Family Sempill itinerary

The Sempill (or Semple) family is not a clan in its own right but nevertheless played an important role in Scotland’s history, with strong bonds of shared heritage and ancestry. The current Chief of the name, Lord Sempill is rebuilding the community of descendants via the Semple Family Society.

Follow this five-day itinerary which stretches from Glasgow to the Highlands and Aberdeenshire and discover where the Sempills have made their mark over the years.

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  • View up to Craigievar Castle in the autumn with leaves lying on the ground
    Craigievar Castle
  • Culloden Battlefield at dusk, near Inverness
    Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness
  • The interior of the Mitchell Library in Glasgow
    Mitchell Library
  • Paisley Abbey and Town Hall photographed at dusk in Paisley, Renfrewshire.
    Paisley Abbey

Start your genealogical journey at the Mitchell Library in the cosmopolitan city of Glasgow. The library not only houses the city’s archives, but is also one of the largest public reference libraries in Europe.

You can spend time exploring the many fascinating attractions, including museums, galleries and parks across Glasgow, which is Scotland’s largest urban centre.

Head west into Renfrewshire and visit the ruins of Semple Collegiate Chapel which was built by the first Lord Sempill in 1504. It is situated in the Castle Semple Country Park, itself part of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park. Although the castle is no longer standing it stood at the east end of the loch within the park.

It is also worth visiting the nearby Paisley Abbey, founded in 1163, with which the Sempills had connections.

From Paisley, travel north east to the historic city of Stirling, near which the Sempills fought in the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488, which led to the death of King James III. Sir Thomas Sempill of Eliotstoun died fighting for his King.

While in Stirling, visit the impressive Stirling Castle and uncover more tales of Scottish history

Leave Stirling and head north to Inverness, the bustling capital of the Highlands, where on the outskirts you can learn about the fascinating, but bloody, Battle of Culloden. The visitor centre charts the history of the 1746 conflict when Bonnie Prince Charlies’ Jacobite rebellion was crushed by government forces. Hew Sempill, who was a professional soldier and chief of the name held the rank of brigadier general at Culloden and fought with his regiment on the left wing of the government army.

For more information about the history of the Highlands, take the short drive south to the village of Newtonmore where you'll find the fascinating Highland Folk Museum. Through displays and exhibitions, 400 years of Highland living is brought to life and you can discover the everyday experiences of clansmen and crofters.

The Sempill title was inherited by Sir Williams Forbes of Craigievar in Aberdeenshire and as a result the Sempills were, for a time, connected to the powerful Clan Forbes. Head east into Aberdeenshire six miles south of the town of Alford, visit the magnficient fairy-tale Craigievar Castle, which was once owned by the Forbes-Sempill family. It is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.

This is just one of the properties which makes up Scotland’s Castle Trail. The trail includes 17 castles across Aberdeenshire, each with their own history and story to tell.

From Aberdeenshire, head south to Edinburgh, Scotland’s magnificent capital. The Sempill family had close connections to the city and were based here from the 1740s to the 1870s.

Explore the historic Royal Mile from Semple Close to Holyrood Abbey, where five members of the Sempill family are buried. At the top of the Royal Mile lies Edinburgh Castle, which commands stunning views across the city. If time allows, it is well worth a visit.

You can also find more information about your ancestors at the Scottish Genealogical Society library on Victoria Terrace. It is an excellent resource of information and while appointments are not necessary, a small fee is payable for non-members.