Now little more than ruins, it was brought back to life in the time- travelling TV blockbuster Outlander when Highland hero Jamie Fraser rescues his lover Clare from evil Black Jack Randall.

Now visitors to the capital of Lochaber can learn how an historic Scottish fortress would have looked 277 years ago on the eve of a famous Jacobite siege.

State-of-the-art technology used in games such as Fortnite and GrandTheft Auto has been used to recreate the old fort in Fort William in the days leading up to the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746.

The siege was part of the Jacobite army’s 1745 Rising, and took place from March 20 to April 3, 1746, following Prince Charles’ retreat north from Stirling.

After the capture of Fort Augustus, Fort William became the last government-controlled position in the Great Glen.


Its fort was successfully defended by Lieutenant-Colonel Caroline Frederick Scott, the notorious Scottish redcoat -- named after his godmother Caroline Ansbach, mother of the “butcher” Duke of Cumberland – who later conducted the search for Prince Charles after Culloden and gained a reputation for his ruthless reprisals against Highlanders involved in the battle.

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A “fully immersive experience”, using a VR headset and large screen, has been created for the West Highland Museum by the Virtual Open Worlds team from the University of St Andrews, which works with immersive technologies to preserve and promote heritage.

Experts from the university and local historians used original plans and sources to ensure that the reconstructed digital model accurately depicts how the fort and its surrounding area looked at the time of the ‘45 Jacobite Rising.


The reconstruction is so detailed that it even includes horses, chickens and fires, as well as  British Army redcoats, Jacobites and townfolk.

The reconstruction includes the nearby settlement of Maryburgh and the Jacobite camp on Cow Hill as well as the Fort, which in reality was decommissioned in 1864 and later largely demolished.

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Dr Alan Miller, of the University of St Andrews’ School of Computer Science, said: “The digital reconstruction of Fort William provides a backdrop for narratives about the siege.

“Based on archaeological and historical research, it has been a multi-disciplinary effort to bring together the landscape, fort, garrison and historic artefacts into an immersive virtual reality environment.”

Vanessa Martin, curator of the West Highland Museum added:  “Sadly, little survives of the old fort in Fort William, so this digital reconstruction will help visitors understand what the fort and surrounding area looked like at the time of the Siege of Fort William in 1746.”

The free-to-enter museum is best known for its world-renowned Jacobite collection.

A collection of rare paintings of the Stuart dynasty were brought to Scotland for the first time last year after the public got behind a £25,000 fundraising drive by curators.

The museum was given exclusive access to a private collection owned by the Pininski Foundation in Liechtenstein of the family that inspired the Jacobite cause.

READ MORE: West Highland Museum to show rare Stuart paintings

It includes a recently- rediscovered portrait of a 16-year-old Bonnie Prince Charlie, by renowned Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera, which is believed to be the only portrait of the prince that pre-dates the 1745 Jacobite Rising. 

Others, such as a portrait of an elderly Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, painted in Rome in 1786, were last displayed in Scotland in Glasgow, in 1910. 

The museum staged the three-month exhibition to mark its centenary year.
More than 175 individual donors and businesses contributed to the fundraising campaign to raise £25,000 to bring the paintings to Scotland.

The campaign was backed by broadcaster and historian Paul Murton, of BBC Scotland’s Grand Tours of  Scotland series.

The West Highland Museum was first connected with the University of St Andrews through the organisation Interface, which works with businesses to match them to Scotland’s world-leading academic expertise to help them grow.

Carol-Ann Adams, Interface’s contact for Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross, said: “Interface was delighted to introduce West Highland Museum to Dr Alan Miller of the University of St Andrews, who has a keen interest in developing immersive technologies.

“By enabling knowledge exchange through connections with Scottish academia, Interface makes a real difference with economic and societal impacts of jobs, new products, processes and services.

“Its primary aim is to encourage organisations in Scotland to work with a university partner to drive innovation and encourage creativity, turning knowledge and ideas into value for society.”

The new exhibit is expected to be popular with existing visitors and also encourage people who would not usually visit the museum to engage with its collections.