Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cash for a Peerage Prompts Clan Slaughter and Two Pipe Tunes

We were contacted yesterday by a lady called St Clair from West Palm Beach, Florida. She will be here for The Gathering in 2009 and wishes to visit Inveraray Castle (below) where her 3 x great grandfather was a gamekeeper. Well, Inveraray Castle in the south west of Scotland is the seat of the Duke of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell; the Sinclairs, on the other hand, come from Caithness in the far north east. Back in the early 19th century people did not move around that much and so this struck me as interesting.

I speculate that this may have its roots in an affair of 1680. The Sinclair Earl of Caithness was short of cash and sold his lands and title to Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy. The latter's claim was however disputed by George Sinclair of Keiss and Glenorchy marched north to settle the matter. The armies met in the evening of 12 July at Altimarlach, but it was too late to join battle. What happened next is open to debate but it seems the Sinclairs were able to lay hands on significant quantities of whisky in Wick. Next day they were ill-equipped to take on the Campbells and the Wick River was packed so full of Sinclair bodies that the Campbells were able to walk across it dry-shod.

Glenorchy became Earl of Caithness and laird of those lands for six years, during which time it seems that many Sinclairs took up the offer of employment down in Argyll. This, the last clan battle, also gave rise to two pipe tunes composed by the Campbell piper Finlay Ban MacIvor on the way north to Caithness: 'The Campbells are Coming' and 'The Breadalbane Gathering'. Play either of these in Wick at your own risk!

But all this may explain why our 2009 St Clair client is making a special journey to the seat of Clan Campbell.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Scotland: sustainable tourism destination.

Television in Britain is punctuated with the advertisements of companies parading their green credentials to sell more products. Nothing wrong with that. But here in Scotland we are going further and parading our nation's green credentials. The Scottish Government has committed itself to a target that "Scotland will be Europe's most sustainable tourism destination by 2015". Happily we are starting from a strong position since a recent poll of 60,00 enquiries at ranked Scotland as the top European eco-destination.

Yesterday I was at Cameron House on Loch Lomond with other members of Scotland's 'Tourism Innovation Group' to discuss how this bold objective can be translated into the management of individual destinations and tourism sectors.

The goal is an ambitious one but here are a series of first steps already taken towards that destination.
And every tourist to Scotland can contribute
to our objectives. Using accommodation with membership of the Green Tourism Business Scheme is now madatory for Scottish Government employees travelling on business.

Please make it mandatory for you too!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


The beginning of Scottish Clans and Castles was in February 2001 when I booked two clients to stay at Castle Stuart - a place that, over the years, has probably given more pleasure to our clients than any other lodging. The authenticity is important (that's why people choose it) but what they write about when they leave is the food, the atmosphere and, above all, the warm welcome from the Stuart family

The land was given by Mary Queen of Scots to her half brother, the first Earl of Moray. But he was murdered, as was his son, so it was the third Earl of Moray who built the castle in 1625. He had plenty money to make a statement with his new property and Castle Stuart was the finest in the Highlands in its day. However the ravages of time, history, and a few ghosts conspired to prompt its demise and it was unroofed in 1835.

In the late 20th century it was restored by a family of Stuarts from Canada and it is they who are your hosts today.

A Happy New Year to anyone who reads this. I hope that I can amuse and interest you with my 2008 observations!