The ‘wild MacRaes’ were renowned for their archery, fighting and protection skills, making them a clan both feared and respected. Their domain was the lochs and mountains of Kintail, and their ancestral home was Eileen Donan castle. Clan history tells us that their nickname, ‘Wild MacRaes’, was earned through their prowess in battle, while their name MacRae comes from the Gaelic meaning ‘son of grace’, which was commonly used by lords, poets, and ecclesiastics. They fought in the Scottish-Norwegian war, notably at the Battle of Largs in 1263, where they played a significant role in driving out the Norwegians from Scotland. Their first known home was Clunes in the Beauly district in the 13th century, and they developed a close relationship with the Frasers of Lovat, who had a sign above their door at Beaufort Castle that said ‘if the Frasers are within, they will never be without’. The MacRaes were loyal to the Mackenzies and became skilled marksmen, serving as bodyguards, wearing shirts made of mail and also served as constables of Eilean Donan Castle, standing on a tiny island in a sea loch surrounded by hills. Although 60 MacRaes were killed, and 58 were wounded in the disastrous Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, their reputation as skilled warriors persisted. Following the suppression of the rebellion after Culloden, many MacRaes emigrated and dispersed, scattering across the world. Their motto is ‘Fortitudine’ in Latin. Visitors to their gatherings in April for lunch and ceilidh in October are warmly welcomed, and the website is full of details on sights to visit. Some must-see places include the iconic image of Scotland famously featured in the Highlander, the gathering point near faraway places such as Sheriffmuir, the hike up the battleground with spectacular scenery and a real part of history, and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, where the wild MacRaes mutinied, believing that the ships lying in Port Leith were heading to India, without their consent. The contracted service march led by the piper up the High Street delighted the crowds at Easter Road and Leith Links, where they set up camp and were fed and supplied by the citizens until a resolution was successfully negotiated with the British Army. The hill where the piper led the walk back to camp each evening is still called Piper’s Walk today.
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