The Clans

Gaelic Travel-Scotland-The Clans


The clan system was part of a Gaelic tribal culture, completely separated by language, custom and geography from the 'Sassenach' or southerner (ie, of `Saxon' origin - a word applicable both to the English and Lowland Scots). In Gaelic, the word 'clann' means family or children.

The clans lived off the land more or less self-sufficiently, with cattle as their main wealth. Stealing cattle (sometimes in order to survive) was widespread, as were territorial disputes between clans. The clansmen did not own land, only the chief, sometimes directly from the crown, sometimes from other superior clan chiefs.


Within Scotland, the monarchy of the United Kingdom has continued to use a variety of styles, titles and other royal symbols of statehood specific to the pre-union Kingdom of Scotland. The legal system within Scotland has also remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland; Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in both public and private law. The continued existence of legal, educational, religious and other institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the 1707 union with England.


Scotland is divided into 32 administrative subdivisions or local authorities, known as council areas. Glasgow City is the largest council area in terms of population, with Highland being the largest in terms of area. Limited self-governing power, covering matters such as education, social services and roads and transportation, is devolved from the Scottish Government to each subdivision.

Some clans have Norman roots and married into Celtic society: Cummings (Comyns), Hays (de la Haye), Frasers (La Frezeliare - ultimately linked to the French 'la fraise', referring to the strawberry-shaped device on the family crest), Sinclair (St Clair) and Bruce (Brix, a Normandy place name).