Selling the Scottish Homecoming: Gathering of the Clans

Scotland this month kicks off a year-long celebration of 100 events and festivals commemorating its rich heritage, which includes “Robert Burns, Whisky, Golf, and Great Minds & Innovation.”  Here, Maureen Jones, owner of All Horizons Travel, provides insight on how to sell this wonderful cultural opportunity.


Scotland is a land of five million people who are passionate about their country and its rich, noble heritage. For every single Scot in their native land, there are thought to be at least five more overseas who can claim Scottish ancestry. There are at least 20 million spread throughout the world.

2009 is the 250th birthday of the famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns. This celebration has been 10 years in the planning and for the first time in history, 200 Clan Chiefs will meet in Edinburgh on July 25th to march from the castle to Holyrood Palace, together with 20,000 pipers in massed bands. Since so many clan members were deported in the l9th century, the clearings was a sad time in our history, many of the titles were passed to ancestors living in Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia so this will be indeed  a world gathering of Scottish families.

There will a hospitality tent for each clan at the parade grounds, and you can get help on tracing your family roots.   The web site which is the official source of genealogical data for Scotland is, or look at now includes the world’s largest clan search, free credits for use on for people signing up to receive the Ancestral newsletter.  If you are a  Scotsmaster (Scottish specialist) like I am, go on for information.

There are 20 suggested clan itineraries, such as the Clan Campbell, Macregor, etc., which can be used to plan your clients holiday to trace the part of the land that their family came from. I work with Abercrombie & Kent for custom tours, or use Rabbie’s in Edinburgh for small group tours.

I am a MacDonald from the Isle of Skye, in the Western Hebrides and wore my kilt when giving a presentation on Scotland at the Luxury Travel Expo in Las Vegas this year. I have lost my brogue after living in California for 40 years, but it comes back either time I go home which is several times a year.

I would fly your clients into Glasgow, only an hour from Edinburgh. I love Cameron House on Loch Lomond,  Or fly them into London and put them on the train up to Edinburgh.  Hotels I use are the Balmoral, or the Scotsman for upmarket clients.  Send them to a Gaelic evening at Prestonfield House so they can see highland dancing and have a haggis dinner. The whisky trail covering a tour of central Scotland is enjoyable, or the castle trail visiting lots of ancient monuments and gorgeous gardens.   If you want an island experience, visit Islay, which has nine whisky distillers, Skye for the MacDonald and McLeod clans, and something very different and unusual are the Orkneys,  and the Shetlands which is more Scandinavian than Scottish.   

Visit a woolen mill, and buy cashmere sweaters at a great price.   I shop at Jenners department store on Princes Street in Edinburgh, and buy gifts at Gregory’s, downstairs in their store on the courtyard of Edinburgh Castle. A great experience is a visit to Rosslyn chapel, about an hour out of town, to follow the trail of the Da Vinci Code.    

I would strongly recommend you book clients for an evening performance of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which takes place the first three weeks of August on the castle courtyard. There are bands from all the Commonwealth countries and the Royal family attends.

You must book clients to stay in a castle for one night. There are several I use, BorthwickGlenapp, Glengarry, Airth, Inverlochy and Stonefield just to name a few.

Try to visit a Highland Games, which take place in many parts of the highlands in July and August. Braemar and Inverness are two good ones. A big part of Scottish life, and fun to see. I won several medals for highland dancing.  My father made me practice with two brooms instead of swords when I was learning.

My favorite restaurant in Edinburgh is the Witchery near Edinburgh Castle and I always go to the Duncan Brodie pub on the royal mile. Stirling Castle is worth a visit, and Glamis Castle, great shopping and lunch. Cawdor Castle has a great tour and lovely gardens. Great golf courses, get tee times for the golfers and send the ladies shopping.

I suggest you book early. Slainte mhor agus a h-uile beannachd duibh; that’s Gaelic for Good Health and every good blessing to you for the New Year.

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