Clan Macleod itinerary

Clan Macleod’s proud history and influence can be found across much of northern Scotland. Following the Battle of Largs in 1263, almost half the Hebridean islands were left in possession of the Macleod’s ancient ancestor Leod, while his two sons Tormod and Torquil went on to occupy land from Skye and Glenelg to Lewis, Raasay and Gairloch.

Discover Macleod’s land on this six-day itinerary, where the Gaelic culture, which has been handed down the generations, retains its vibrancy.

  • Looking out over the Calanais Standing Stones, Calanais, Isle of Lewis
    The Calanais Standing Stones, Calanais, Isle of Lewis
  • Looking up the main driveway of Dunvegan Castle and Gardens
    Dunvegan Castle and Gardens
  • Inside of Seallam! Visitor Centre, a family and social history research centre at Northton, Isle of Harris
    Seallam! Visitor Centre at Northton, Isle of Harris
  • Tarbert, Isle of Harris
    Tarbert, Isle of Harris

Inverness, the beautiful capital of the Highlands is the ideal starting point for this tour of the lands of the Macleod clan. Visit the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery for an excellent introduction to the history of the area before making the short journey to the Culloden battleground on the outskirts of the city.

The story of this bloody battle is brought to life in live history presentations and through the excellent interactive visitor centre. It was on this site in April 1746 that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite rebellion, which was supported by the Macleods of Raasay, was crushed by government forces.

From Inverness, make your way south to the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore where you can uncover 400 years of history through a series of exhibitions and learn about the everyday experiences of clansmen and crofters.

Continue on the A86 but turn north at Spean Bridge onto the A82 and then onto the A87. Enjoy the stunning drive in the shadow of the Five Sisters of Kintail mountain range At Shiel Bridge take a detour to Glenelg. Originally this was the main route to the Isle of Skye and was the land held by Tormod's grandson Malcolm. This land was given to him by King David I in return for providing a boat and oarsman when required.

Return to the main road along the northern shore of Loch Duich where you will find the beautiful and atmosphere Eilean Donan Castle. This fortress is a former stronghold of the Mackenzies and the site for many clan battles with the Lord of the Isles. The current building actually dates back to the 20th century but there has been a castle on this land for more than eight centuries. The castle is now owned by the Macraes and is open to the public.

Travel west to the Kyle of Lochalsh before crossing the bridge to the Isle of Skye, where you will find many connections to Clan Macleod.

The Macleods of Raasay who fought alongside Bonnie Prince Charlie suffered severe retribution by the government forces as a consequence of their involvement in the Jacobite rebellion.

Visit the Bloody Stone in Glen Sligachan marks the site of the last clan battle between the MacDonalds and the Macleods in 1601. Further north lies the picturesque harbour village of Portree where, in 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie bade his final farewell to Flora MacDonald. She helped him escape following this defeat at Culloden.

Perfectly combining culture, history and food and drink, the Aros Experience on the outskirts of Portree is well worth the visit before you continue on your journey.

Head to the west of Skye and visit the principal seat of the Macleod chiefs, Dunvegan Castle. The exhibits on display include the Fairy Flag whose magical powers are said to have offered the Macleods protection in times of greatest need.

A short distance west of Dunvegan is the Colbost Croft Museum where the smoke from the peat fire creates an evocative atmosphere.

To the south you will find the flat top mountains of Healaval More and Healaval Bheag, traditionally known as Macleod's Tables. Alasdair Crotach, 8th Chief of Dunvegan set out a feast on the top of one of these flat hills to win a wager with James V. At the time James V was attempting to suppress the power of the Hebridean chiefs and it was Alasdair's talent for diplomacy that saved him and the Macleod clan.

At Trumpan, north of Dunvegan stop by the ruined church which was the site of another battle between the MacDonalds and the Macleods in 1579. All but one of the Macleods worshipping in the church were killed. The survivor escaped and fetched help and all the MacDonalds were slain in revenge.

Further north is Uig where you can take the short ferry ride to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.

Alternatively you can travel east and take the short ferry to Raasay where Torquil Macleod occupied this island and his descendants lived for several hundred years.

Tarbert is at the meeting point of the Isles of Lewis and Harris, which are treated as two separate islands, despite being on the same landmass. This followed the split in the Macleod clan which dominated events in the Western Isles for many centuries.

A few miles further south lies the village of Northton (Taobh Tuath), on Harris which is treasure trove for family historians. Seallam Visitor Centre is the only genealogy centre of its type in Scotland, with records on every Western Isles family, some of which go back more than 200 years.

Continue to the southern tip of Harris to Rodel. It was here that Alasdair Crotach rebuilt the 16th century Church of St Clements and his body is interred in a richly carved tomb.

From here, travel to Lewis which is the ancestral lands of the Torquil Macleods and head for Stornoway, the capital of the Western Isles. The town was the site of a great castle as early as 1100 which was later captured by the Viking ancestor of the Macleods. The suppression of the island chiefs continued when James VI leased Lewis to Fife businessmen who came to take over and rid the island of its "barbarous inhabitants" but they eventually gave up after several attempts.

While in Stornoway, why not experience some of the local customs and join in a ceilidh or look out for the distinctive Hebridean lilt of the Gaelic language.

To the west and north of Stornoway you can visit the 5,000-year-old Callanish Standing Stones, the Doune Broch Centre at Carloway with its impressive Iron Age defence structure and a traditional Lewis thatched cottage at Arnol. The Ness Heritage Centre is also worth a visit where you can see local archives and genealogical records.

From Stornoway, saile back across The Minch to the mainland and enjoy the breathtaking views to Skye and the mountains of Coigach and Assynt, all of which have been the lands where Clan Macleod have lived for many centuries.