Lord Pitsligo

The last of the three tours available to visitors to the 2020 Clan Hay Gathering will be to look at the Jacobite lands of the Aberdeenshire coast.  Visit Scotland’s theme for 2020 is ‘Coasts and Waterways’, a theme well suited to Clan Hay’s historic heartland on the coastline north of Aberdeen.

Slains Castle, the seat of the Earl of Erroll, chief of Clan Hay, was at the heart of Jacobite activity from 1689 onwards.  Katherine, Countess of Erroll, widow of the 11th earl, migrated to the little Jacobite court of St Germains in France, where she was governess to Prince James Francis Edward, King James VIII to the Jacobites.  The 12th earl’s wife was the sister of the Jacobite Duke of Perth, chief of Clan Drummond, and made Slains Castle a key landing stage for Jacobite agents travelling to and from France.  Her son, Charles, 13th Earl of Erroll, and his sister, Mary, Countess of Erroll in her own right, were among the most active leaders of the Jacobite movement, right up to its final defeat in 1746.

Just up the coast lie the lands of Clan Keith, whose chiefs were hereditary Earls Marischal of Scotland. The family came to an untimely end with the support of the last Earl Marischal for the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715.  He and his brother, James Keith, were forced into exile and spent the remainder of their lives in military service in various European armies in Sweden, Germany and France.  James Keith eventually became a Field Marshal in the army of King Frederick the Great, and he is commemorated with a splendid statue in the Earl Marischal’s old town of Peterhead.

Marshal James Keith

To the north of Peterhead is the estate of Pitsligo, historically the property of the Lords Forbes of Pitsligo, where the ruins of their old tower and courtyard castle can still be seen.  The last Lord Pitsligo, Alexander Forbes, was among the most educated and distinguished of the Jacobite movement, a theologian and philosopher who had spent much of his life in Europe associating with some of the greatest minds of his time.  Aged well over 60 at the time of the 1745 Rebellion, he took an active role and spent the remainder of his long life as a mendicant in his own lands.  Tales abound of his adventures, hiding out in the moor that lies inland from Pitsligo Castle.  The tour will include his cave in the sea cliffs at Rosehearty, and the hideout he constructed for himself under the bridge over the Gonar Burn at Craigmaud.

These events take place over a long weekend between 31 July and 3 August 2020; full details on how to book will be published on this website in due course.