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General History of the Scottish Highlands

This history is taken from the "History of the Scottish Highlands, Highland Clans and Scottish Regiments" mostly compiled around 1830 with some updates done in the late 1870's. Edited by John S Keltie F.S.A. Scot.

We have added dates to the various sections to give you a kind of time line so if you are looking for a time period it should help you to identify it. You should also note that this is a history of the Scottish Highlands and not the whole of Scotland so some famous Scottish events might not be covered or at best only with passing reference.

On a historical note this was the first publication that went up on Electric Scotland and was mostly typed in by Alastair McIntyre from the 6 volumes that made up the set.  The set was purchased from James Thin, Edinburgh Booksellers of Edinburgh. Since that time the publication has been scanned in and is now available on the Internet archive.  We are now providing a copy of the scanned publication in 8 volumes in pdf format.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  Volume 3  |  Volume 4
Volume 5  |  Volume 6  |  Volume 7  |  Volume 8


  • B.C. 55 - A.D. 446
    The Romans - BC55, The Caledonians, General Agricola - AD83, The Sixth Campaign, Galgacus - First Chief of the combined Caledonian Tribes, The Battle at Fort Ardoch - AD84, Emperor Domitian & Hadrian - AD121, General Lollius Urbicus - AD138, The Wall of Antonine - AD138, Emperor Severus - AD207, Emperor Constantius Chlorus - AD306, The Picts - AD364, Romans Abandon Britain - AD466, The Roman Influence, The Roman Remains, The Roman Camp at Ardoch.

Scotland - Rome's Final Frontier
A BBC Scotland documentary about the Roman Empire and Scotland

  • Early Inhabitants
    Early Inhabitants, Roman Writers, Aristotle, Tacitus, Dion Cassius, Caledonians and Maeatae, Eumenius, Picts, Dicaledones and Vecturiones, Claudian, Inferences, Ecclesiastical Chroniclers, Their value, Gildas, Adamnan, Northern and Southern Picts, Columba’s "Interpreter ", Bede’s Account of Picts, Pictish Language, Peanfahel, Northern and Southern Picts, Welsh Triads, Irish Annals, Evidence from Language, Cymric and Gaelic Theories, Inver and Aber, Innes’s Theory, Conclusion.

  • The Druids
    An account of Druidism.
  • St. Columba - 571
    An account of St. Columba.
  • Uniting of Scots and Picts - 843
    Conal, the fifth king of the Scots in Argyle, reign of Brude, first mention of the Vikings through to the Kings of the Dalriadic Scots who about the middle of the 9th century, obtained supremacy over at least the Southern Picts, who from that time forward ceased to be a separate nation.

  • Scoto-Irish Kings
    An explanation of the life at this time in history with explanations of the law of tanistry, the office of Breitheamhuin or Brehon and fosterage.

  • Consolidation of Power through to 952
    An account leading through the death of Kenneth, the stone of destiny, Constantine, the Pictish king, Donald III, accounts of the Vikings, Grig, Donald IV, through to the death of Constantine III in 952.

  • Malcolm I to Malcolm II 1020
    An account of Malcolm I, Indulph, the son of Constantine III, Duff, the son of Malcolm I, Culen, the son of Indulph, Kenneth III, battle with the Danes, Constantine IV, Kenneth IV, Malcolm II and the battle with the Danes in 1010 and under whose reign Scotland appears to have reached its present boundary on the south, the Tweed, and Strathclyde was incorporated with the rest of the kingdom. Malcolm was the first who was called Rex Scotia, and might justly claim the be so designated, seeing that he was the first to hold sway over nearly the whole of present Scotland.

  • Macbeth through to Malcolm III 1093
    Duncan, 1033-1040, Macbeth and his reign, Malcolm III, better known in history by the name of Malcolm Ceanmore, battle of hastings, account of Thorfinn, Earl of Orkney, and mention of the Gael.

  • Changes in Population and Language to 1106
    Donal-bane, the reign of Edgar, discussion of Saxon colonization, Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Normans, and Flemings.

  • Disturbances through to Robert the Bruce
    Reign of Alexander I, David I, Angus the Earl of Moray, the Murrays, Somerled, thane of Argyle and the Isles, Malcolm IV, William the Lion, the Saxons, Harold, the powerful Earl of Orkney and Caithness, Donald Bane or MacWilliam, Alexander II, Earl of Ross, Alexander III, Haco and the battle of Largs, King Robert Bruce, battle of bannockburn, foundation of the Stewart dynasty.

  • David II and Feud between Clan Chattan and Camerons
    David II, Lord of the Isles, Macintosh, the chief of the clan Chattan, insurection in 1366 by Earl of Ross, Hugh de Ross, John of the Isles, John of Lorn, and John de Haye, feud between the clan Chattan and the Camerons involving also the Macphersons and Davidsons and an account of a set stage battle.

  • Disturbances in Sutherland and Battle of Harlaw 1411
    Alexander of Badenoch (the Wolf of Badenoch), Alexander Stewart, afterwards Earl of Mar, Earl of Sutherland, had a feud with Y-Mackay of Far, conflict took place between the inhabitants of Sutherland and Strathnaver, and Malcolm Macleod of the Lewis, Donald, Lord of the Isles, earldom of Ross, Lord of the Isles formed an alliance with England, Duke of Albany, Earl of Mar, battle of Harlaw.

  • The reign of James I
    James I in 1424, Scoto-Norman barons, Donald Balloch’s insurrection, Neill Mackay, Keiths, and a general account of various battles and life style in this reign.

At this point we detail many of the individual clan feuds that went on in the Highlands to give you an impression of the general unrest there was during the next two centuries.

  • Intrigues of Edward IV - Earl of Ross Rebels 1454-1512 
    Earl of Douglas, Earl of Ross, Donald Balloch, Lord of Isla desolates the western coast of Scotland from Innerkip to Bute, the Cumbraes and the Island of Arran, battles between Macdonald and Sutherland, administration of James II, Henry VI, Edward IV, Margaret of Norway, the wife of James III, Earl of Athole, Mackays and the Rosses, lawless state of society in the Highlands, James IV and various accounts of feuds and excursions.

  • Battle of Torran-Dubh/Alexander Sutherland the Bastard 
    John Mackay and his disputes with the Earl of Sutherland, Torran-Dubh, clans Keith and Gun disputes, extensive details on excursions between Mackay and Sutherland.

  • Dissension among the Clan Chattan in 1526 
    Lauchian Macintosh of Dunnachtan, Malcolmeson, King James V, and mainly an account of the problems of Clan Chattan.
  • Clanranald and Lord Lovat - Field of Shirts 
    Earl of Huntly attended by the Macintoshes, Grants, and Frasers, against the clan Cameron and the clan Ranald. The field of shirts battle between clanranald and Lord Lovat. Macintosh, chief of the clan Chattan in dispute with Earl of Huntly. Province of Sutherland again became the scene of some commotions and plundered by the Mackays and the Queen Regent gets involved.

  • Doings of Mackay and the Earl of Caithness 
    Mackay, Queen Mary, Maormorate of Moray, Roman Catholic party, Earl of Caithness and Alexander Gordon encounters, house of Sutherland, but principally the encounters between earl of Caithnes and the earl of Sutherland and some information on Clan Chattan.

  • Clan Gunn & Macdonalds and Macleans 
    Troubles of clan Gunn, Earl of Sutherland and Earl of Caithness, a violent feud arose in the western isles between Angus Macdonald of Kintyre, and Sir Lauchlan Maclean of Duart, in Mull, which ended in the almost total destruction of the clan Donald and clan Lean.
  • Earls of Caithness and Sutherland through to 1588 
    More discord between Sutherland and Caithness, and of course the Mackay's.
  • Strife between the Earls of Caithness and Sutherland 
    And yet more discord and feuds between Sutherland and Caithness.
  • Earl of Huntly Attainted 
    Earl of Huntly and Macintosh - the chief of the clan Chattan, in the year 1590, between the Gordons and the Grants. Earl of Bothwell and the attack upon the palace of Holyroodhouse, attack on the Earl of Murray, and sundry other goings on.
  • Continued strife through to 1601 
    Tumult occurred at Loggiewreid in Ross, Monroes took the side of the Banes, and the Mackenzies aided John Mac-Gille-Calum, ambition and avarice of Sir Lauchlan Maclean and clan Donald. More encounters between Caithness and Sutherland. Great commotions took place in the north-west isles, in consequence of a quarrel between Donald Gorm Macdonald of Slate, and Sir Roderick Macleod of Harris.
  • Continued strife 1601 through to 1608
    Renewal of some old quarrels between Colquhoun of Luss, the chief of that surname, and Alexander Macgregor, chief of the clan Gregor. Quarrel between the clan Kenzie and the laird of Glengarry. Quarrel occurred in Sutherland between Iver Mac-Donald-MacAlister, one of the Siol-Thomais, and Alexander Murray in Auchindough.
  • More commotions and strife
    Quarrel between the Earl of Caithness and the chief of the Mackays, Commotions in Lewis among the Macleods, Invasion of Lewis by Fife adventurers, compelled to abandon it, Lord Kintail obtains possession of Lewis, Expulsion of Neill Macleod, Quarrel between the Laird of Rasay and Mackenzie of Gairloch, disturbance in Caithness, tumults in Caithness on the apprehension of Arthur Smith; a false coiner, Earl of Caithness prosecutes Donald Mackay and others, dissensions among the clan Cameron.
  • 1618 - 1623
    Continued animosity between the Earls of Caithness and Sutherland, The latter imprisoned as a suspected Catholic,Formidable Rebellion in the South Hebrides,Suppressed by the Earl of Argyle, Fresh intrigues of the Earl of Caithness, His oppressions,Burning of the corn at Sanset, Legal proceedings against the Guns,Agreement between the Earl of Caithness, Sir Robert Gordon, and Lord Forbes.

We now return to the more general Highland history of the period from the time of Charles I through to the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite revolution of 1745.

  • 1636 - 1644
    Charles I. attempts to introduce Episcopacy into Scotland, Meets with opposition, Preparations for war, Doings in the North, Earl of Montrose, Montrose at Aberdeen, Arrests the Marquis of Huntly, Covenanters of the North meet at Turriff, The "Trott of Turray ", Movements of the Gordons, Viscount Aboyne lands at Aberdeen, " Raid of Stonehaven ", Battle at the Bridge of Dee, Pacification of Berwick, War again - Earl of Argyle endeavours to secure the West Highlands, Harsh proceedings against the Earl of Airly, Montrose goes over to the king, Marquis of Huntly rises in the North, Montrose enters Scotland in disguise, Landing of Irish forces in the West Highlands, Meeting of Montrose and Alexander Macdonald, Atholemen join Montrose, Montrose advances into Strathearn, Battle of Tippermuir.

  • 1644 (September) - 1645 (February)
    Montrose crosses the Tay to Collace, Marches through Angus and Mearns, Battle of Aberdeen, Supineness of the Gordons, Movements of Argyle, Montrose retreats through Badenoch, Second march of Montrose to the north, Battle of Fyvie, Montrose retreats to Strathbogie, Secession from his camp, Montrose enters and wastes Breadalbane and Argyle, Marches to Lochness, Argyle enters Lochaber, Battle of Inverlochy.

  • February - September, 1645 (Part 1)
    Montroae marches to Inverness and Elgin, wasting the lands of the Covenanters, Enters and plunders Banff, Deputation from Aberdeen, Death of Donald Farquharson, Montrose imposes a tax of 10,000 on Aberdeen, Enters and burns Stonehaven, Defeats Hurry’s horse at Fettercairn, Marches to Brechin and Dunkeld, Storms and captures Dundee, Montrose’s retreat from Dundee, Movements of General Baillie, Battle of Auldearn, Montrose’s after-movements, Battle of Alford.

  • February - September, 1645 (Part 2)
    General Baillie and the Committee of Estates retreat to Stirling, Montrose marches to Aberdeen, Montrose marches south, Is joined by more Highlanders, Threatens Perth, Retreats to Dunkeld, Again moves south, Baillie joined by the men of Fife, Montrose at Alloa, Maclean burns Castle Campbell, Montrose goes towards Stirling, Differences among the Covenanters, Battle of Kilsyth, Montrose enters Glasgow, Submission of the nobility and the western counties, Submission of Edinburgh, Montrose appointed Lieutenant-governor of Scotland, Desertion of Highlanders, Battle of Philiphaugh.

  • 1645 - 1649 (Part 1)
    Huntly refuses to join Montrose, Aboyne joins and shortly deserts him, Executions by the Covenanters, Montrose has an interview with Huntly, Defeat of the Campbells at Callander, Meeting of the covenanting Parliament, Trials and Executions, Movements of Montrose and Huntly, General Middleton’s movements. The King escapes to the Scots army,  Orders Montrose to disband his army, Montrose corresponds with the King, Interview with Middleton, Disbands his army, Embarks for the Continent.

  • 1645 - 1649 (Part 2)
    The Scotch and the King, Proceedings of General Leslie, Defeats Sir Alexander Macdonald, Surrender of Dunaverty Castle, Leslie in the Western Isles, Apprehension of Huntly, Risings in Scotland in behalf of the King, Movements of royalists under Hamilton, Rising in the West, Enter Edinburgh. Capture of Stirling and flight of Argyle, Cromwell arrives in Edinburgh, Trial and Execution of the King, Also of Hamilton and Huntly.

  • 1649 - 1650
    Negotiations with Charles II., Proceedings of Montrose, Pluscardine’s Insurrection, Landing of Kinnoul and Montrose in Orkney, Montrose’s Declaration, Montrose advances southwards, Is defeated at Carbisdale, Montrose captured and sent to Edinburgh, His reception there, Trial and Execution.

  • 1650 - 1660
    Arrival of Charles II., Cromwell invades Scotland,  Attacks the Scotch army near Edinburgh, His further movements, The Dunfermline Declaration, Retreat of Cromwell, Battle of Dunbar, Declaration and Warning of the kirk, Flight of the king from Perth, Insurrections in the Highlands, Proceedings of Cromwell, Conduct of the western army, Cromwell marches north, Enters Perth, Scotch army invades England, Battle of Worcester, Operation  of Monk in Scotland, Administration of affairs committed to him, Earl of Glencairns insurrection in the Highlands, Chiefs of the insurrection submit to Monk, Cameron of Lochiel, State of the country, Restoration of Charles II.

  • 1660 - 1689
    Trial and Execution of the Marquis of Argyle, His character, Feud between the Earl of Argyle and the Macleans, The "Highland Host", The Test, Trial and Condemnation of the Earl of Argyle, Argyle escapes, Argyle and Monmouth’s invasion, Execution of Argyle, Unconstitutional proceedings of the King, Designs of the Prince of Orange, Proceedings of King James, Landing of the Prince of Orange, State of feeling in Scotland, Flight of the King, The Duke of Gordon, Convention of Estates, Duke of Gordon holds Edinburgh Castle, Viscount Dundee.

  • March to July, 1689
    Viscount Dundee, Proceedings of the convention, General Hugh Mackay, Attempt to apprehend Dundee, who retires to the north, Mackay follows Dundee, Dundee joined by Keppoch, Movements of the two commanders, Movements of Colonel Ramsay, Disaffection among Mackay’s troops, Ruthven Castle surrenders to Dundee, Mackay retreats down Strathspey, Followed by Dundee, Retreat of Dundee, who disbands his forces, Mackay returns to Edinburgh, Probabilities of success, Dundee solicits aid from Ireland, Preparations of Mackay,  Lord Murray and the Atholemen, Departure of Mackay to Perth, Dundee marches into Athole, Battle of Killiecrankie, Death and character of Dundee.

  • 1689 - 1691
    Mackay’s movements, Advances to Perth, Colonel Cannon marches north and is joined by several clans, Followed by Mackay, Cannon returns south, Tbe Cameronians at Dunkeld, Movernents of Mackay, Major-General Buchan arrives from Ireland and marches north, Skirmish at Cromdale, Mackay marches to Inverlochy, Erection of Fort William, Movements of Buchan and Cannon, Mackay marches to the north, Earl of Seaforth imprisoned, Cessation of hostilities, Departure Dundee’s officers for France.

  • 1691 - 1702
    Negotiations with the Highland chiefs, Massacre of Glencoe, Master of Stair, King William, Subsequent enquiry, State of Highlands during William’s reign, Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat.

  • 1695 - 1714
    The Darien Scheme, Hopes of the Jacobites, Death of James II., Death of King William, Accession of the Princess Anne, The Scottish Parliament, Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, Meeting of Scottish Parliament, Union with England, Ferment in Scotland against it, Hooke’s Negotiation, Preparations in France to invade Scotland, Unsuccessful result of the expedition, State of Scotland, Proceedings of the Jacobites, Death of Queen Anne.

  • 1714 - 1715
    Proceedings of the Whigs, Declaration of the Chevalier de St. George, Arrival of George I. in England, Conduct of the Earl of Mar, Government measures, Intrigues of the Jacobites, The Earl of Mar, Leaves England for Scotland, The "Hunting match", The Chevalier de St. George proclaimed by Mar who raises the standard of revolt in Braemar, Death of Louis XIV., Manifesto issued by the Jacobites.

  • 1715
    Measures of the government, Attempt to surprise Edinburgh Castle, Duke of Argyle appointed to the command of the government forces, Expedition of General Gordon into Argyle, Proceedings of the Earl of Mar, Insurrection in England, Affair at Keith, Rising in the south of Scotland, Expedition of Brigadier Mackintosh, Marches to Edinburgh and occupies Leith, Duke of Argyle marches to Leith, Retreat of Mackintosh, Joins the forces under Forster, Disputes among the insurgents and secession of 500 Highlanders, Rebels march into England, Battle of Preston.

  • 1715 - 1716
    Re-capture of Inverness by the Royalists, Preparations for opening the campaign, Mar’s departure from Perth, Junction of the western clans, Advance of Argyle towards Dunblane, Preparations for battle, Battle of Sheriffmuir
    , Mar returns to Perth and Argyle to Stirling, Arrival of the Chevalier, Goes to Perth, Preparations of Argyle, Jacobites retreat from Perth, Departure of the Chevalier for France, Dispersion of the insurgents.

  • 1716 - 1737
    Trial and execution of the prisoners taken in the rebellion, Bills of attainder against the Earl of Mar and others, Proceedings of General Cadogan in the Highlands, Trials of the prisoners in Scotland, Act of grace, Removal of the Chevalier from France, Duke of Argyle dismissed from office, Continental affairs, Confederacy to restore the Chevalier, Threatened Spanish invasion, Disarming of the Highlanders, Means taken to prevent further disturbances by building forts, making roads, &c., Aversion of the Highlanders to these innovations, The Chevalier appoints trustees to manage his affairs in Scotland, Discovery of a new Jacobite conspiracy, Habeas-corpus act suspended, Bolingbroke, Meeting of Highland chiefs at Paris, The disarming act, Disgrace of the Earl of Mar, His ambiguous conduct, Atterbury’s charges against him, The Chevalier’s domestic affairs, Death of George I., Views of the Chevalier, Prospects of the Jacobites.

  • 1739 - 1745
    Foreign intrigues, Edinburgh Association, Maria Theresa, Jacobite intrigues, Drummond of Bochaldy at Edinburgh and Murray of Broughton at Paris, Plan of a French invasion, Prince Charles Edward the Chevalier’s son, arrives at Paris, Preparations for invasion, Embarkation and failure of the expedition, Murray of Broughton proceeds to Paris, Interview with the Prince who resolves to proceed to Scotland.

At this point we move to a very detailed account of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 including the account of Bonnie Price Charlie. As I have previously published this section you will now be sent to that part of the site that carries this account.

  • 1745 - 1746 The Jacobite Rebellion
    A large and detailed account of this period including details of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Battle of Falkirk, Battle of Culloden, Bonnie Prince Charlie's escape, meeting with Flora MacDonald, his escape to France and his eventual death in Italy.

Now comes an account of the social conditions both before and after the Rebellion of 1745 in which we discuss living conditions, the highland clearances and emigration. These pages have been previously published and links below are to these pages.

  • The Living Conditions in the Highlands Prior to 1745 - Part 1
    Social condition of the Highlands, Black Mail, Watch Money, The Law, Power of the Chiefs, Land Distribution, Tacksmen, Tenants, Rents, Thirlage, Wretched State of Agriculture, Agricultural Implements, The Caschroim, The Reestle, Methods of Transportation, Drawbacks to Cultivation, Management of Crops, Farm Work, Live Stock, Garrons, Sheep, Black Cattle, Arable Land, Pasturage, Farm Servants, The Bailte Geamhre, Davoch-lands, Milk, Cattle Drovers, Harvest Work, The Quern.

  • The Living Conditions in the Highlands Prior to 1745- Part 2
    Fuel, Food, Social Life in Former Days, Education, Dwellings, Habits, Gartmore Papers, Wages, Roads, Present State of the Highlands.

  • Living Conditions in the Highlands after 1745 - Part 1
    Progress of Innovation, First mention of Emigration, Pennant’s account of the country, Dr Johnson,  Emigration fairly commenced in 1760.

  • Living Conditions in the Highlands after 1745 - Part 2
    The Tacksmen the first to suffer and emigrate, Consequences to those who remained, Wretched condition of the Western Islands, Introduction of large sheep-farms, Ejection of small tenants, "Mailers", Hebrides, Real Highland grievance, Title-deeds, The two sides of the Highland Question, Truth on both sides, Excessive population, Argument of those who condemn depopulation, The sentimental and military arguments, Testimony as to wretched condition of Highlanders, Highlands admirably suited for sheep, Effect of sheep-farming on Highland scenery, Highlands unsuited to black cattle, Large and small farms, Interference, Fishing and farming cannot be successfully united, Raising rents, Depopulation, How far the landlords were to blame, Kelp, Advantages and disadvantages of its manufacture, Potatoes, Introduction into the Highlands, Their importance, Failures of Crop, Disease, Amount of progress made during latter part of 18th century.

  • The Highlands around 1840
    Progress of Highlands during present century (19th), Depopulation and emigration, Questions between landlords and tenants, Hardships of the ousted tenants, Sutherland clearings, Compulsory emigration, Famines, Poorer tenants compelled to take service, Sir John M’Neill’s Report, Changes complained of inevitable, Emigration the only remedy, Large and small farms, Experiments, Highlanders succeed when left to themselves, Substitution of deer for sheep, Recent state of Highlands,  Means of improvement, Increased facilities for intercourse of great value, Population of chief Highland counties, Highland colonies, Attachment of Highlanders to their old home, Conclusion.

Concluding our General History of the Highlands we now present an 1870 text which tries to tell of the Scenery of the Highlands.

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