The members of Clan Mackenzie have roamed far and wide from their traditional homelands in Kintail and Ross-shire. Their seat today is Castle Leod, but spectacular Eileen Donan was the clan’s original home.
For centuries, the chiefs of the Clan Mackenzie ruled their lands from their formidable castle stronghold on the island of Eilean Donan. Today the restored castle, which is reached by a bridge from the mainland, is one of the most-photographed and well known places in Scotland. The castle may have been the clan’s reward for helping to defeat the invading Norsemen at the Battle of Largs in 1263. The clan lands ultimately including large areas of Wester and Easter Ross, including areas of stunning scenic beautify such as Kintail, Torridon, Applecross and Assynt.
The clan grew in power and by the 14th century Wars of Scottish Independence it was a force to be reckoned with. According to tradition Clan Mackenzie was one of the clans who fought with Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Inverurie (1308) against Clan Comyn, who were rivals to the Scottish throne. At the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Chief Iain Mac Coinnich was said to have led a force of five hundred Mackenzies to help defeat the English army.
During the 15th and 16th centuries the Mackenzies feuded with the neighbouring clans of Munro and MacDonald. In the early 17th century they took advantage of MacLeod feuds to acquire the Isle of Lewis, and the Mackenzie chief was made Earl of Seaforth. During the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1719 the chief and clan of Mackenzie supported the Jacobite cause. However, during the Jacobite rising of 1745 the clan was divided with the chief, Kenneth Mackenzie, Lord Fortrose, supporting the British-Hanoverian Government and his relative, George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie, supporting the Jacobites.
The surname Mackenzie is MacCoinneach in Scottish Gaelic which means ‘son of the fair bright one’.
You can enjoy the spectacle of several MacKenzie clan gatherings, including at the Gairloch Highland Gathering (first Saturday in July), Inverness Highland Games (third Saturday in July) and the Strathpeffer Highland Games (second Saturday in August).
Fascinating Mackenzie sights to visit
The seat of the clan is Castle Leod, a powerfully built tower house with walls up to 8 feet thick. It is one of the most beautiful, romantic and unspoilt castles in the Highlands, and you can visit it on several days a year. The castle is the inspiration behind castle Leoch, the seat and home of the laird of clan Mackenzie, in Diana Gabaldon's popular 'Outlander' series.
Highlanders Museum, Fort George
In 1778, three MacKenzie regiments were raised for the British Army, two of which were amalgamated in 1881 to form the Seaforth Highlanders, who wore MacKenzie tartan and a stag’s head badge with the motto ‘Cuidich ‘n’ Righ’ (‘Help the King’). The story of this proud regiment can be explored at the Highlands Museum at mighty Fort George, which lies in a scenic location a few miles east of Inverness.
Eilean Donan Castle
This is one of the most famous and spectacular of all Scottish castles - it’s worth a visit even without the Mackenzie connection! But if you are part of the clan then you can feel proud to know that Eilean Donan Castle was long held by the Mackenzies of Kintail, from the 13th century onwards. Kintail, which also includes the site of the Jacobite Battle of Glenshiel, the major event of the Jacobite Rising in 1719, now belongs to the National Trust and owing to its spectacular beauty is one of the most popular areas for walks in the Scottish Highlands.
Glen Ord Distillery, Muir of Ord
No trip to Scotland would be complete without a distillery visit to see how the ‘water of life’ is made and to try a ‘wee dram’. Glen Ord is the ideal choice for Clan MacKenzie descendants as it was once owned by a MacKenzie!
Deep in the heart of what was once MacKenzie heartland lies Inverewe Gardens, one of the most celebrated gardens in Scotland, thanks to the ingenious ideas of Osgood MacKenzie.