Leslie is a clan descended from a nobleman who married the sister of the King of Scotland. The family used its royal influence to thrive in the north-east of the country and to many far-flung parts of the world.
Brainy and brave - that was the reputation of the founder of Clan Leslie, a nobleman named Bartholomew. He came to Scotland from Hungary in 1067 in the retinue of Edgar the Ætheling, brother of Saint Margaret of Scotland. Margaret became King Malcolm III of Scotland’s queen and Bartholomew later married Malcolm III's sister, Princess Beatrix of Scotland. On one occasion Bartholomew helped the queen across a dangerous river on a horse, telling her to ‘grip fast’ - this phrase lives on as the Leslie family motto. Malcolm III made his bold brother-in-law governor of the royal Edinburgh Castle and gave him estates in Fife, Angus, Mearns and Aberdeenshire.
Bartholomew built a castle at a place then known as Lesselyn; this evolved into the family name Leslie.
Leslie sights to visit
Clan Leslie chiefs and their descendants have left their mark at many places in Scotland, from the Lowlands through Fife and past Stirling and into the north-east.
A formidable stronghold in the capital city, Edinburgh Castle is perhaps the most important residence in the whole country. It was at one time governed by Bartholomew, the progenitor of Clan Leslie.
Not content with looking after one huge Scottish castle, a Leslie clan member also at one time was Governor of Stirling Castle. This strategically vital fortification towers above the River Forth and the ancient city. In the early 18th century the 9th Earl of Rothes (a title held by Clan Leslie since 1458) was Vice Admiral of Scotland and also Governor of Stirling Castle.
This small town in Fife was originally called Fythkill, and lands here were acquired by Bartholomew's great-grandson, Sir Norman Lesley. Leslie House was once a palace that rivalled the royal Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh for grandeur and was the seat of the Earls of Rothes until 1919. It was sadly damaged by fire in 2009, but is currently being restored.
This magnificent building set in majestic grounds in highland Perthshire is the seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl. In the early 17th century George Leslie of Balgonie was Captain of Blair Castle. Many of the Leslie clan became soldiers serving in many European countries in this period. Blair Castle is a private home but is open to the public and you can admire its extensive collections of arms and armour, pictures, furniture, porcelain, embroidery and family memorabilia.
The holy nave of Arbroath Abbey was the setting for the signing of one of the most important documents in Scottish history in 1320. A Declaration asking the Pope to recognise Scotland as an independent kingdom from England was signed by 39 Scots lords including Sir Andrew Leslie. Step into the abbey’s visitor centre to find out all about how this event has echoed down through the centuries to this day.
This is a poignant ruin today, but it was once a bustling Leslie family home. The Bishop of Aberdeen leased this house and other properties to the 8th Baron, John Leslie. Later in 1556 the buildings and lands were given to John's son William. William was the Sheriff of Aberdeen and he protected Aberdeen cathedral from attacks by ‘Reformers’.
The Leslies lived in Pitcaple Castle for 300 years until 1757. Set in lovely parkland and woods, it is privately owned, but welcomes guests wishing to experience life in an ancient Scottish castle.
Leslie Castle, Insch
This castle stands at a place once known as Lesselyn, on very first piece of land granted to Bartholomew, the progenitor of Clan Leslie, by King Malcolm III. The original castle would have been a motte and bailey type, built mostly of wood. This was replaced with a stone castle, which was refurbished by the Forbes family in about 1661. This later fell into ruin, and was finally restored to its former glory by David Leslie and his wife, Leslie Leslie, in 1989. The castle hass welcomed guests as a B&B for some years.
You are welcome to join the Clan Leslie Society International at its annual clan gathering.