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German Biscuits

As regular visitors to Culloden Battlefield we have been looking forward to visiting the new £9 million National Trust for Scotland Visitor and Exhibition Centre since it opened to the public on 20 December 2007. Originally planned to open in August last year the centre made it just before the end of The Highland Year of Culture 2007. Perhaps an ironic opening as the fateful day on Drummossie Moor heralded the end of the traditional Highland way of life and the Clan system.

Having missed the official opening on the 262nd anniversary of the battle on 16 April this year, due to football duties, Marilyn and I finally found the opportunity to visit the new centre during a holiday in Inverness and on Sunday 15 June took the Rapson’s bus, on an overcast morning to Culloden. Great things bus passes! Passing signage in both Gaelic and English we immediately had to make use of the new well-stocked Culloden Centre shop as the camera batteries weren’t working!

The new centre fits snugly into the landscape and with a ramp which runs towards the third Hanoverian line from which you can visit both the roof of the building and walk down to the battlefield. The old centre which stood on the Hanoverian lines is now completed cleared. Looking from the Jacobite lines the new building and ramp sit un-intrusively on the horizon.

You approach the new building on a pathway of Caithness flagstones bearing the names of those, world-wide, who donated towards the cost of the centre. Inside you pass the shop – well stocked with pleasant staff – café and toilets to reach the entrance desk. The new exhibition is very 21st century with interactive screens and off-screen noises! On the right-hand side you can follow the Jacobite story and the Hanoverian on the left. Too much information for two pensioners! Future visits are called for. The exhibition area brings you to a small cinema area where surrounded by screens on all sides a short, 4 ½ minute, film vividly brings the horror of the battle to life. Finally you reach a large, well-lit area where amongst other exhibits are the latest archaeology finds and a large table with a map of Drummossie on which the course of the battle is illustrated. Here we were in time to see a demonstration of Highland weapons by a chiel in period dress, who fairly knew his stuff. We were fortunate after a walk round the battlefield, often in rain, to catch the same cheil in Hanoverian uniform just as deftly dealing with The King’s Army in Scotland weaponry. The highlight of our first visit to the new centre but I am sure that we will gain further insight on repeat visits. However one change I did miss, in spite of the quality of the new film, was the film shown in the previous centre telling the story of The 45 and Culloden beautifully narrated by the late Findlay J MacDonald. A native Gaelic speaker his voice was just right to tell the story of that fateful day.

Outside we took the opportunity to walk along the ramp to the Leanach Cottage and back again to the environmentally-friendly roof, complete with grass, and with a splendid view over the battlefield. Rain blowing through was a reminder of the terrible weather conditions experienced by the ill-fed, tired Jacobites as they watched the well-drilled Hanoverian army line up for battle.

Forgetting that new interpretation handsets are now available, a must for the next visit, we set off back to the Leanach Cottage and started to walk round the battlefield and revisit some of our favourite spots.

More of the battlefield visit over the next two weeks, but as we leave the Hanoverian lines this week’s recipe recalls that the battle was fought between two cousins – an Italian one trying to win back the throne of his forebears and a German one fighting to keep his father’s throne safe. So German Biscuits act as reminder of the Hanoverian side.

German Biscuits

Ingredients:  900g (2lb) Castor Sugar; 900g (2lb) Flour, sifted; 450g (1lb) Butter; 225g (8oz) Icing Sugar; 8 tbsp Milk; Raspberry Jam (for filling); Glacê Cherries

Method:  Pre-heat oven to 180°C: 350°F: Gas 4. In a large bowl, cream the butter, gradually adding the castor sugar, beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour, mix thoroughly. Chill 30 minutes. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into ¼ inch thickness; cut into rounds. Place on onto a lightly greased baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly then remove to wire racks. When cooled spread jam on a round, then cover with another round. Mix the icing sugar with enough milk to produce a spreading consistency. Spread on the top of the assembled biscuits. Top each biscuit with half a cherry.


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