Clan Stewart itinerary

This eight-day itinerary highlights where the Stewarts left their mark in Scotland, from Argyll to the Highlands and beyond. The name Stewart derives from the official position of the High Steward of Scotland. Walter the High Steward married Marjory, Robert the Bruce's daughter and their son ascended the Scottish throne as Robert II in 1371, so founding the famous royal dynasty which was to rule Scotland and then England for the next 400 years. 

  • Looking across the Edinburgh cityscape from the Dugald Stewart Memorial on the city's Calton Hill
    The Dugald Stewart Memorial, Calton Hill, Edinburgh
  • Looking across the ruins of Inchmahome Priory on the Lake of Menteith
    Inchmahome Priory, Lake of Menteith
  • A view from within the walls of Stirling Castle, palace of Mary Queen of Scots, Stirling
    Stirling Castle

Arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland's historic capital, where you'll be spoilt for things to do and places to visit here.

For history-lovers, a good starting point is the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street .Here, you'll discover the story of Scotland from prehistory through to the present day. At the nearby Scottish Genealogical Society library in Victoria Terrace you'll find plenty of fellow travellers and enthusiastic researchers, as well as a wealth of genealogical information and guidance. No appointment is necessary but there is a small charge for non-members.

Edinburgh is also home to the Stewart Society who offer access, by appointment, to their large collection of books and resources to help you continue your family research.

Why not plan your trip around the annual clan gathering? In 2014 it will take place at Ballone Castle in Fearne, The Highlands between 22 - 24 August.

Travel north to Stirling and visit the impressive Stirling Castle, a favoured retreat of the Stewart monarchs and the childhood home of Mary, Queen of Scots. The Stewart monarchs James IV, V and VI have all left there marks on the architecture of the castle and an exhibition in Queen Anne's casemates offers a fascinating insight into their lives.

Then journey a mile or so southwest of the city to visit the poignant site of the Battle of Bannockburn (1314). Robert the Bruce had been declared King of Scots in 1306 and began a long and arduous campaign to secure his title, effectively doing so with this famous victory. He then set about rebuilding the Scottish nation, the legacy of which was handed down to the Stewarts to continue when his grandson was crowned as Robert II.

Leave Stirling and head north-west to Port of Menteith on the shore of the only lake in Scotland, Lake Menteith.

On an island in the lake is Inchmahome Priory, founded by Walter Comyn in 1238. Grave slabs and effigies of Stewart earls and knights can be found there. The priory was also 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. Depending on the weather you may want to spend the rest of the day here - don't forget to take a picnic!

It’s now time to explore the lands of other Stewart clans, from whom all other branches originate: those of Balquhidder, Lorne and Athol. First travel north towards Lochearnhead and Balquhidder, nestled at the head of Loch Voil in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. East of here on the south shore of Loch Earn is Ardvorlich.

The Stewarts of Ardvorlich were descended from James Stewart, called James the Gross, fourth and only surviving son of Murdoch, Duke of Albany, Regent of Scotland, who was beheaded in 1425. The Stewarts of Ardvorlich were the victims in a bloodthirsty episode in 1598 which resulted in almost 200 years of persecution for the MacGregors. The son of the Stewarts involved was the basis for the hero in Sir Walter Scott's novel The Legend of Montrose.

Now head west to Dunbegand and the impressive fortress of Dunstaffnage Castle near Oban in Argyll. The mother of Dugald Stewart, the first Chief of Appin, was a MacLaren from Dunstaffnage.

A few miles north is Appin, and in the bay near Portnacroish you will find Castle Stalker. Built by Duncan Stewart of Appin in the late 1400s, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery around the Firth of Lorne from the castle. The Appin Stewarts were descendants of the Lord of Lorne.

Travel north to Fort William, taking a slight detour east to Glencoe. The majestic mountain scenery is as well known for the infamous events which took place there in 1692 when a party of Campbell troops massacred members of the MacDonalds. The stunning visitor centre can be found at nearby Inverigan where the whole bloody story unfolds in a memorable audio-visual experience.

If time allows, travel west from Fort William to explore the Ardnamurchan area. In the 16th century the last remaining member of the Stewarts of Inverhyle fled from the Campbells and was brought up by a blacksmith in this area.

Head northeast to Inverness on the A82, enjoying the scenery as you pass by Lochs Lochy and Ness. Be sure to look out for the fabled monster Nessie! You may want to relax and enjoy the Highland hospitality of Inverness after a busy few days, but if not there's plenty to see. A fine introduction to the area can be found at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.

For a truly atmospheric experience, make the short journey to the atmospheric battleground of Culloden on the outskirts of Inverness. Here, in April 1746, the hopes of restoring a Stewart monarchy in Britain came to a final, bloody end when 'Bonnie' Prince Charlie's Jacobite rebellion was crushed by government forces. Charles Stewart of Ardsheal led Appin men to break the Redcoat ranks, but were then slain.

Leaving Inverness, your road south leads to the village of Newtonmore where you'll find the Highland Folk Museum. More than 400 years of Highland life are brought to life in exhibitions which track the everyday experiences of clansmen and crofters.

From Newtonmore, take the road south to Blair Atholl in Highland Perthshire.

These were the lands of Alexander Stewart, the infamous ‘Wolf of Badenoch’, from whom the Stewarts of Atholl were descended. The seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl, Blair Castle is set in majestic grounds in the heart of Highland Perthshire. It has extensive collections of arms and armour, pictures, furniture, porcelain, embroidery and family memorabilia and although a private home, is open to the public.

Leaving the main road you can view Garth Castle a mile north of Coshieville which is thought to have been built by the Wolf of Badenoch.

Return to Edinburgh, which has been greatly influenced by the Stewart monarchy and other more recent Stewarts.

You can visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the end of the historic Royal Mile, with the dramatic Scottish Parliament building nearby. At the other end of the Royal Mile stands Edinburgh Castle, from the battlements of which you can enjoy commanding views out over both the New and Old Towns of Edinburgh and beyond to Fife.

The Corinthian monument which stands on Calton Hill was erected in memory of Dugald Stewart (1753 - 1828) a leader in the field of philosophy and also one of Sir Walter Scott's teachers.

You can return home knowing that you have walked in the footsteps of some very noble and ancient ancestors.