By Alistair Grant

IT’S the tranquil beauty spot where, some three centuries ago, almost 3,000 men lost their lives in the first clash of the Jacobite risings.

Now a new Battle of Killiecrankie has opened up over plans to upgrade and expand the A9 trunk road – albeit hopefully one with a bit less bloodshed.

Campaigners argue the current proposals to widen the road as part of a £3 billion dualling project would be a “travesty” for a site rich in history.

Their concerns are now being heard at a local public inquiry which kicked off in Pitlochry today.

Dr Arran Johnston, of the Scottish Battlefields Trust, said Killiecrankie was “really significant” as the first in a long series of Jacobite wars, ending in 1746.

He told The Herald: “The existing A9 did great damage to the battlefield as it cuts through.

“The concern that we have is that obviously by more than doubling the width of that existing road, you’re compounding that damage.”

He said concerns centre on plans to widen the carriageway on the northbound side, covering the “precise area where one of the battle lines was drawn up, and therefore where the two armies actually collided and fought”.

The Battle of Killiecrankie took place in July 1689 as part of the first Jacobite rising, which followed the Catholic monarch James II and VII being deposed and replaced by the protestant William of Orange and his wife Mary II.

The Jacobite army won but sustained heavy losses, including their commander John Graham, 1st Viscount Dundee, or “Bonnie Dundee”.

Victory would be short-lived, however, and the failure of the Jacobite cause has contributed to its romance.

Mr Johnston said: “These conflicts were really significant in determining Scotland’s place within the context of the British Isles, the relationships between the Highland and lowlands, between Scotland and England, between monarchy and parliament – these are really seismic issues that were being fought out on these battlefields, and Killicrankie was the first step in that story.

“It’s also, let’s not forget – looking at it on the human level – a place where almost 3,000 men died.”

He added: “To make such a dramatic intervention into the most sensitive part of the battlefield would be a travesty.”

Mr Johnston insisted he did not object to the idea of improving the A9.

He added: “We’re not about trying to preserve a landscape as it was in 1689. That’s just not what the argument is about.

“What it’s about is saying that from the outset, there seems to have been a decision that this was the route they were going to use, this was the way they were going to do it.

“And the value that was placed on the battlefield during that process was clearly insufficient.”

Transport Scotland said it is “aware of the sensitivities around what is an important battlefield, and site of historical and cultural significance, which is why we have been engaging extensively with the local community and key stakeholders since 2012”.

A spokesman added: “Having published draft Orders for the Killiecrankie to Glen Garry scheme in November 2017, we made a number of design refinements to reduce land take on the battlefield site following feedback from Historic Environment Scotland and the local community.”