracks the troops sleep in. 120 troops can sleep here, as well as 28 horses.
In August 1745, Ruthven Barracks was defended by only 12 soldiers against 200 Jacobites. They were commanded by Sergeant Terrence Molloy of the 6th Regiment of Foot, and successfully held the barracks, killing 2 Jacobites in the process.
The following year, the soldiers were facing a much more substantial brigade of Jacobites. The forces of Prince Charles Edward surrounded the barracks and fired cannonballs into it. The garrison surrendered.
Following the defeat at Culloden in 1746, 3000 Jacobites fled to Fort Ruthven. But as the brave men were preparing for the last stand, Bonnie Prince Charlie sent them a heartbreaking message and told them their situation was hopeless, reading ‘Let every man seek his own safety in the best way he can’.
As they departed, the Jacobites destroyed the barracks and burnt it down.
Ruthven Barracks and the Outlander
The Ruthven Barracks are a destination for the dedicated Outlander fans who are really into the historical side of the story. Although not featured in the storyline, Ruthven Barracks are essential to real Jacobite history.
Most of the exterior walls remain, but little of the interior structure, and no flooring or roofing. The site is maintained by Historic Scotland and is free to enter all year around.
The Barracks are accessed by a steep path where you can see the stunning panoramic views.
Ruthven Barracks is within easy 1-mile walking distance from the town of Kingussie within well-marked paths along country roads. Lovely highland ponies in the surrounding fields.
There are information boards to explain the areas of the ruin, and it is easy to picture the soldiers living here.
There is a car parking on the opposite side of the road, for about 10 cars.