They call this The Prince’s Shore. It’s on the tiny island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides, linked to South Uist by a two-lane causeway and to the Isle of Barra by ferry. This is where, on July 23, 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie first set foot on Scottish soil. A hubristic twit with an astonishing sense of entitlement, the prince had sailed from France, where he had been born and raised, to claim the kingship of Scotland, which he believed to be rightfully his.
Soon after landing on this beach, and over-riding the sage advice of more than one Scottish chieftain – “Go back to France, you daft bastard!” – the prince set about enlisting troops. He raised just enough of them to launch an ill-conceived assault on Scotland’s far more powerful neighbour to the south. This Big Mistake led directly to the calamitous Battle of Culloden, complete with atrocities, and then to the Highland Clearances – in short, to 150 years of unmitigated disaster for Scotland.
If I were a Time Lord, I would confront the Bonnie Prince on this beach in 1745. Back to France I would send him, dead or alive. No Culloden, no Clearances. We're talking a completely different narrative. In the real world, the students of Eriskay School built this cairn in 1995, overlooking the location of the prince’s arrival. And in 2017, we hiked to this spot along a sandy beach, Sheena and I, and stood looking out, imagining what might have been. And reflecting: stop one man early enough and you change history.