Scottish Clan Tours
Researching your family tree is a voyage of discovery. Full of intrigue, exotic names and fascinating histories. It is a pastime that rewards again and again. But those who simply trace their family tree from the comfort of their own home are missing out on the real story of their heritage.
For the whole exciting picture, you need to visit the places you read about. And that means a trip to Scotland. To help you plan your trip, we've compiled a number of clan-themed touring itineraries . So if you see your clan name, just follow the trail and walk in your ancestors' footsteps.
The dramatic landscapes and seascapes of the North West of Scotland are the
ancestral homeland of the proud Mackay clan and you will still meet many local
people who will introduce themselves as "a Mackay from the land of Mackay". The
land of Mackay was known as the Province of Strathnaver from the 11th century
onwards, reflecting the independence of this ancient northern clan.
But despite its loyalty to the government during the Jacobite rebellions, the Mackays were subjected to harsh clearances, some at the hands of the notorious Patrick Sellar, and in the 19th century the ancient Province became part of the present-day County of Sutherland.
Arrive in Inverness, the beautiful, bustling capital of the Highlands. You could start your exploration of Highland heritage at the Inverness Museum in the heart of this small city. Just up the hill is Inverness Castle, defended for King George I by Clan Mackay during the 1715 rebellion. The Inverness library has a dedicated genealogy team which can help with your research, though you are advised to contact them in advance
Before heading north towards your ancestral homeland, a detour southwards will take you to the nearby villages of Kingussie and Newtonmore where you'll find two fascinating Highland Folk Museums. Here, more than 400 years of Highland life are brought to life in exhibitions which track the everyday experiences of clansman and crofter. Then back north where, on the outskirts of Inverness, you will find the atmospheric battlefield of Culloden where, in April 1746, 'Bonnie' Prince Charlie's Jacobite rebellion was crushed by Government forces which included 800 Mackay warriors. You'll want to relax and enjoy the Highland hospitality of Inverness after a busy day.
Today your journey takes you up through the northern Highlands towards the historic town of Wick, where the sheltered harbour once played host to the hustle and bustle of hundreds of herring fishing boats. As well as a wealth of exhibits and photographs, The Wick Heritage Museum has restored a fishing boat, the Isabella Fortuna, and it can be seen in the inner harbour. Continuing along the coast you will come to John o'Groats, the most northerly point on the British mainland. From there you can look across the waters of the Pentland Firth to Orkney. The late HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother liked this view so much she spent much of her time at her beloved Castle of Mey. The castle, built between 1566 and 1572 is open to the public and shouldn't be missed.
Heading westwards past the town of Thurso, this fourth day of your journey brings you at last to the land of Mackay and your ancestral homeland. Here, your starting point should be a visit to the Strathnaver Museum, in Bettyhill where the strath, or valley, of the river Naver reaches the dramatic coastline of this wild corner of Scotland. You are in what has been called one of the last great wildernesses in Europe, but you can be sure that the natives are very friendly indeed. The Clan Mackay Room in the museum contains fascinating documents and memorabilia.
Using the leaflets and signposts available locally, spend today exploring the Strathnaver Trail. You will see evidence of Strathnaver's occupation from stone age times to the present. Perhaps the most moving sights will be the deserted, ruined farmsteads dating from the time of the clearances. As a Mackay, your ancestors will have farmed these rich lands before being moved off them to make way for more 'modern' agricultural practices.
Continuing westwards the scenery becomes ever more dramatic. Look out for deer watching you from the forests, especially at twilight. In the village of Tongue you will find the burial sites of some of the principal clan members in the Reay vault of Tongue Church. North of the village the tower house at the House of Tongue was built by the Mackays in the 1500s. Travel onwards to Durness, the most north westerly village in Britain, then on to the drama and beauty of Balnakeil Bay. It is easy to see why the Mackays clung so determinedly to this area, and why their descendants remain so passionately proud of the land of Mackay.
If you have time, spend today in a leisurely exploration of the parish of Edrachillas where you will find the crofting village of Scourie - once a Mackay stronghold. General Hugh Mackay of Scourie (1640-1692) was a distinguished soldier who became Commander-in-chief in Scotland. Visits to Tarbert, Foindle and Fanagore are also recommended
The drive south to Ullapool then across to Inverness will see you bid a fond farewell to Mackay
country and the friends you have made there.
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