Bulwark against the Jacobites
Ruthven was one of four infantry barracks built across the Highlands by George II’s government following the failed 1715 Jacobite Rising. The others were at Kiliwhimen (now Fort Augustus), Bernera, Glenelg and Inversnaid. Their purpose was to house regular troops outposted from the main garrisons at Fort William, Fort George
near Inverness, Edinburgh Castle
and Stirling Castle
The troops were to forestall a future uprising, maintain law and order locally, and enforce the Disarming Act of 1716.
Ruthven Barracks was built between 1719 and 1721, on a prominent mound that had once been the site of a medieval castle of the Comyns, and later the Gordons. A separate stables block was added in 1734, on Major General Wade’s orders, for use by dragoons protecting troops marching along the adjacent military road.
Ruthven was put to the test twice, during the last Jacobite Rising of 1745–6. Following their defeat at Culloden, the Jacobite army rallied at Ruthven before conceding defeat and going their separate ways.
A military outpost
Ruthven Barracks was built to hold two companies of soldiers (around 120 men) with their officers. The men were housed in two piles of barracks, three storeys high and facing each other across a parade ground. Each pile had six rooms, the men sleeping ten to a room and two to a bed. NCOs had a bed each.
The officers had separate quarters, in the two towers projecting from opposing corners of the protective wall, pierced by musket-loops, or gun holes.
These also housed a guardroom and prison, bakehouse and brewhouse. There were latrines and a well. The stables beyond the barracks could hold up to 30 horses.
Action at last
The garrison first saw action early in the ’45 Rising. In late August a 300-strong Jacobite detachment besieged the barracks, but lacked heavy artillery to make any impression. The twelve redcoats held out, losing just one man ‘shot through the head’, according to his sergeant, ‘by foolishly holding his head high over the parapet’.
The second, and last, action came in February 1746, by which date the Jacobites had acquired heavy guns. The garrison soon surrendered to Gordon of Glenbuchat’s men.
Ruthven and the end of the dream
Ruthven featured just once more in the Jacobite story. In the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden (16 April 1746), the rump of the Jacobite army regrouped at Ruthven to await word from their leader, Prince Charles Edward Stuart – Bonnie Prince Charlie.
On 20 April his message arrived: ‘Let every man seek his own safety in the best way he can.’
Chevalier Johnstone expressed the emotions of all those present that day: ‘This answer, under existing circumstances, was as inconsiderate in Charles as it was heartbreaking to the brave men, who had sacrificed themselves in his cause.’
- The location – on an isolated and prominent natural mound in the Spey valley and surrounded by mountains.
- The barrack rooms – imagine sharing a bed with a redcoat, and a room with nine others.
- The stables – see where General Wade’s dragoons fed, watered and stabled their horses.
Region – North and Grampian
1m from Kingussie. Signposted from the A9 and the A86 in the centre of Kingussie.
Grid reference - NN 764 997.
Tel: 01667 460 232.