Clan Davidson itinerary

Explore your connections with Clan Davidson by taking this fascinating itinerary from the royal Scottish capital through to the Highlands and the Black Isle above Inverness. Visit the lands and battlegrounds of your ancestors which highlight just a few of the stories and places where the Davidsons have left their mark.

  • View of Balmoral Castle from the gardens
    Balmoral Castle
  • Culloden Battlefield at dusk, near Inverness
    Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness
  • Dundee, seen from the Dundee Law © Kenny Lam
    Dundee, seen from the Dundee Law © Kenny Lam
  • The main gallery of the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
    The main gallery of the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

In the 14th century, Clan Davidson originated from David Dubh of Invernahaven. He married Slone Mackintosh, the daughter of the Clan Chattan chief, thus creating close links to the Clan Chattan confederation. The Davidsons prospered as merchants and town dignitaries in Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen, along the east coast and in the area around Inverness in the north. They fought courageously and honourably, leading their clans-folk and townspeople when necessary, but suffered greatly in battles against the Camerons and the Lord of the Isles.

Edinburgh is a great place to begin your Clan Davidson itinerary. Here, you can learn about Scotland's fascinating history at the National Museum of Scotland, research your family roots at the Scottish Genealogical Society or enjoy wonderful views from Edinburgh Castle.

Head north towards the Forth Road Bridge, where you will find the small village of Davidson's Mains, located 3 miles north west from Edinburgh city centre. The village dates back to 1669 at which time it was known as 'the Muttonhole'. The name was changed to Davidson's Mains in the 1850s, taken from the Davidson family who owned Muirhouse Mansion in nearby Marine Drive. The mansion is an A listed Gothic building beside the Firth of Forth, built in 1832 on the Muirhouse Estates which were the home of the Davidson family from 1776. The mansion has been empty since 1999.

Continue your journey to Perth, originally a Roman outpost located at the highest navigable point on the River Tay. Its long history has been linked to the river as a crossing point into the north and it played an important role in the Wars of Independence in the 14th century. Perth Museum is one of the oldest local museums in the UK with a depth and quality of exhibits reflecting this status, showing the local and natural history of the area. Why not make use of the great variety of accommodation in Perthshire and stay overnight?

North of Perth is the site of the famous battle of North Inch. In 1396 King Robert III tried to resolve the feuds between Clan Cameron and Clan Chattan, which included members of the Davidson clan. An arena was built and each clan chose 30 of their best warriors to take part in a battle. The fight was so horrifically bloody only one of the combatants survived, and the feuds continued worse than before.

Head north on the A9 towards Inverness, and just south of Newtonmore is the site of the Battle of Invernahavon. The battle took place in 1387 when Camerons living on lands in Lochaber belonging to the Chattans had refused to pay the rent, and the Mackintosh-Chattan men had taken their cattle in lieu of the debt without their agreement. Some 400 Camerons gathered to take their revenge. The Mackintosh chief called upon the Davidsons and Macphersons to support him in the battle, and because the Davidsons were given the honour of fighting at the right hand side of the Mackintoshes, the dishonoured Macphersons stormed off the battlefield before the fight had even begun. The Camerons now outnumbered the Davidsons and Mackintoshes and killed many of them. The next day the Macphersons were shamed into rejoining the battle and had no trouble in defeating the exhausted Camerons. Unfortunately, it was the Davidson Clan who suffered, being greatly reduced as a result of the battle.

At Newtonmore you can visit the Highland Folk Museum where more than 400 years of Highland history are brought to life in exhibitions which track the everyday experiences of clansmen and crofters. South east of Aviemore is the Rothiemurchus Estate, where the lands extend round Loch an Eilean, and a ruined castle stands on an island. In the mid 16th century, a murderous Davidson was chained in the dungeons here before meeting a horrible end, and his head was set on a pole at the scene of his crime.

Now travel to Inverness. The Davidsons are thought to have settled in this area after the Battle of North Inch in the early 15th century, specifically in Cantray to the east of Inverness, in the Culloden area and on the Black Isle to the north of Inverness.

You may want to relax and enjoy the Highland hospitality of Inverness, and from here you can explore the Black Isle peninsula. Travel north west to Dingwall, which sits at the head of the Cromarty Firth and boasts a long history. Its name is Viking for 'parliament field' and it has been an administrative centre since the 800s. In more modern times it was the famous engineer Thomas Telford who built the harbour here in 1820. Visit the award-winning Dingwall Museum, which has permanent displays including a smiddy, kitchen and military room.

Nearby is Tulloch Castle, the home of the Davidson chiefs from 1762, purchased from the Bayne family by Henry Davidson, the first of Tulloch. His son Duncan carried out grand improvements to the castle as well as to the lands and roads around, even reclaiming some land from the sea. It stayed in the Davidson family until quite recently and today it is a hotel.

Head north east to Cromarty, a pretty town with a seafaring tradition. Records show that there were Davidsons in Cromarty in the 1670s, and they were involved in the local council. Hugh Miller's Cottage, the last thatched cottage in Cromarty, offers an insight into life in the early 1800s and Cromarty Courthouse Museum tells the history of the town using animated figures and audio-visual displays.

Travel south west to Fortrose, which dates back to the 1200s when the Cathedral of Ross was built. Look out for dolphins in the Moray Firth and explore the attractive streets of Victorian villas and the red stone remains of the cathedral. Alexander Davidson, an author, was also the Town Clerk here in the late 1600s.

Head back to Inverness and 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 Chattan and Clan Davidson fought courageously but suffered heavy losses at the battle in support of the ‘young pretender’.

Travel east on the A96 to the site of the Battle of Harlaw, to the north of Inverurie. Break your journey to look round a whisky distillery or two - and to admire the scenery. The Battle of Harlaw took place in 1411, when the Lord of the Isles, who did not acknowledge the Stuart monarch, had gathered a huge army of 10,000 Highland clansmen to attack the Lowland army at Harlaw. Sir Robert Davidson, Lord Provost of Aberdeen, led the townspeople of Aberdeen together with the Earl of Mar and his supporters against this huge army. They numbered only 1,000 but were much better equipped and disciplined and many were noble knights. The battle was very bloody and many were killed and wounded, and there was no victor. Sir Robert was slain and the Lord of the Isles never regained his power nor posed any future threat. There is a monument which marks the site and Sir Robert's name is the first on the monument. He was buried in a crypt in St Nicholas Kirk in Aberdeen.

Spend a few hours exploring the distinctive grey-stoned architecture that gives Aberdeen its nickname of the Granite City. Perhaps visit the fine maritime museum, or admire the elegant buildings of Kings College, one of the oldest university colleges in Scotland.

On your journey back to Edinburgh, drive west across the Cairngorms to Balmoral Castle, the beautiful summer retreat of the Royal Family. Duncan Davidson, Laird of Tulloch was a favoured friend of Queen Victoria and visited her here at Balmoral. She made him Lord Lieutenant of Ross-shire.

Continue west through Braemar, an attractive village which enjoyed the royal patronage of Queen Victoria. Half a mile to the east is Braemar Castle, which was used as a garrison for government forces during the Jacobite uprising and today has many period furnished rooms and museum exhibitions well worth exploring. The castle is owned by the Farquharson family who were part of the Clan Chattan confederation.

If time allows you can make a slight detour to Dundee, where many Davidsons settled. Dundee is Scotland's fourth largest city and boasts a long and fascinating history. Once a major centre of the jute industry, Dundee is home to the Verdant Works where you will find a working jute mill in the award-winning industrial museum. Visit the RRS Discovery where you can explore the Antarctic museum, see the famous exploration ship Discovery and find out about the explorer Captain Scott.