What is a clan?
While the term "clan" means family or children in Gaelic - not everyone in the same clan was actually related to each other. The clans lived off the land, with cattle being their main source of wealth and, along with border disputes, the prime cause of inter-clan unrest. The most important clan chiefs at this time were part-kings, part-protectorates and part-judges and they held real power over their controlled lands.
The History of Clans in Scotland
Few aspects of Scotland’s history were as colourful, or as bloody, as the clan system. From ancient origins in the Celtic, Norse or Norman-French traditions, by the 13th century the clans had grown firm roots in the Highlands of Scotland.
The impact of the Battle of Culloden and the Highland Clearances
The system remained largely intact until the time of the bloody Battle of Culloden in 1746, where the Jacobite rebellion was mercilessly crushed by the royal troops of King George II. By this point, improved trade and communication links between northern and southern clans were already leading to the dilution of the clan system and the infamous Highland Clearances effectively signalled the end as thousands of Scottish land workers were evicted, with some emigrating to distant shores.
The clans today
Today, many clans can be traced back to a specific part of Scotland, for example the MacLeods of Skye, the MacNeils of Barra or the MacNabs of St Fillan on Loch Earn. If you have ancestral ties and a clan history in Scotland, a trip to your clan’s homeland is an incomparable and moving experience like no other.