A sense of place: Barry Hilton

Aerial view of the Boyne River in Ireland
Our tours put you in the footsteps of the biggest figures from history and we aim to give you a keen sense of place. In the latest in a series of stories on our blog, we ask Barry Hilton, the leader of our War of the Three Kings in Ireland tour, where he feel history most strongly. 

He says: "Standing in the old graveyard on the hill of Donore and gazing over the fields on which the future of the British islands was decided, it's hard not to be gripped by the significance of the place. 

"Two kings, related by both blood and marriage, led their armies here in what should be properly described as, a large skirmish. 

"The legacy of James Stuart's failure to check Willem van Oranje on the line of the Boyne river echoes down the centuries and can be heard booming in the streets of Britain's western cities every July. 

"At the edge of the fast flowing river, it is easy to imagine the snaking columns of cold, sodden soldiers wading shoulder high, on their way to deliver a kingdom, a new system of government and ultimately an empire. 

"That day in 1690 they were probably just grateful to survive, with no notion of the history they were making."

About Barry Hilton

Barry Hilton is an acclaimed writer and historian who has dedicated more than 25 years to military history, with a focus on the periods between 1670 and 1720. He has published guides to both Jacobite and Williamite armies at Derry, The Boyne, Cork and Aughrim, plus pieces on lesser known battles of the period. 

About the battle

Donore was used as a defensive position by James II during the Battle of the Boyne, one of the best known battles between the ‘deposed’ Catholic king of England, Ireland and Scotland, and his Protestant successor William III. 

Fighting took place across the River Boyne (pictured above), with both sides aiming to gain control of a ford on the waterway. James was an inexperienced commander and he sent a large part of his army to head off a feint attack by William, with the result that many of his elite troops sat out the bulk of the fighting that followed. 

Coming from the North, William's infantry used their superior firepower to blast their way across the river but were then held back by counter-attacks by the Jacobite cavalry. Slowly, the Williamite army regained the initiative as their horsemen crossed the Boyne, forcing the Jacobite's back to Donore, where they regrouped and fought a rearguard action so they could minimise the impact of their retreat. 

Following this defeat James fled to France, never to return to Ireland, although his armies fought on.

Join our expert-led tour, War of the Three Kings in Ireland

Our small-group tour, War of the Three Kings in Ireland, takes you to the key locations of the battles between William III and James II, with Barry Hilton taking you back in time to understand the background, context and key players from the momentous period in British and Irish history.  For details, dates and prices, click here