A 19-year-old in net curtains played the Young Pretender

Marion Hume went over the sea to the Outer Hebrides in search of Bonnie Prince Charlie

I was heading north in the footsteps of a fop in a wig. Having had the Rob Roy cinema experience and while waiting for Braveheart (the film celebrating the Scottish hero, Wallace), I was in the mood for a holiday full of heroism and heather. I had signed up for a week-long trip, themed around that crown prince of biscuit tins, Bonnie Prince Charlie.

On 23 July 1745, Charlie landed on the tiny Hebridean island of Eriskay and declared himself "come home". By August, he had reached the Scottish mainland and raised the Jacobite Standard, thus starting the last war to be fought on British soil. It ended in the slaughter of Culloden, which was followed by the not-so-bonnie prince hiding out as a fugitive with a pounds 30,000 bounty on his head. The last bit is the best known, when the frocked Charlie, disguised as Flora Macdonald's maid, sped "over the sea to Skye" and thence to safety on the Continent.

We would fly to Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides and then do things backwards, following first in the steps of the fugitive and hearing Jacobite laments at ceilidhs in the evenings, and ending our week on Eriskay where the bonnie prince first landed. The fine white beach is now known as the Prince's Strand.

There was little mention of our bonnie prince on day one, except the casual announcement from Ray, the tour operator, that we had missed the ferry to Berneray where the promised evening of Jacobite song was supposed to have been happening. Instead, we feasted on crab claws in garlic, delighted to find that Scottish island food no longer necessarily comes diced and in tins.

Tuesday and we jumped into the Jeep that, we were promised, would make "the inaccessible accessible". We drove out across miles of white sand to a deserted island where we tiptoed through a ruined mansion and spotted a buzzard's eggs in a wardrobe. It was thrilling, like a childhood holiday of discovery. But had Bonnie Prince Charlie been here? Well, no. Then we looked out 45 miles north across the sea to a rare, clear view of St Kilda, the now uninhabited island which ranks with Bhutan as a must-visit destination among the truly intrepid.

By Wednesday, His Royal Bonnieness was proving as elusive to us as he had been to the king's men 250 years ago. Our activity for the day took us to a ruined settlement, far off any tarred road, that was abandoned only a couple of years back when the last inhabitant, old Archie, dropped dead off his bar stool in the local pub, a couple of hours' hard walk away. No, the prince had never been here, Ray admitted. But we felt a kinship with Charlie all the same as we were lashed with Highland rain.

Thursday and Friday were fun, particularly as I danced the Dashing White Sergeant at two all-night ceilidhs. But of Charlie-related land, no sighting. At last, on Saturday, we stood on ground on which he had once walked. We took a local fishing boat to Glen Coradale, where the fugitive hid in a forester's hut. Up above is a small cave. "Midge-ridden," growled Alice, a fellow traveller on the Charlie trail, having been inveigled into spending about an hour up there posing as a latterday Flora Macdonald.

Sunday 23 July was the happier anniversary of a young man's dreams of kingship. We took a ferry (running only with special dispensation from Sabbatarian Stornoway) from the tip of South Uist across to Eriskay. The weather and the water were as they had been then, stormy and squally. Also aboard was a crowd hailing from as far away as Australia and proving there is still a broad interest in Scotland's Young Pretender. Here was Colin Glazebrook, a mining engineer from Melbourne. After Eriskay, he was heading to a hotel on the mainland boasting Flora Macdonald's bed; here was Ian Jamieson who, 30 years ago, had played a corpse in the film Culloden, accompanied by his adult son, Keith, named after a Jacobite hero.

In the crowd gathered on the beach was Alistair MacInnes, a 19-year- old trainee bricklayer, decked out in the local priest's net curtains. It had fallen on him to act the part of the Bonnie Prince, although plans for him to arrive on a tall ship had to be abandoned because of rough seas. Instead, he lingered at the back of the crowd as local ladies wrapped in tartan blankets sang Gaelic songs, wee lasses in Highland dress attempted a chilly Highland fling and the priest's brother played the pipes. There was supposed to have been a grand unveiling of a stone plaque, but owing to three deaths and the local stonemason getting behind schedule, we had a piece of paper stuck to cardboard instead.

There was talk of a special sailing from Lochboisdale in the Uists to Mallaig; a ceilidh of Jacobite song and dance aboard, and another week- long themed holiday in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie. As the rest of Britain sizzled and wheezed, I breathed deeply of the fresh Highland air and was tempted to sign up.

Marion Hume travelled to the Uists with Celtic Quests, Torlum, Isle of Benbecula (01870 602334). The price of the trip was pounds 824 (inclusive of flights London-Glasgow, Glasgow-Benbecula, and hotels and B&Bs). For details of Bonnie Prince Charlie activities in the Uists contact: `45 Hebrides, Isle of Benbecula, Western Isles PA88 5PP (01870 603070).

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Day In a Page

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy