A land of majestic rolling hills, mountains and lochs, bold tartans and ringing bagpipes, Scotland captures the imagination at every turn. This country is endlessly inspiring, from its wild and windswept landscapes to its colorful history of bloody battles, ancient rituals and feuding clans. For many, it’s Scotland’s fascinating cultural legacy that’s most intriguing, a story set in the castles and clearings that are still around today. Here, we look at the great clans of Scotland, and the people and places that shaped the country’s turbulent past.

Glencoe, The Macleans
Motto: “Death or Life”

Glencoe is literally translated as, “Valley of Weeping,” a woefully appropriate name considering the brutal massacre of the MacDonalds by the Campbell clan that took place here in 1692. A consequence of the Glorious Revolution in 1688, the murdered families of Glencoe actually belonged to a subsection of the clan known as the Macleans. History aside, this glen – with its giant peak known as the “Great Shepherd of Etive” – looks both picturesque and formidable no matter the weather. Be sure to keep a look out for the native golden eagles and wild red deer as you travel through the area.

Clans of Scotland

Valley of Glencoe © iStock/munro1

Isle of Skye, The MacLeods
Motto: “Hold Fast”

Containing some of the most spectacular landscapes in all of Scotland, the Isle of Skye is one of a collection of beautiful islands in the Inner Hebrides. No visit is complete without seeing Dunvegan Castle, which has been the ancestral home of the chiefs of the MacLeod clan for eight centuries. Expect to see treasures like the Dunvegan Cup, alongside idyllic gardens and items associated with Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Clans of Scotland

Dunvegan Castle © iStock/PeterBurnett

John O’Groats, The Sinclairs
Motto: “Commit Thy Work to God”

The final location of the 874-mile trek that starts at Land’s End, Cornwall, John O’Groats has been Sinclair land for centuries. Thought to descend from the St Clares of Normandy, the Sinclairs’ windswept part of Scotland is wild and wonderfully untouched. Full of puffins, guillemots and other seabirds, take a boat off the coast to see dolphins, seals and other wildlife.

Clans of Scotland

John O’Groats © iStock/RiccardoZambelloni

Inverness, The Mackintoshes
Motto: “Touch Not the Cat Without a Glove”

Sitting pretty on the banks of the River Ness (not far from the monster of the Loch!), Inverness has been fought over by highland tribes more times than it would care to remember. Famous for its salmon fishing, the Mackintosh clan came to dominate the area after Shaw MacDuff helped King Malcom IV quell a local uprising and was given a castle here as his reward. Whilst the original Mackintosh castle was demolished, visitors to Inverness can still get a historical thrill by making a trip to Cawdor Castle, which is often associated with Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Clans of Scotland

Cawdor Castle © iStock/Gannet77

Ross & Cromarty, The Mackenzies
Motto: “I Shine Not Burn”

Extending from the Island of Lewis in the west through to Ross on the east coast of the mainland, the Mackenzies are still one of the principal clans of Scotland. Their most beautiful stronghold is widely regarded as Eilean Donan. One of the most recognized castles in Scotland (appearing on everything from biscuit tins to calendars), this Scottish icon – which sits at the meeting point of three great lochs and is surrounded by forested mountains – attracts countless visitors each year.

Clans of Scotland

Eilean Donan © iStock/paulmerrett

If tales of uprisings, mist-swathed castles and forested mountains have you dreaming about a Scottish escape, book the Country Roads of Scotland journey today.