Battle of Harlaw
Battle of Harlaw
24th July 1411
Name: Battle of Harlaw
Date: 24 July 1411
War period: Medieval
Start time and Duration: Unknown
Outcome: Lowland forces victory
Armies and losses: Highland forces: 10,000 according to the ballads but probably far less. Lowland forces: several thousand including significant numbers of armoured knights; the ballads claim 900 Highland and 600 Lowland losses
Location: Land adjacent to and north of Harlaw as well as the Pley Fauld and nearby area.
Map details: Grid reference NJ7536924300 (375369, 824300); OS Explorer Map 421; OS Landranger map 38
An intense and close fought battle to defend Aberdeen from an attempt by the Lord of the Isles to strengthen his control of the Earldom of Ross.
In origin the battle of Harlaw was a feudal dispute, but it must be viewed in the context of growing late medieval conflict between Highland and Lowland. The situation was also complicated by the fact that King James I was imprisoned in England and thus royal authority was weak. Donald, Lord of the Isles, having fought for control of Ross, now planned to strike south east into Moray, towards Aberdeen. But there was substantial warning of the impending campaign and so defensive preparations were put in hand by the Earl of Mar in the spring and early summer of 1411.
As soon as he was aware of the approach of the Highland forces, Mar marshalled his troops at Inverurie. The Highland forces camped on the night of the 23rd July on high ground near Harlaw. On the morning of the 24th the Earl of Mar marched out of Inverurie to engage the Highland army.
It appears to have been an intense and close run fight but the sources provide little detail and there is even conflict over the outcome, with both sides claiming victory. What is clear is that Aberdeen was successfully defended and the Highland forces departed without causing significant destruction in the region.
A REPORT ON THE BATTLE, PREPARED FOR HISTORIC SCOTLAND BY THE BATTLEFIELDS TRUST, IS AVAILABLE FROM THE DOWNLOAD AREA ON THE LEFT