I spent two weeks last summer in Scotland, and went to all the places that figure prominently in this film: Culloden Moor, Edinburgh Castle, Ediburgh Old Town, saw the picturesque wild landscapes, and learnt about the story of the Jacobite rising of 1745 and of its defeat that is the setting for the film. Everything in the reconstruction is right, including the accents of the actors, the clothes, uniforms, weapons, as well as the atmosphere of the times, and these were sad and brutal times for Scotland.
The story, set in this background, is one of a young man, David Balfour, who comes to claim his inheritance from his uncle after his father's death. The uncle first tries to kill him and then sells him to the captain of a ship bound for America, the Carolinas more precisely, to be sold there as an indentured servant. Through a chance meeting with Alan Berk Stewart, a Jacobite gentleman fleeing from the defeat at Culloden, he manages to escape and land ashore. He then follows Berk as he tries to join other Jacobites who might help him to leave for France.
Our young hero, a very idealistic Scottish lowlander who fate decides should be friend of Jacobite rebels, finally manages to reclaim his inheritance and also to find love. All the while being caught in the middle of this Civil War. It is fought between the English red-coated army supported by Scottish lowlanders and the Highland clansmen. They support two different branches of the royal family claiming the combined thrones of England and Scotland, i.e. on the one hand the "legitimate" but absolutist Stewart heirs, of Scottish origin, or Jacobites ( after James II, expelled from the throne in 1688), against the Hanoverian or German princes chosen and backed by the English parliament.