The Battle of Inverkeithing in Fife on July 20, 1651, was the bloody end to Scotland’s defence against the English army of Oliver Cromwell.
However, the exact location of the battle has remained largely forgotten for some 360 years.
Now the site is being excavated for the first time after being identified by history enthusiasts, who describe it as one of the most significant civil war battlefields in Scotland.
A ridge, which archaeologists believe is the only remaining built structure from the time of the conflict, has been discovered and the earthworks, which were used as a defence wall by the invading army, could help uncover the secrets buried under the battlefield.
The discovery of the site was made by members of the North Queensferry Heritage Trust, who first identified the mound from early maps and documents, and a full dig for cultural, personal and military artefacts is expected to take place next year.
Douglas Speirs, of Fife Council’s archaeological unit, who is leading the dig, said: “Not only are these earthworks among the only substantive civil war period military remains in Scotland but, by using supporting historical documentation, it has been possible not only to identify the commanding officers and soldiers responsible for the construction but, in some instances, to give an actual date and time of construction.
“It is very exciting.”
In a civil war that had been raging since 1642, Cromwell had won a victory after invading Dunbar in 1650, and by December that year the English army had control of the whole of Scotland south of the Forth. Edinburgh and Leith were occupied and Edinburgh Castle had surrendered.
It was suggested southern Scotland should be permanently abandoned to the English. But by the following year Cromwell fell seriously ill and the English army, low on rations and often without pay, resorted to widespread plundering and looting, especially in and around Edinburgh.
The push across the Forth in 1651 was critical and marked the last major drive for the English to conquer Scotland.
Around 2000 Scots were killed that day.
James Lawson, of North Queensferry Heritage Trust, said: “Unlike perhaps any other battle in Scotland’s history, this battle was decisive.
“In losing the field that day, all hope of Scotland’s defence was lost and for the next 10 years, Scotland was subjugated, enslaved and placed under English military rule until Cromwell’s death and the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660.
“Until recently, historians have long debated where the Battle of Inverkeithing took place.
“Once the exact location was pinpointed, it was decided to find out more and restore the standing of this battle in Scotland.
“It is hoped the site will give up much more information about this important but ignored Civil War battlefield.”
Mr Lawson added: “Once the initial survey has been done and some more work on interpreting the whole site, it is planned to set up viewing points from the Cromwellian position, laying out the battlefield for visitors once the excavation is underway.”
Scottish Natural Heritage granted permission for the initial survey on the site, which is on land owned by quarrying firm Tarmac, and the trust hopes to gain funding to create a tourist attraction at the site.