Jacobite history comes to life at Ballater Visitor Center


Ballater iCentre opened its doors to a group of friendly Jacobite ghosts who shared stories of their past as well as the history of nearby Braemar Castle with visitors, as part of Scotland’s Story Year 2022.

The group of costumed members of the Braemar Castle team acted as traveling storytellers, delighting visitors young and old outside the iCentre with stories of the Jacobite Rising and times past at the castle, which has been operated by the local community since 2007.

Young people who visited the iCentre also had the opportunity to dress up in Jacobite-era clothing and have their picture taken.

The Jacobite storytelling group outside the VisitScotland iCentre in Ballater.

The Year of Stories 2022 celebrates stories inspired, written or created in Scotland. Stories are an integral part of Scottish culture and each community has a different story to tell.

Shared stories, whether spoken, written, sung or filmed, are what give people a sense of place, history and belonging. This year, community groups, museums, heritage sites and other tourist attractions are getting involved in the theme year, with storytelling still at the heart of it.

According to the castle’s website, its original owners, the Earls of Mar, were among Scotland’s earliest rulers and their power continued through the centuries.

In 1628 the 2nd Earl built Braemar Castle as a base for his hunting trips to his lands in the Braes of Mar but also to remind the local people who was in charge.

In 1689 this authority was challenged by the newly formed rebel group, the Jacobites and the castle was burnt down in the first Jacobite rising.

During the Second Jacobite Rising in 1715, the Earl of Mar had changed sides and it was the 6th Earl who raised the standard to start the rebellion at Braemar.

However, the rebellion only lasted a few months, ending in defeat for the Jacobites and disaster for the Earl. He lost everything and fled abroad.

Braemar Castle was seized by the Crown and the local landowners – the Farquharsons of Invercauld – took their chance and bought the castle.

The final Jacobite rising led to another change in fortune for the castle. After the final defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, government troops were stationed in the castle to ensure there would be no more rebellion.

When the troops finally left in 1830, the Farquharsons set about converting the castle into the charming family home on display today.

An important part of the iCentre’s role is to help visitors enjoy the region responsibly, connecting visitors with local tourism businesses and sharing information about some of the hidden gems that can be enjoyed.

Fiona McCulloch, Ballater Assistant iCentre Manager, said: “It was really great to have the ‘Jacobite ghosts’ of Braemar Castle at the iCentre as part of the Year of Scottish Stories 2022.

“Sharing local Jacobite history and Braemar Castle with so many grateful visitors was so enjoyable and the visitors loved seeing their children dressed in authentic Jacobite costumes. They really brought the history to life.

“It was so worth it to be able to help a local business reach a wider audience in this way.”

Braemar Castle is currently undergoing a £1.6million restoration program with money from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and the fundraising efforts of the small community of 500 people.

It is aiming for a reopening date of July 2023 with the aim of creating a premier tourist attraction and providing Braemar and the wider region with a bold, creative and far-reaching program of community engagement and learning.

Doreen Wood, founding member of the Braemar Castle leadership team, said: “It was a great day and people were very grateful and interested to hear about our community castle. It was a good promotion of the castle as well as an opportunity to raise funds for its restoration.

“Dressing the children as Jacobites was a big hit. We were grateful to have the opportunity to participate in Year of Stories 2022.”

VisitScotland’s iCentre network can provide a platform for tourism businesses to connect directly with visitors. They can also organize vendor events and offer a range of ticketing services, the sale of local craft products through its Shop Local retail initiative, as well as booking advice for visitors from across Scotland.

For more information on VisitScotland iCentres visit www.visitscotland.com/about/practical-information/vic/

For more information on the Year of Stories visit the website www.visitscotland.com/about/themed-years/stories/.

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