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 Sinclairs can trace their history back to the early middle ages, at which
time they were a powerful family with an active role in The Crusades and the
power politics of the time. As Earls of Orkney, Caithness and Shetland, the
family was second in importance only to the King of Scotland.
This itinerary focuses on the clan's intimate connections with the far north of Scotland and the islands that lie beyond its rugged coastline. Partly due to their geographical isolation, partly due to their links with successive generations of invading Norsemen, Orkney has retained its own distinctive identity and a trip to these isles offers an opportunity to experience a unique aspect of Scottish life.
Arrive in the beautiful city of Edinburgh where there are no end of places to visit for those keen to explore their Scottish heritage. Don't miss Edinburgh Castle (although given its imposing location, it would be hard to do so!) and, in the nearby village of Roslin, Rosslyn Chapel. The architecturally unique Chapel was founded in 1446 by William Sinclair, a grandson of Sir Henry Sinclair and the last Sinclair Earl of Orkney.
A three hour drive from Edinburgh, through a landscape that moves seamlessly from lush woodland to wild moorland to gentle valley, takes you to Inverness, the beautiful capital of the Highlands. 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. Although 500 men from the Sinclair clan took arms they disbanded when news reached them of Charlie's defeat.
Drive ever northwards through an untamed landscape, to Caithness on the far northern tip of Scotland. While en route, try to find time for a visit to Helmsdale, Lybster, Keiss and Wick, all places with Sinclair associations. At the northern end of Sinclair's Bay, near the area's principal town of Wick, lies the dramatic clifftop ruins of Keiss Castle. In Wick itself, you'll find an excellent museum and archive run by the Wick Society.
The Castle of Mey, overlooking the Pentland Firth, was the much loved home of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The Castle was built between 1566 and 1572 by George, 4th Earl of Caithness, who passed it to his second son, William Sinclair. On his death a short time later, it went to the third son, George Sinclair, who founded the family of the Sinclairs of Mey. The castle and its grounds are open to the public. The ruins of Castle Sinclair at Girnigoe, about one mile from Wick, is another must-see destination - and arrangements can be made to do just that with Ian Sinclair at the Sinclair Study Centre is at Noss Head - email@example.com.
The ferry trip from Scrabster on the mainland to Orkney takes 90 minutes. An inspirational Orcadian destination is St Magnus Cathedral. Towering high above the town of Kirkwall, the Cathedral was inherited by Henry Sinclair in 1379. While here, you should also visit the Bishops and Earls Palaces, which the Sinclairs captured from the Stewarts on the instruction of the King. The Sinclairs eventually relinquished the earldom of Orkney in 1471, as part of a marriage dowry to James III of Scotland.
A day to explore Orkney's prehistoric past. Highlights include Skara Brae, the 5000 year old village on the west coast of the Orkney Mainland, and Maeshowe, a Neolithic chambered tomb raided by Norsemen. Head to the Orkneyinga Saga Centre in Orphir for an overview of the island's Norse history and try to spot the Sinclairs that appear in the family tree illustration.
Time to head back to the mainland for your journey southwards to Inverness and, perhaps a visit to the nearby villages of Kingussie and Newtonmore, where you'll find two fascinating Highland Folk Museums exploring more than 400 years of Highland life.
A leisurely drive to Edinburgh, from where you depart.
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