Ruthven Barracks, Kingussie


Ruthven Barracks

Ruthven Barracks


Ruthven Barracks is an imposing example of military architecture, from a time when castles as such had fallen out of fashion, to be replaced by exclusively military fortresses. These barracks built to house English troops in the occupation of Scotland after the first Jacobite rebellion in 1715.

The barracks are not the first fortification here; the mound on which they sit was the perch of a castle built in the 13th century by the Earl of Buchan. Later, it was a convenient location from which the English troops could maintain a presence in Scotland and patrol the major roads that passed nearby.

While clearly build to house a large force of occupying soldiers, the barracks first saw action in 1745 during Prince Charlie’s rebellion, when a force of 200 rebels attacked. The barracks at the time were manned by only 12 soldiers, a number far less impressive than the barracks themselves. Fortunately for them, the rebels lacked the equipment to break in and the patience to besiege the barracks.

The next year, the barracks were besieged again by the Jacobites and taken with the help of artillery. A few months later, after the Battle of Culloden, fleeing Jacobites rested and regrouped here, only to receive the message that the rebellion was to be abandoned. The barracks were also abandoned and left in ruin. The victorious English army never saw fit to repair them.

Ruthven Barracks remain an imposing monument visible from almost anywhere in the valley, and are famed throughout the Cairngorms. I come away from each visit feeling an atmosphere of history; the visual spectacle of the ruins as they are now is inseparable from their violent and political origin. This print taken in winter recalls a vicarious feeling of abandonment and nostalgia. It puts me in a reflective mood.