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 Ross Clan has a long and noble history. The name came from the land where
they lived, the promontory between the Cromarty and Dornoch Firths. The first
Earl of Ross, Malcolm, lived in the early 12th century and was associated with
the O'Beolan family, descended from the Abbots of Applecross. In 1214 the Clan
Ross chief Fearcher aided King Alexander II in quashing a rebellion. He was
knighted for this service and rewarded with the formal recognition of the title
Earl of Ross. The Rosses played prominent roles in the affairs of Scotland and
in its relations with Wales and England. They were a signatory of the
Declaration of Arbroath and supported Robert the Bruce at the Battle of
Bannockburn. They also worked hard to protect themselves in the harsh and
remote reaches of Highland Scotland and in 1486 fought a bitter and bloody clan
war against the Mackays.
This itinerary takes you to the ancestral lands of Ross in the Highlands and gives you a taste of island life on beautiful Skye. It will highlight just a few of the stories and places where Clan Ross chiefs and their descendants have left their mark. You can experience the peace and tranquillity of the inspiring Scottish landscapes, the evocative splendour of ancient castles, the hospitality of local people and much more.
Arrive in Inverness, the beautiful, bustling capital of the Highlands. A fine introduction to the area can be found at Inverness Museum. Then, for a truly atmospheric experience, make the short journey to the battleground of Culloden where, in April 1746, 'Bonnie' Prince Charlie's Jacobite rebellion was crushed by Government forces. Clan Ross supported the Government throughout the Jacobite uprisings.
We will now make our way to the Isle of Skye to see what life is like in a Scottish island community. There are two options for the journey. Either head south-east on the A9 and A86 to the villages of Kingussie and Newtonmore, where you'll find two fascinating Folk Museums . Here, more than 400 years of Highland history are brought to life in exhibitions which track the everyday experiences of clansman and crofter. Continue on the A86 but turn north at Spean Bridge onto the A82, a stunning drive, in the shadow of mountains, by the shores of lochs, takes you to the Kyle of Lochalsh. Alternatively, for a shorter route travel from Inverness on the road to Drumnadrochit. Your journey takes you along the shore of Loch Ness, so look out for the monster! The splendid and atmospheric Urquhart Castle stands on the shore south of Drumnadrochit. There is a visitor centre with audio visual displays depicting the history of noble families who have held the castle. Continue along the shore of Loch Ness to Invermoriston, and west along Glen Morriston and Glen Sheil to Kyle of Lochalsh.
Cross the imposing bridge and you are now on the island of Skye. Head south to the Armadale Castle Gardens and Museum of the Isles. Built in 1825 as the MacDonald clan seat, this neo-Gothic castle has been recently restored to create a museum charting the clan's reign as Lord of the Isles. William the son of Fearcher, Earl of Ross, was given land in Skye and Lewis as well as in Ross and Moray in the early 13th century. Two centuries later the Lord of the Isles laid claim to the Earldom of Ross for his wife and raised an army of Highlanders against a rival claimant the Duke of Albany with his army of Lowlanders. The battle took place at Harlaw, (which is near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire), in 1411. Both sides lost so many men during the battle that they each withdrew thinking they had lost, so there was no victor. The Lord of the Isles never regained his previous powerful status. In 1476, on the forfeiture of the Lordship of the Isles, the earldom of Ross was returned to the crown. Prince Andrew currently holds the title. Drive north to Skye's largest settlement, the picturesque harbour village of Portree, where, in 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie bade his final farewell to Flora MacDonald. It was Flora who had helped Charlie escape to Skye following his defeat at Culloden; the flight immortalised in the Skye Boat Song ('Speed bonnie boat...' )While here, a visit to the Skye Heritage Centre at nearby Aros is worth the small detour. If time permits, a trip to Dunvegan affords a wonderful opportunity to visit Dunvegan Castle and other local attractions, including the Colbost Croft Museum where the smoke from the peat fire creates an evocative atmosphere.
Leave Skye and head north-east to Strathcarron. Clearances here in 1854 meant that many Ross clansmen were made homeless and would have had to leave the area or even Scotland to find new homes elsewhere. Drive through Glen Carron and Strath Bran, just south of the great highland areas of Wester Ross and Easter Ross. Travel on to Dingwall at the head of the Cromarty Firth. To the north-east of here, between the Cromarty and Dornoch Firths is the area of Ross, settled in the 14th and 15th centuries by the Earls of Ross and their followers who later became the Ross Clan. A few miles north-east of Alness is Delny. Fearcher, the first Earl of Ross lived and died at Delny Castle in the 1200s. Today nothing remains of the original castle, but a tower house was built on the site by the later Earls, and is now run as a guest house, Delny House. A little futher up the road in Kildray is the estate and castle of Balnagown. Hugh of Rarichies, a son of the fourth Earl of Ross, was given a charter to the estate in 1374. He was not made the next Earl by King David II, because of his lack of support for the king. Instead he took Ross as his surname and became the first Ross Clan chief. He founded the Balnagown line of the family and they remained chiefs for three hundred years. Unfortunately in the mid 18th century the Balnagown estate was sold to clear debts, to Lord Ross of Halkhead who had no connection to the Earls of Ross but was keen to acquire the title and estates. He and his family earned the respect of the Ross clans-people and his son was made the Clan Chief. They remained at Balnagown until 1964 when the line ended. The castle was empty and fell into disrepair and in 1972 was purchased by Mohamed Al Fayad (owner of the world-famous Harrods Store in London). The castle has since been beautifully restored but is not open to the public (permission may be given to access the estate if applied for well in advance). To the south-east is Pitcalnie. Munro Ross of Pitcalnie a descendants of Hugh of Rarichies claimed the Earldom of Ross in 1778, petitioning the House of Lords. It appears that he never received a decision! At Hill of Fearn, north of Pitcalnie you will find Fearn Abbey. In 1225 the Earl of Ross founded Fearn Abbey. Originally it was sited between Bonar Bridge and Edderton but was relocated to the better agricultural land here, in 1238. The 1790's parish church brickwork hides St Michael's Aisle which dates back to 1485. Now travel to Tain.
Tain was a Viking settlement and Saint Duthus was born here in the 11th century. For this reason many nobles and royalty made pilgrimages to Tain and to seek sanctuary in the St Duthus shrine. In 1307 the Earl of Ross was forced to surrender Robert the Bruce's wife and daughter, who had sought sanctuary at the shrine, to the English. King Bruce was enraged but later pardoned the Earl and the Earl's son married the King's sister to mark the reconciliation. Tain Through Time, housed in The Pilgrimage, explains the long history of Tain and has a wealth of Clan Ross images and documents. A mile north of Tain is the Glenmorangie Distillery - for those partial to a wee dram!
Return to Inverness directly for another look round the beautiful city or take a meandering route to see more of the mountainous scenery and historic sites. Leave Inverness behind, but take with you memories of a place steeped in heritage of your ancestors.
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