Riggonhead March, Battle of Prestonpans

In the early hours of the morning 20th September 2015 I arrived in a dark car park in Tranent. I was not alone, I had been persuaded to take part in reenactment of Riggonhead March by my friend Jan. We joined Bonnie Prince Charlie – Arran Johnston – with other reenactors to walk from Tranent to Seton.

I have the medal to prove it!

Before we set of we had the chance to have something to eat – scotch egg and soup.

It was an uneventful march – part of us getting lost at one point – but lovely to see the sun come up on a warm September morning.

This is a reenactment of a march that took place in the early hours before the Battle of Prestonpans.

On 20 September Cope’s forces encountered Charles’s advance guard. Cope decided to stand his ground and engage the Jacobite army. He drew up his army facing south with a marshy ditch to their front, and the park walls around Preston House protecting their right flank. A Highlander supporter, Robert Anderson was a local farmer’s son who knew the area well and convinced Charles’s Lieutenant General, Lord George Murray of an excellent narrow route through the marshlands. Commencing at 4 a.m. he moved the entire Jacobite force walking three abreast along that route, known as the Riggonhead Defile, in total silence arriving to the east of Cope’s army at Seton West Mains. Although Cope kept fires burning and posted pickets during the night as the Highlanders were making their move they were not spotted by the pickets until around 5 a.m. Source – Battle of Prestonpans trust

This is shown in the episode Prestonpans.

Tour of the Battle of Prestonpans

Just over a week ago I made a comment on Outlandish UK Facebook page that there wasn’t much to mark the Battle of Prestonpans. Well this sparked another member of the group to prove me wrong and organise a tour of the Battlefield.

On Saturday 11th July a group of Outlander fans – with some husbands in tow – met at Meadowfield Sports Centre, Prestonpans. We were joined by Arran Johnstone, head of the Prestonpans Heritage Trust.

We started by walking up the old wagon way to Tranent Church. Initially the Jacobites occupied the churchyard but later withdrew to Tranent. Then as the battle took place this is where Colonel Gardiner was taken when wounded and he later died in the manse. He is believed to be buried in the churchyard but currently his grave maybe covered with undergrowth.


From the churchyard we walked back down the wagon way and up the man made pyramid hill to the battle viewpoint. Steep climb but worth it for the view and information at the top – this is in the process of being updated. The flag flown is Bonnie Prince Charlie’s standard. This is changed to the union flag for one week of the year between the anniversary of the birth and death of George II.

Next we walked towards the road and joining back up  the wagon way. Here Arran pointed out where the battle took place and described the events of the battle. We could have listened for hours about what happened in September 1745.

We retraced our steps and walked back along the road into a park area where we were surprised to find a memorial to Colonel Gardiner marking roughly where the thorn tree was where he was wounded.

P1000903From here we walked through bushes down a makeshift path into    Thorntree Fields. This is where the fallen from both sides were buried by the locals of Prestonpans in four pits. This area is under threat by developers who wish to build industrial units on this site. The Prestonpans Historical Trust wish to buy or lease the land and create a memorial to all the fallen. More information on this can be found on the Historical Trust facebook page. This is a very peaceful place and it would be a shame to loose this.


The tour continued with us walking to Bankton House and the Colonel Gardiner memorial. Bankton House was Colonel Gardiner’s house and after the battle was used as a field hospital to treat the wounded of both sides. Bankton House was destroyed by fire but where it was rebuild the outside had to kept the same as the original. It is now a private residence. Outside the grounds of the house the memorial to Colonel Gardiner can be found. This was built in the 1800s and could be seen from passing trains.

The tour concluded back in Meadowfield Sports Centre car park. An enjoyable afternoon was had by all. I learned more about the battle and hope to revisit the sites again soon.

Prestonpans – viewpoint of the battle

The first week of the school holidays was glorious weather and I found myself driving in East Lothian. I recently read Dragonfly in Amber. In the book Jamie and Claire are involved in the Battle of Prestonpans – the beginning of the 1745 uprising. I had in the past seen the cairn that marks the battle but this time I discovered that there is a viewpoint of the battlefield. The photos show the view from the top of the hill. I brought my pocket Jamie with me.

After posting my photos on the Outlanderish UK facebook page a discussion was started and a tour of the battlefield has been organised for Saturday 11th July.

The Battle of Prestonpans is located to the east and south of Prestonpans across a large, mixed-use landscape. The battle, fought on the 21st September 1745, was the first action of the Jacobite ’45 rebellion and was a dramatic Jacobite victory. Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) was present at the battle, leading his army of plaid clad Highlanders against the redcoats of General John Cope.

The battle was fought in the early morning of the 21st and very quickly the government army was overwhelmed and routed. Terrified by the ferocity of the Highland charge, many of Cope’s army fled. The Government soldiers were pursued by the Jacobites for over a kilometre until many were trapped and cut down against the walls of Preston House and Bankton House. Some managed to find there way through the narrow defile running between the two parks or through breeches in the walls. Hundreds were killed in the aftermath and many were taken prisoner.

Much of the battle landscape still survives and the best way to experience the site is to either climb up to the top of the viewing mound at Meadowmill (take A198 off the A1 and follow signs for Meadowmill sports centre and Battle site) or follow the self-guided walk described in the battle leaflet downloadable from the following website www.battleofprestonpans1745.org.

Source – www.visiteastlothian.org