Clan Mackay Tour from Inverness – Itinerary
For the Clan Mackay Tour from Inverness we head north through the Struie Hills. Great views of the Dornoch Firth from a mountain location. We stop at the beautiful Falls of Shin, because of the short but lovely walk to a viewing platform. Heading up Loch Shin, northwest from Lairg this tour passes through beautiful and rugged scenery before and after reaching Mackay Country. In Durness we visit Smoo Cave and then head eastwards along some of the finest scenery of the north coast. At Tongue we see Ben Hope and Ben Loyal and carry on, to Bettyhill. We visit the Strathnaver Museum because it is essentially the Clan Mackay Museum, before turning southwards for our return.
Falls of Shin
The River Shin cascades prettily down Achany Glen. The largest cascade – the Falls of Shin – is one of the best places in Scotland to see Atlantic salmon leaping. The most likely time to see them attempt to leap up the Falls is between May and September. This is the main reason people like to stop here – but the site’s popularity has led to the establishment of gift shop and coffee shop too. As a result, this makes a very good location for a short break on the route north.
Durness is the most north-westerly village in the UK. The name is Norse – Drya Ness, meaning wolf-cape, because this area was, in the past, the haunt of wolf packs. John Lennon of Beatles fame had an auntie in Durness and there is a garden in his memory near the village hall. Durness is also the home of Scotland’s most northerly golf course, where the ninth hole is a 155 yard drive across an inlet of the Atlantic.
Smoo has the the largest entrance of any sea-cave in Britain. Its vast interior is floodlit and the innermost depths can only be explored by boat. Recent excavations show that the cave was in use 6000 years ago by the earliest settlers in the north. Smoo is a Norse name meaning creek or cleft. A river thunders through the roof of the second chamber into a deep pool and as a result the innermost depths require a boat. The third chamber is full of stalagtites.
Tongue is an attractive village on the Kyle of Tongue on the north coast. Being located in a limestone area, the surroundings are a little like a fertile oasis on the north coast – green fields and native woodland. The Vikings settled here and may have built nearby Castle Varrich. The village and castle then became the main centre of power for Clan Mackay. It was 1828, however, before Tongue could be reached by road. Prior to that it’s only links were by sea. St Andrews Church in Tongue has several Mackay plaques, and is a good visit because of the Mackay tartan on show.
Strathnaver Museum is located in the old parish church in Bettyhill. It is a fascinating stop, primarily telling the tragic story of the Highland Clearances. There are many other displays within its walls in addition, however. We enjoy the displays on the Picts, and in a totally different field the information on the ecology of the Peatlands. However there are also fine displays about crofting life in general and about Clan Mackay in particular.
Strathnaver and Grummore
Mackay Country was badly affected by the Highland Clearances, happening between the 1790’s and 1880’s. This was the wholesale forcible eviction and attempted genocide of the Highland people because the landowners wanted the land for sheep-farms. The Sutherland Clearances were the most savage in the country, and those in Strathnaver were the worst of all. Eighty-eight settlements cleared to make way for eleven sheep farms. Grummore was one of the larger settlements and its ruins stand, mute testament to the times, above the waters of Loch Naver.
Some Clan Mackay Snippets
The clan is said to descend from Malcolm MacHeth and his Moraymen, who went north, after unsuccessful attempts to be recognised as rightful heirs to the Scottish throne in 12th century. Their area became known as “Duthaich MacAoidh” – Gaelic for “The Land of Mackay” Donald Mackay, chief of Mackay in 1626 raised a regiment of 3,000 men, to fight on the Protestant side in the Thirty Years War. Mackay’s Regiment quickly became known as the Invincible Scots, and Charles 1st rewarded Donald with the title “Lord Reay”. The 19th and 20th centuries have been characterised by people leaving Mackay country. Now, however, modern communication makes it easier for young folks to stay.
The Great Bulrush is the plant badge of Clan Mackay. Manu Forti (with a strong hand) is their motto. The war cry is – Bratach Bhan Chlann Aoidh (The white banner of Mackay)
Clan Mackay Tour from Inverness – Price
£510 for the tour
Clan Mackay Tour from Inverness – Departure
The tour departs from your Inverness accommodation, or any transport hub, such as bus station, train station or airport. You tell us, and we’ll be there.