Scotland's Best Tours
Margot McMurdo, Blue Badge Scottish Tourist Guide.
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Scottish Clan and Family History Tours
Researching your roots
The USA Armstrongs, with Uncle Ted, on the roof of Gilnockie Hollows Tower with the Armstrong salute - "I remain unvanquished!"
See more scenes from the USA Armstrongs tour at the bottom of this page.
Researching your roots can be interesting, exciting and fun. I am happy to research to see if you have a connection with a Scottish Clan and plan a tour for you so that you can walk in the footsteps of your ancestors or even if you just want to see the places where you know 'family' have lived it can be incorporated into a wonderful tour of Scotland.
Clan septs, or families, were of two classes: clansmen of the clan who were related by blood and formed separate branches, and individuals and groups who sought and obtained the protection of the clan. This then resulted in a clan having septs of different surnames, and also in people with the same surname being attached to different clans.
For example, my surname is McMurdo and we are a sept of the Clan MacPherson and also have associations with the Clan Chattan. The Clan Chatten also has links with the MacIntoshes, so as you explore your roots you find associations with many more people than originally thought.
It is also strange to think that some of the ancestors of the families below will have fought and died alongside each other on Wednesday 16th April 1746 at the Battle of Culloden Moor. The battlefield can be visited and records checked to see if there are clan/family connections.
Left: Greg and Ginny Palmer
Right: Ginny's father's home near New Galloway
Greg and Ginny Palmer from the United States spent a vacation exploring their Scottish roots with myself and my partner, Ian. Ginny's background led to the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, so a visit to Armadale Castle on the Isle of Skye was a must, but we also managed to find the house where her father lived before emigrating – a lovely old farmhouse, still very much a family home today, in the Dumfriesshire area of the country.
While touring with Jim and Joyce Vorp we stayed in an old Inn called The Steampacket and it was located right on the side of the harbour where their ancestors sailed for America. They had lots of photographs and memorabilia in the bar of the emigrants leaving Scotland for a new life in America. We had dinner in the bar one evening and a man came up to us and said I think I may be related to one of you. It turned out he was a cousin of Jim and Joyce's and he invited us to his home for coffee next day. On arrival we met his wife and had delicious coffee and cakes then they showed us photgraphs and documents of the family which confirmed he was a relative. It was a real unexpected event and really made their trip, finding family they thought had all left for America.
Right; Joyce and Jim Vorp from the United States found their ancestors home in Whithorn, Galloway.
The Robertsons from the United States are one of the many family groups that have travelled with me on a tailor-made tour to search for the places associated with their ancestors. We visited the Clan Museum closeby Blair Atholl and explored the small church and graveyard at Calvine making our way to Culloden Battlefield for an emotional but imformative visit as it is where some members of the clan lost their lives in 1746 fighting for the Jacobite Cause of Bonnie Prince Charlie. To walk on a battleground where some of your ancestors are buried can be a daunting but fascinating experience - to know you have been walking on ground known to them, or even their final resting place.
Right; The Robertson Family.
Sheila Ueno from Hawaii was lucky enough to have 5 months exploring the UK, and we spent a couple of weeks searching for her Cummings family connections in Scotland.
Right; Sheila and Andrew Cummings.
We met up with Andrew Cummings, a dry stane dyker to trade (building/repairing dry stone walls, a wonderful specialised country craft learned from his father).
She also met 'Hamish' (left) - no relation, just a very friendly member of the Highland Cattle family!
Bob and Jean Law from Australia visited Castle Leod near Strathpeffer, the Clan seat of the Mackenzies, which was Jean's family background and even had a private tour with Lord Cromarty, the present Clan Chief. A very memorable addition to their Scottish vacation.
We also visited Culloden Battlefield. MacKenzies fought at the battle.I wondered if there could be any connection with Bob's side of the family and Culloden. He thought his family were too peaceful to be involved with the Jacobite Cause and Culloden but when we searched the Culloden records we did find a Law and he was a minister present at the battlefield - so Bob was right in a way! It was a very strange coincidence.
Right; Bob and Jean at Castle Leod.
Exploring family/clan lands can take you travelling off the usual 'tourist routes' so you can experience more of the countryside and its people. You may discover unknown cousins or people that share the same name as yourselves but unrelated, but I do guarantee you an interesting and entertaining tour.
Right; Eilean Donan Castle has associations with the Clans MacKenzie and MacRae.
Sandra Pekar and two of her brothers, Tony and Larry Cotting from the United States enjoyed a Scottish Tour including visiting their family clan castle, Castle Menzies in Perthshire. They also viewed Scotland from a different perspective on board a Highland Safari.
Right; Sandy and Tony with their Safari driver and guide.
Below right; Sandy and Tony at the old entrance door into Menzies Castle.
Below left; The Menzies Clan enjoying a well-earned dessert at the end of the day.
The Armstrongs were the most powerful and feared of the Scottish Borders Clans and I had the great pleasure of escorting Dee, John, Laurie and Scot on the trail of their notorious ancestors. Meeting distant relation 'Uncle' Ted Armstrong, the curator of Gilnockie Hollows Tower, the home of the infamous Johnnnie Armstrong was a real highlight of our tour.
Above: With 'Uncle Ted' in the grounds of Gilnockie Hollows Tower.
Left: The stone marking the place where Johnnie Armstrong met his death, hanged without trial and thrown into a pit at Carlenrig
Left: With the statue of ancestor Lang Sandy Armstrong who was hanged with his 11 sons in the village of Rowanburn.
Special Clan Events for 2023
There are a huge number of clan gatherings this year. I have listed a few but you can check http://www.visitscotland.com/about/ancestry/clans/gatherings if your clan is not mentioned below.
You may like to incorporate these events into your visit.
- Clan Baird 4th-6th August
- Clan MacThomas 25th August – 1st September
- Clan MacLeod 22nd – 28th July
- Clan Chattan 3rd August
- Clan Lamont 25th -27th August
- Clan Burnett 30th July
- Clan McLean 7th-8th April