We are delighted to report that the Clan Hay Society has once again secured funding for its annual gathering from Visit Scotland’s Clans and Historical Figures Events Fund.  This grant enables us to provide a much wider programme of activities for members, previously trailed on this website, for the extended weekend of 31 July to 3 August 2020.

The New Castle of Slains at Cruden Bay

Visit Scotland’s theme for 2020 is Coasts and Waterways, and Clan Hay’s activities for 2020 will focus on the family’s historic base on the Aberdeenshire coast in and around Slains and Cruden Bay.

The base of our activities will be the Port Erroll Community Hall in Cruden Bay’s Serald Street (a street with a name famous in the history of the Hays.)  An exhibition will be staged throughout the four days, opening at midday on Friday 31 July, on four themes: Slains Castle and the Hays of Erroll; The Jacobite Coast; The Smuggler’s Coast; and The Castles of the Coast.  The purpose of Visit Scotland’s fund is to bring together those visiting for clan gatherings with the local community where these gatherings take place, so the emphasis is very much on providing for local people as well as clansmen from across the world.

Old Slains by Andrew Spratt

Old Slains as imagined by Andrew Spratt

The programme begins on Friday 31 July with the first in a series of three bus and boat tours reflecting the four themes of the exhibition.  This is followed by a lecture on Slains and the Hays, which will be followed by a ceilidh, with live music, Scottish dancing and supper of stovies and oatcakes, an event intended to introduce the local community to Hays visiting for the event.

Saturday 1 August will see most visiting Hays depart for our hospitality tent at the Aboyne Highland Games, enabling visitors to experience one of the iconic events of the Highland Games circuit.  The bus and boat tours, however, will continue during the course of Saturday and the exhibition will remain open to all comers.  Upon their return to Cruden Bay after the Games, Saturday evening’s lecture will be on the Jacobites of the Coast, looking at many local sites and families, the Hays included, who were deeply involved in the Jacobite movement.

Old Slains today

On Sunday 2 August, visiting Hays will be taken to Cruden Parish Kirk for morning service if they so wish it, situated close by the famous Bishop’s Bridge over the Water of Cruden, built in 1690 by Bishop Drummond of Brechin  in gratitude for the hospitality shown him by the 12th Earl of Erroll after his deposition from his diocese.  Hays will have the opportunity to attend our annual lunch at Delgatie Castle, Turriff, the Clan Hay Centre.  In the meantime, the exhibition, and the boat and bus tours, will continue to operate from Cruden Bay.  Sunday evening will see a lecture in the Community Hall on the Smugglers of the Coast.

On Monday 3 August, the exhibition and tours continue, before the weekend is rounded off with a farewell concert of local music, poetry, song and story.

There are three tours available on each of the four days.

One of many smugglers caves, only seen from the sea

The Jacobite Coast will take in sites associated with the Jacobite movement in North East Scotland, including the Fraser castle of Pitullie, the famous Jacobite Lord Pitsligo’s eponymous castle, and the exhibition on Pitsligo which is permanently housed in the old church of Peathill.  This tour will also take in the Old and New Castles of Slains, successively the seat of the Chiefs of Clan Hay for over 700 years and the scene of much Jacobite activity, together with Lord Pitsligo’s bolt-holes of his cave in the sea cliffs and his lair under the bridge at Craigmaud, where he lived when a hunted fugitive after the Forty Five.

The Castles of the Coast tour will include the Keith family strongholds of Inverugie, Ravenscraig and Boddam, followed by the Nine Castles of the Knuckle, reaching from Dundarg on the Moray Firth to Crimond on the Loch of Strathbeg, itself a wonderful nature reserve which deserves a visit in its own right.  Also included will be the old Fraser seat of Kinnaird, itself one of the Castles of the Knuckle, site of the Fraserburgh Heritage Centre and the Scottish Lighthouses Museum.

New Slains Castle in its glory days, when it inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula

The two tours detailed above will be by minibus, departing from Cruden Bay.  The Smugglers’ Coast tour, though, will be by boat, which gives an entirely different perspective on this coastline, and something few are ever able to experience.  Tours will depart from Cruden Bay harbour, heading south to the great nature reserve of Forvie and the estuary of the River Ythan, then north to Boddam before returning to Cruden Bay.  Smuggling was a major part of the history of this area throughout the 18th and early 19th century and anybody with family connections to the district will have ancestors who were directly involved.

And it doesn’t end there.  Guided cliff-top walks will be available for those feeling energetic.  And the centrepiece of the weekend will be a re-enactment of the Battle of Cruden, when a Viking invasion was repelled by King Malcolm the Destroyer, accompanied by music from the Cruden Bay Choral Society.

A weekend to remember, which includes something for all tastes.  Keep an eye on the website for details as they emerge and be sure to book early.