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Bespoke Genealogy Itinerary:

Tracing The MacDonald Clan

By Russell Murray, Business Development Manager
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Exploring the Heritage of the MacDonald Clan

The Clan MacDonald is the largest Scottish clan in the world with one in four MacDonald’s having a direct link back to Somerled. This half Norse, half Celtic warrior started the rise of power which would see the MacDonald’s rule the western seaboard for over 400 years.

Spend a week exploring your heritage and links to the clan, their incredible history full of tragedy and heroism. You will be in the company of your knowledgeable guide, who will keep you entertained with all the stories of the most famous of all Scottish clans.

Scottish Genealogy Itinerary Highlights

  • Delve into your family tree and learn more about where you come from
  • Visit some of the iconic sites linked to the Clan MacDonald
  • Stand at Bannockburn and Culloden with your ancestors to face the British Army
  • Enjoy a delicious afternoon tea at the hotel owned by Lady Claire MacDonald

Day 1 | Welcome to Scotland

scottish genealogy itinerary balmoral

On arrival in Edinburgh, you will be met by your private transfer driver and taken to your iconic city centre hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to explore or simply relax and take advantage of the facilities your hotel has to offer.

Overnight: The Balmoral | Edinburgh

Meals included: N/A

Day 2 | Tracing your Heritage

genealogy itinerary scotland

This morning you will make your way to the Scottish Genealogy Society where you will meet with a local genealogist to delve further into your family tree. Some research will have been done prior to your arrival so together you will go through the findings. Learn more about your past and where your ancestors lived and worked. The rest of the day is free for you to either head back to the hotel to reflect on what you have learnt or continuing to explore this vibrant city.

Overnight: The Balmoral | Edinburgh

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 3 | To Glen Coe via Bannockburn

scottish genealogy itinerary

Glen Coe is synonymous with the MacDonald clan and the stories of the terrible tragedies that befell them. Your main driver-guide will meet you at your hotel this morning. Heading west from Edinburgh, your first stop will be at Bannockburn. This is where MacDonald troops made up the right flank of the Scottish Army for Robert the Bruce in 1314.

Take your place amongst your ancestors on the battlefield, ready to face the medieval warriors, thanks to the amazing 3D technology in the visitor centre. Your guide will also bring the story to life. He will explain how, without their support, Robert the Bruce may not have won the first war of independence. Continuing on, you will arrive at your luxury hotel in Glen Coe. Here you will meet with a local storyteller who will regale you with tales and legends of Glen Coe and the local clan.

Overnight: Glencoe House | Glen Coe

Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

Day 4 | Exploring the lands of Clan MacDonald

Glen Coe, Photo Credit: Mike Brian

It is time to start delving into where your ancestors used to live and work by exploring some of these fascinating places in the valley by foot.

There are a few places that are very well known such as Signal Rock and the Hidden Valley, both which have tragic links with the MacDonalds. Your guide will discuss all options and tailor this day around your preferences. Whatever you decide, you will end the day at a local highland inn. The sign over the door still reads “No Hawkers or Campbells”. This is in reference to the part the Campbell’s played in the Glen Coe Massacre in 1692.

Overnight: Glencoe House | Glen Coe

Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

Day 5 | Head to Skye via Armadale Castle

scottish genealogy itinerary portree

It is time to leave the jagged peaks and eerie valleys of Glen Coe behind and head to the fabled Isle of Skye. Driving along the stunning Road to the Isles, you will pass the monument to Prince Charlie at Glenfinnan. It is was here that he raised his standard and sent out a call to arms at the start of the Jacobite Rising in 1745. Many MacDonald’s responded and also helped him escape to France after he was defeated at Culloden. 

Crossing the sea to Skye, you will spend the afternoon exploring Armadale Castle, once the seat of the Clan Chief.  Later, you will head to a wonderful foodie hotel that is owned by Lady Claire MacDonald for afternoon tea. After enjoying the delicious tasty treats and the opulent surroundings you will head north to Portree and your hotel with views across the bay.

Overnight: The Cuillin Hills | Portree

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Afternoon Tea

Day 6 | The Clearance Villages

scottish genealogy itinerary clearance villages

It is time to explore one of the sadder chapters in the clan’s history. In 1853 Lord MacDonald instigated a clearance of the villages Boreraig and Suisnish so he could use the land for sheep. Through this, he would restore his finances that had been ruined due to the 1745 Rebellion.

Today, you will take a walk through these abandoned villages and learn more about this side of the MacDonald clan. Explore the ruins of the houses, set on the shoreline and imagine what it must have been like for the tenants to be forced out of their houses with no notice and nowhere to go. 

Overnight: The Cuillin Hills | Portree

Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

Day 7 | Flora MacDonald and Duntulm Castle

After an active day yesterday, today you will head north to explore some of the most famous links to the MacDonald clan on the island. Your first stop will be the grave of Flora MacDonald. Flora was famous for helping Prince Charlie escape the British troops by disguising him as her handmaiden as they returned to Skye from the Outer Hebrides. 

Continuing around the headland, your next stop is the ruins of Duntulm Castle. The castle is a stronghold of the MacDonald clan that was abandoned by them in 1730 because, according to legend, of the wailings of the ghosts that roam the halls.  Although you can’t access the ruins, the views from the headland are spectacular and another look into your heritage. Heading back to Portree you have several options. Stop off to explore the wonderful rock formations that make up the Old Man of Storr or you can simply head back to the town to enjoy a wander through the quirky streets and the pretty harbour.

Overnight: The Cuillin Hills | Portree

Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

Day 8 | Travel to Inverness

culloden battle cairn

The Memorial Cairn at Culloden Battlefield, Photo Credit: VisitScotland

This morning you will leave the hills and history of Skye behind. You will head through the mountain range to the capital of the Highlands, your final stop on this wonderful exploration of your family heritage. The Battle of Culloden in 1746 shaped the history of Scotland with the dismantling of clans and the banning of national dress. Visit this windswept moorland, with headstones erected to the clans that fought and died here in support of their cause. The cutting edge 3D visitor centre will let you stand with your ancestors on the left-wing of the Jacobite army on that fateful April day, a truly emotive experience. Later, your guide will drop you off either at the airport or the train station in time for your onward connections.

Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

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Scottish Genealogy Itinerary

Meet the Author: Russell Murray

“Born and raised in the Scottish Highlands I have always been passionate about all things outdoors actively pursuing white water kayaking, skiing and mountain biking in my spare time.”

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