‘Clan’ is a Gaelic term for family or children, though not everyone in a clan is related. Traditionally a clan’s main source of income was its livestock and land. Given its value, it is unsurprising that border disputes caused many inter-clan clashes. These were fought largely by clan chiefs, who were seen as ‘part-kings’ and held great control over their land.
Similarly the House of Stewart, Scotland’s royal line, was infamous for its dramatic tales and hard-fought battles. Much of Scotland’s royal and clan history remains well preserved across the country and continues to this day. We’ve pulled together a travel itinerary to help you make the most of it.
Robert II – Dundonald Castle – Kilmarnock
Dundonald Castle, where the formidable Stewart dynasty began, was built in the 14th century. Situated on an ancient hilltop surrounded by woodland, it was the home of Scots King Robert II, grandson of Robert the Bruce.
A vibrant ‘living’ monument, the castle holds an important part of the village it is situated in. Hosting traditional Highland Games and a special place for local residents to take their families, the busy visitor centre and cafe are a must-see (source: Dundonald Castle).
Opening Hours: Open daily, April – October from 9.30am – 5.30pm / November – March from 10am – 4pm
James I – Linlithgow Palace – Linlithgow
Located west of Edinburgh and east of Stirling, Linlithgow Palace was the perfect stop off for royals on their travels between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. Its restoration as an elegant ‘pleasure palace’ was ordered by James I, transforming an earlier severely damaged residence. The palace was the birthplace for several monarchs including Mary Queen of Scots. A tour of the palace allows you to step into the chamber where it is thought she was born.
An annual jousting event takes place each summer, harking back to a medieval days of entertainment and tournaments. (source: Historic Environment Scotland).
Opening Hours: Open daily, April – September from 9.30am – 5.30pm / October – March 10am – 4pm
Clan Sutherland – Dunrobin Castle – Golspie, Sutherland
The largest and most northerly of Scotland’s great castles, Dunrobin Castle is situated in Golspie, Sutherland. With 189 rooms it is one of Britain’s oldest continuously lived-in houses, dating as far back as the 1300s. It is still home to the Earldom and Dukedom of Sutherland.
With it’s towering conical spires from the influence of Sir Charles Barry, designer of the Houses of Parliament in London, it resembles a French chateau. It is known as Scotland’s ‘fairytale castle’ and is said to have inspired the famous Disney Castle.
In it’s history, the castle has been used as a naval hospital during WWI and a boys’ boarding school in the 1960s. (source: Dunrobin Castle)
Opening Hours: Dunrobin Castle is open annually from 1st April to 31st October.
James II – Holyrood Palace – Edinburgh
Holyrood Palace was built around 900 years ago in 1128 by David I of Scotland. While out hunting, the king had a vision of a stag with a glowing cross between its antlers. Seeing this as a sign from God, he had an abbey built on the very same spot. ‘Holy Rood’, the name of the Abbey, and subsequently the Palace, means ‘Holy Cross’.
October 1430 saw the birth of James II and his twin brother Alexander, Duke of Rothesay at Holyrood Palace. In 1437 James II was crowned in Holyrood Palace, the first King of Scotland not to be crowned at Scone since Kenneth I. (source: Royal Collection Trust)
Opening Hours: Open daily, November – March from 9.30am – 4.30pm / April – October from 9.30am – 6pm
Mary Queen of Scots – Falkland Palace – Falkland, Cupar
Falkland Palace is one of the greatest examples of Renaissance architecture in Britain and it is clear why it was a favoured residence of the Stewart Dynasty. Located in what was once a royal borough, the influence of the grand chateaux of France, such as Fontainebleau, and medieval Scottish court was the desire of it’s monarchs.
Mary Queen of Scots’ mother, Marie De Guise, arranged for a group of talented French masons to create the lavish building, while incorporating the French designs so desired by her Stewart Husband, James V. Giving an opportunity to escape the troubles of her early years, Mary spent time indulging in her passions for sport and the outdoors. Visitors to Falkland Palace get the chance to explore the royal residence and experience it’s grandeur. (source: National Trust for Scotland)
1 Nov–29 Feb 2020, closed
1 Mar–30 Jun, Mon–Sat, 11.00–17.00; Sun 12.00–17.00
1 Jul–31 Aug, Mon–Sat, 10.00–17.00; Sun 12.00–17.00
1 Sep–31 Oct, Mon–Sat, 11.00–17.00; Sun 12.00–17.00
1 Nov–28 Feb 2021, closed
Clan Munro – Foulis Castle – Evanton, Highlands
Foulis has been home to the Clan Munro since the 14th century. Foulis Castle dates from the 18th century and with its attractive Georgian features, has an altogether different style from traditional 18th century castles. After returning from the 1745 Rising in the Battle of Falkirk, Sir Harry Munro discovered the ancient home had been destroyed by fire. He set about re-building the house as it stands today.
Designed in the manner of the Adams brothers, the short end elevations have beautiful full-height, angled bay windows. While the double entrance stair gives the grand entrance a formal Georgian look. (source: Clan Munro)
Opening hours: Tuesdays at 10.30am only and by donation (guide is £10 per adult). Tours will continue throughout 2020. Minimum of 3 weeks’ notice is required.
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