IT was a battle which saw the might of the Highland clans fought to a bloody standstill by a loyalist army, bringing an end to the first Jacobite rebellion of 1715.

But now heritage campaigners are gearing up to fight a new Battle of Sheriffmuir after plans were unveiled to plant a forest on the last open site on the Stirlingshire battlefield.

Landowners Kippendavie Estate have approached the Forestry Commission Scotland with a request to plant commercial forest on115 hectares of land east of Dunblane.

The plans are currently out for public consultation, and an environmental impact assessment has been prepared, which claims that the planting could be helpful in finding out more about the battle as it would be preceded by archaeological work.

However, local campaigner Virginia Wills is leading a charge in mobilising opposition to the plan. The retired Stirling University history lecturer, who lives near the battlefield, believes the site is of national importance

She said: "Sheriffmuir on a par with Culloden but has always been in private hands and therefore subject to the whims of any landowner. In spite of this it has remained almost as it must have been at the time of the battle just over 300 years ago.

"The battlefield is also a burial ground for those who fell in the conflict and is visited by thousands whose ancestors fought in the battle or who are simply well-informed about our country's history.

"It is unthinkable that one Scotland’s most important historic sites should be devastated.”

The Battle of Sheriffmuir was fought on 13 November, and saw an army lead by John Erskine, the 6th Earl of Mar meet the forces of John Campbell, the 2nd Duke of Argyll.

Although Erskine's army of Highland clansmen outnumbered the Duke's men, he was unable to force them from the battlefield and had to retreat, leading the rebellion sputtering out.

Around 1,400 men lost their lives during the battle, and many are thought to have been buried where they fell, while the ground is still littered with musketshot.

Arran Johnston, Director of the Scottish Battlefields Trust, said it would be an "absolute tragedy" for the site to be dug up and covered by forest.

He said: "The Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715 was an important event in our history and the proposal to commercially plant further large areas of the battlefield causes the Scottish Battlefields Trust considerable concern."

He added: "Whilst we welcome the commitment in the proposals to archaeological investigation, the Scottish Battlefields Trust believes that our battlefields are not only significant because of their potential archaeological yields.

"They are the landscapes within which our history has been determined, often through the valour sacrifice and suffering of those who have gone before us.

"These landscapes are therefore worthy of our protection and care. We fear this proposal would considerably alter the character of this significant location."

Last year, hundreds of people gathered on Sheriffmuir to commemorate the battle's 300th anniversary, and a memorial has been erected at the site by historical group the 1745 Society, who have also voiced their opposition to the plans.

The site is included on the National Inventory of Battlefields, maintained by Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

Their spokesman said: Historic Environment Scotland said: "When a battlefield is included on the inventory it becomes a material consideration in the planning process, meaning that it has to be taken into account when deciding planning and other land use applications.

"We recently received a proposal for commercial forest planting on land within Sherrifmuir Battlefield. Once we have considered the proposals, we will provide our advice to Forestry Commission Scotland, who will then determine the application.”

A Forestry Commission Scotland spokesman said “We are very aware of the sensitivities of this planting proposal and we will take into account published guidance from HES on managing potential change on battlefield sites.”