Clan Cumming itinerary

Follow this Clan Cumming itinerary and take with you memories of places steeped in the myths, legends, and heritage of your ancestors.

Discover the heartlands of Badenoch and the Earldom of Menteith, where you can experience the early history of the Comyns Clan and the later history where the Cummings were involved in improving social, environmental and economic aspects of their local communities.

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  • Looking to the town centre of Dunkeld
    The town centre of the beautiful 18th century town of Dunkeld
  • An aerial view over Inchmahome Island, Lake of Menteith
    An aerial view over Inchmahome Island, Lake of Menteith
  • Lake of Menteith
    Lake of Menteith
  • Robert the Bruce statue at The Battle of Bannockburn Centre
    Robert the Bruce statue at The Battle of Bannockburn Centre

The Comyns (as they were originally known) established themselves in the ministry and judiciary of Scotland in the early 1100s, having arrived with William the Conqueror in England in 1066. They made their home in Badenoch, an ancient area south east of Inverness, along the River Spey at the foot of the Cairngorm Mountains. The Comyns married into the Scottish Royal Family and held three earldoms in Stirling and Perthshire. Fighting Robert the Bruce for the Scottish throne in the early 1300s all but wiped out this part of the family, leaving the Altyre Cummings based in the Moray area.

Arrive in Aberdeen and spend a few hours exploring the distinctive grey-stoned architecture that gives the place its nickname of the Granite City.

Travel north to Turriff, where Alexander Comyn built a hospice in the 13th century. Nearby is Delgatie Castle, an 11th century tower house built by the Comyn Earls of Buchan. This is the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland, and was given to the Clan Hay (which was distantly related to the Comyns) following the Comyn’s defeat at Bannockburn. It is now the Clan Hay Centre.

A few miles to the east of Turriff is the small rural parish of Monquhitter. Here is Cuminestown, a planned village created by Joseph Cumine of Auchry. Building started in 1763, with Joseph's ambition being to establish a market place for the surrounding farmlands. You may even find some of your ancestors in the Cuminestown graveyard.

Carry on westward through Huntly, a former stronghold of Clan Gordon. Robert the 13th Chief of Altyre married a Gordon heiress, bringing Gordonstoun land into the family, hence the name of the present chief Gordon-Cumming. Huntly Castle played a pivotal role in the history of the Gordons over many centuries.

Head into Dufftown where Balvenie Castle can be found a mile to the north in Glenfiddich (famous for its whisky). Marjory, daughter of Fergus, Earl of Buchan married William Comyn, who became the Earl of Buchan and Lord of Belvenie. He built this castle in the 1200s and it left the Comyn's ownership as a consequence of Robert the Bruces' royal ambitions. Although a ruin, it offers an insight into life in Glenfiddich and is well worth a visit. Why not stay overnight in one of the many village and farm guest houses in the area?

Travel south along the A95 which follows the River Spey into the lands once known as Badenoch. You are in part of Cairngorms National Park, an area of fabulous landscapes, an abundance of wildlife, vast ancient forests, snow capped mountain peaks and numerous lochs. A short detour from the main road brings you to Nethy Bridge, just north of Aviemore. Here a huge fortress, Castle Roy, rises from a rocky mound. This is said to have been the stronghold of the Comyns.

Near Aviemore is the Cairngorm Mountain Railway, the highest and fastest mountain railway in the country and a special way to enjoy spectacular views. Further south along the A9, in the heartlands of Badenoch are the villages of Kingussie and Newtonmore where you'll find the fascinating Highland Folk Museum. Follow the A9 south through Pitlochry, Dunkeld - where the famous actor Alan Cumming, star of Cabaret and X-men, was brought up - and around Perth before heading south west to Stirling.

Spend some time in Stirling to visit the impressive Stirling Castle, a favoured royal retreat and the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots, then travel a mile or so south west of the city to visit the very poignant site of the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn. On the death of Alexander III in the late 13th century, two Comyns, the Earl of Buchan and Lord of Badenoch, direct descendants of Duncan I, were appointed to the council of six guardians of Scotland. Struggles to win the throne led to the deaths of the two Comyns at the hands of Robert the Bruce in 1306, in Greyfriars Kirk, Dumfries. Red Comyn's son fought with the English at the Battle of Bannockburn to avenge his father's death but was slain himself.

Leave Stirling and travel a few miles northwest on the A81. There you will find the Port of Menteith on the shore of the only lake in Scotland, Lake Menteith. Menteith was one of the Earldoms acquired through beneficial marriage by the Comyns in their early history. On an island in the lake is the Priory of Inchmahome, founded by Walter Comyn in 1238. The priory was refuge to the infant Queen Mary at one time and is now cared for by Historic Scotland. A ferry will take you from the port to the island, where you can see most of the 13th century buildings together with picturesque views and abundant plants and wildlife - don't forget to take a picnic.

If time allows before driving up to Inverness, take the road to Fort William where you can stay overnight in the historic seaside town. On the way, travel through the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and along Glen Coe (‘narrow glen’). The Glen Coe mountain scenery is as famous as the events which took place there in 1692. A stunning new visitor centre can be found at nearby Inverigan where the whole bloody story unfolds in a memorable audio-visual experience. Glencoe's scenery features in a number of Hollywood movies, including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Inverlochy Castle is a mile north of Fort William and was built in the 1200s by Comyn of Badenoch, however it has changed hands several times since then. Continue north east to Inverness, enjoying the scenery as you pass by lochs Lochy and Ness where you can look out for the fabled monster.

Experience the beautiful, bustling capital of the Highlands. Inverness boasts many fun attractions to explore, including Inverness Museum which tells of the fascinating history and culture of the area. Make the short journey to Culloden where, in April 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite Rebellion was crushed by government forces.

Travel a few miles east to Nairn, a seaside town on the Moray Firth coast from where a dolphin colony can sometimes be seen playing in the sea. To the south of Nairn is the fairy-tale Cawdor Castle, owned by the Earls of Cawdor whose maternal ancestors were the medieval Thanes of Cawdor. Richard Comyn, who was Chancellor of Scotland in 1133 married Hexstilda of Tynedale, great granddaughter of King Duncan whose murder is part of Shakespeare's famous tragedy, Macbeth. The castle is encompassed by three gardens, a golf course and wood, through which a path leads to the garden at the Cawdor dower house which was inspired by Tibet's Tsangpo Gorges.

Travel eastwards to Forres and then south towards Dava. Just 4 miles south of Forres is the current clan chief's home at Altyre House (not open to the public). The Cummings of Altyre descended from the brother of Black Comyn and established themselves in Moray. The current Clan Chief is Sir Alistair Gordon-Cumming of Lochtervandich and Auchry, Baronet of Altyre and Gordonstoun, who inherited these titles in 2002. His father Sir William was a noted conservationist and involved with the return of the osprey to Scotland.

A few more miles south you pass through Dunphail, where another of the Comyns castle ruins can be seen. Turn off at Dava to view the ruins of the famous 13th century island fortress of Lochindorb Castle in the loch of the same name. It can be seen from the lay-by on the roadside north of Lochindorb Lodge. John ‘the Black’ Comyn built the formidable stronghold but it was seized by Alexander Stewart ‘the wolf of Badenoch’ in 1372. Why not return to Nairn to spend an evening by the sea?