Clan Mackay itinerary

The Mackay clan hails from the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Scotland's north west and it is still possible to find members who will introduce themselves as "a Mackay from the land of Mackay".  Follow this six-day itinerary across the north Highlands, an area known as the Province of Strathnaver from the 11th century and better known today as Sutherland, and visit key sites in Clan Mackay's history.

  • Looking across the grounds towards the Castle of Mey, The Highlands
    Looking across the grounds towards the Castle of Mey
  • Culloden Battlefield at dusk, near Inverness
    Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness
  • People walking across bridge and admiring Inverness Castle
    Inverness Castle
  • A stone carving on display at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
    Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Arrive in Inverness, the beautiful, bustling capital of the Highlands and start your exploration of Highland heritage at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery in the heart of this small city.

Just up the hill is Inverness Castle, defended for King George I by Clan Mackay during the 1715 rebellion. The castle is now home to the Scottish Court Service. 

For more information on genealogy in the region, visit the Highland Archive Centre which has records dating back to the 13th century.

Before heading north towards your ancestral homeland, take a short detour southwards and visit the Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore. More than 400 years of Highland life is brought to life in exhibitions which track the everyday experiences of clansmen and crofters.

Then head back north to the outskirts of Inverness, and visit the atmospheric Culloden battlefield. It was on this site in 1746 that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite rebellion was crushed by government forces which included 800 Mackay warriors.

From Inverness travel into the northern Highlands and the town of Wick where the Wick Heritage Museum features a wealth of exhibits and photographs charting the history of the town. This includes the restored fishing boat, the Isabella Fortuna, which can be found in the inner harbour.

Continue along the coast to John o'Groats, the most northerly point on the British mainland and enjoy spectacular views across the Pentland Firth to Orkney.

The view was a favourite of the late HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who spent much of her time at the Castle of Mey on the outskirts of Thurso. The castle which was built between 1566 and 1572 is open to the public and visitors can also explore the grounds which include a walled garden.

Head west of Thurso and into the ancestral heartland of Clan Mackay where a must-see attraction is the Strathnaver Museum in Bettyhill. This is where the strath, or valley, of the river Naver reaches the dramatic coastline. The museum's Clan Mackay Room contains fascinating documents and memorabilia

The museum is also the starting popint of the Strathnaver Trail which is an interesting collection of 29 archeological sites across the area and includes the remains of Neolithic cairns, Pictish carved stones and much more.

Despite the Mackays loyalty to the government during the Jacobite rebellion, they were unable to escape the harsh Highland Clearances, and the deserted, ruined farmsteads found along the trail are one of the most moving sights from the time.

Continue westwards where the scenery becomes ever more dramatic. In the village of Tongue you will find the burial sites of some prominent clan members in the Reay vault of Tongue Church. Another clan connection in the village is that the tower house of the House of Tongue was built by the Mackays during the 1500s.

Again travelling westwards, head for Durness, Britian's most north-westerly village and soak up the beauty of Balnakeil Bay and you'll see why the Mackays remain so proud of their ancestral lands.

For your final day, enjoy a leisurely tour of the parish of Eddrachillis, which includes the former Mackay stronghold Scourie and the village of Tarbet.

General Hugh Mackay of Scourie was a distinguished soldier who became Commander-in-chief in Scotland during the 17th century.