IT was a battle that made the waters of Loch Lochy run red with blood for days.

In true Highland fashion, the men of Clan Fraser clashed with their foes the MacDonalds, hewing at each other with battleaxes and claymores.

Legend has it the combatants stripped off their chain-mail in the heat of the summer sun and fought in their shirts as the exhausting work of killing foes dragged on.

Such was the slaughter that only a handful of men were said to have survived on each side, while the dead were laid to rest in unmarked graves and all but forgotten by history.

But now the site of Blar na Léine – the 1544 "Battle of the Shirts" – is to be included in a group of new battlefields to be protected from development so that future generations can study them and add to the understanding of Scotland's past.

The Inventory of Historic Battlefields has been compiled during the past three years by archaeologists and officials from Historic Scotland, and is now entering a new stage with a third list of sites due to be added in the coming months.

As well as Blar na Léin, battlefields from the Borders to the Highlands have been picked for preservation and given the same status as sites of famous conflicts such as Culloden Moor or Bannockburn.

Kevin Munro, senior designations officer for battlefields and conflict heritage at Historic Scotland, said: "These sites are hugely important to the history and culture of Scotland.

"Some of them have been immortalised in both art and literature over the years and understanding them is crucial to understanding where we come from."

To be included in the inventory, the battlefield must be of national importance for the contribution it makes to Scotland's history, as well as for its physical remains and archaeological potential.

The details of the list make for grisly reading.

Among those selected are the Battle of Glenlivet in 1594 which saw the 2000-strong army of George Gordon, 1st Marquess of Huntly, smash a force of footsoldiers five times its size belonging to the Earl of Argyll through the use of cannon and cavalry power. Also included is the site of Robert The Bruce's victory at Loudon Hill in Ayrshire, in 1304, and a minor struggle from the Wars of Independence at Dunbar in 1296 where Scottish King John Balliol's men were routed, though history claims they only lost one knight.

A place has also been found on the list for the Battle of Dunkeld in 1689, where the first Jacobite rebels met defeat. Studies of the battlefield have found cracks in the walls of the nearby ruined cathedral caused by the volleys of musket fire that broke the Highlanders' ranks.

Once completed, the resource will allow local planning authorities and other public bodies to take account of the listed battlefields, and to ensure developments avoid unnecessary damage and impact.

Dr Tony Pollard of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at Glasgow University, has worked on the project with his colleague, Dr Iain Banks.

He said: "It may be an unpleasant aspect of our past, but it's no exaggeration to say that these battles changed the course of Scotland's history. We are the people we are thanks to the events that happened in these conflicts.

"There can be no better way to understanding this history than by preserving these battlefields and studying them."

Among those due to be added to the list are the battles of Langside in Glasgow in 1568, Inverlochy in 1431, Roslin in 1303, Tippermuir near Perth in 1644, Melrose in 1526, and Sauchieburn in Stirling in 1488.

Dr Pollard added: "There is a cartoonish idea that we only fought the English, but many of these sites are from civil wars or inter-clan conflicts that pitted brothers against brothers.

"We cannot look at them through rose-tinted glasses, but must preserve them to know the depth of what happened in the past."