Following in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie

Gregor Ewing and his dog Meg retraced the steps of Bonnie Prince Charlie's journey after the Battle of Culloden.

Gregor Ewing and his dog Meg retraced the steps of Bonnie Prince Charlie's journey after the Battle of Culloden.

0
Have your say

The Falkirk Bairn who was the first man to retrace Bonnie Prince Charlie’s flight from the Government army after the Battle of Culloden has published a book on his adventure.

Gregor Ewing faithfully followed the route to freedom taken by the Young Pretender from Inverness to the Isle of Skye after his crushing defeat in April 1746.

The determined 42-year-old businessman, a self-confessed fan of Scotland and its past, completed the 530-mile challenge in just six weeks with nothing more than a rucksack on his back and his five-year-old border collie Meg for company.

And while the Braveheart Bairn did not have the Duke of Cumberland’s Hanoverian soldiers on his trail, or need to worry about being betrayed by clansmen who were offered a £30,000 bounty to give up the Prince’s location, Gregor produced the same true grit and determination to navigate the remote wilderness, hidden glens and uninhabited islands on his way to Loch nan Uamh on Lochaber where Charles Edward Stewart eventually took a boat to the safety of France 267 years ago.

Now his book, ‘Charlie, Meg and Me’, offers a compelling insight into his reasons for attempting the journey and his enjoyment of experiencing the stunning scenery of Scotland with its unspoiled landscape, high mountains, wide valleys and unbounded freedom and tranquility.

His joy of being “in tune with oneself while embracing the natural environment and experiencing the primative calmness of sitting around a campfire after a day’s exertion” makes attentive reading for anyone with an interest in the role the ambitious son of James Francis Edward Stuart II and VII and the figurehead of the Scottish Jacobite Uprising of 1745, played in Scotland’s history.

It also reflects the ambition of an “ordinary man from Falkirk” to complete a personal journey which saw him give up “home comforts” to experience the psychological and physical challenges of unaccustomed solitude.

‘Charlie, Meg and Me’, which will be launched at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Waterstones in Falkirk High Street, has already led to Gregor being appointed an ambassador for the National Trust for Scotland.

At a commemorative ceremony at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre in Inverness last weekend, he gave a talk to mark the latest anniversary of the defeat which saw the prince flee to the Highlands.

Tony Pollard, director of the Centre for Battlefield Archeology at Glasgow University, said: “There is no better way to appreciate history than to visit the places touched by it. While we cannot walk in someone else’s shoes, nor perhaps not even in their footsteps, we can get an idea of the challenges any arduous route throws up and the emotions which the lansdscape might elicit.

“One of the strengths of this man and dog travelogue is the neat way it stitches together history with the writer’s personal journey. The balance is perfect and even a supposed expert like me comes away feeling I’ve learned something. I would challenge anyone to read this book and not by the end of it want to strap on their walking boots and get onto the hills and into the glens.”

Gregor, who was parted from his loving family, wife Nicola and their three daughters, Sophie, Kara and Abbie, for the best part of two months last spring to complete his adventure, explained: “I have had a long felt desire to escape to Scotland’s hills, to spend weeks amongst stunning scenery that stirs the blood. Being keen on history I have always been fascinated with the old tracks, pathways and coffin or drove roads that criss-cross the landscape. The lesser known the path the better as the feeling of discovery always added to the fun.

“To walk on an ancient pathway thinking of ancestors who traipsed the same roads for a particular purpose added another dimension to the journey. I decided I wanted my escape to combine history and remote terrain. I needed a substantial journey with some sort of historical significance. That is where I turned to the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his wanderings.”

His history-making achievement comes as the Scottish Government launches The Year of Natural Scotland to encourage Scots and visitors to discover - or rediscover - the natural outstanding beauty of our country.

Events are planned to promote the great outdoors with more ‘must see, must do’ options being added to the 2013 programme all the time.

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The Year of Natural Scotland provides us with an excellent opportunity to celebrate Scotland’s reputation as a place of outstanding natural beauty either on your own doorstep or exploring further afield. This initiative aims to make people aware of how we collectively make the most of our nation’s natural assets from harnessing our vast natural reserves to creating world-class cuisine from delicious seasonal and local ingredients.

“It is the latest of the Scottish Government’s ‘Focus Years’ showcasing some of our best tourist assets as we progress towards our second Year of Homecoming Scotland in 2014. Over 500,000 attended events celebrating the Year of Food and Drink and we saw a six per cent increase in participation levels during the Year of Active Scotland and the messaging around the Year of Creative Scotland has already reached almost 70 million across the globe. The Year of Natural Scotland can build on this success ahead of Scotland hosting The Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, two of the largest events in the world, in 2014.”

FACTFILE:

1. Prince Charles Edward Stuart was borin in Rome in 1720. He arrived in Scotland in 1745 and raised the standard of the House of Stuart at Glenfinnan, before defeating Government forces at Prestonpans.

2. Eight months later the Jacobites were defeated by the Duke of Cumberland at the Battle of Culloden.

3. Flora MacDonald famously helped him evade capture by dressing him as her Irish maid ‘Betty Burke’. The French frigate L’Hereux finally carried The Young Pretender to safety in France.

4. Charled attempted to inspire a second uprising, but it was no more successful than the first and he lived in exile until his death in Rome in 1788, aged 67. His body in interred at the Vatican.

5. Jacobite nostalgia has helped maintain his image as a romantic, tragic hero centuries after he last stepped foot in Scotland.

6. To follow in Bonnie Prince Charlie’s footsteps, Gregor and Meg covered an average of 16 miles a day.

7. The 240-page ‘Charlie, Meg and Me’ is published by Luath Press Limited price £9.99.