Following the executions of Charles I (1649) and the Marquis of Montrose, leader of the Royalist movement in Scotland (1650), tensions grew between the new English parliament and Scotland’s Covenanter administration. These culminated in an invasion of Scotland (1651) by an army headed by Oliver Cromwell, the general of the English parliament’s New Model Army and subsequently Lord Protector of the ‘three kingdoms’, ostensibly a short-lived dictatorship.

Old map of plan of river Ness to the north of the bridge of Inverness

Cromwell’s troops swept north into the Highlands and Islands showing every sign of wanting to make their presence permanent by establishing well-garrisoned strongpoints in Argyll, Lochaber, Lewis, Orkney and Shetland, as well as in Inverness where he established his ‘Citadel’. This fortification was a mile or so from the town centre, indicated by the present-day Cromwell Road, but it was demolished in 1662.

The presence of troops such as Cromwell’s in these locations was of long-term significance as it proved that a well-resourced army could impose its will completely on the hitherto ‘untameable’ Highlands and Islands, as would be seen around a century later following the Jacobite uprising.

This age of transformation in the Highlands (c. 1500-1750) was often characterised by deeply unhappy relations between the Highlands and the Scottish and, later, British states, but it also showed evidence of social and cultural resilience and vitality within the area. This comes across powerfully in modern placenames, for instance.