Thursday 21 May 2020

Highland Games and Ancestral Tourism

Listen closely at any Highland Games and you will hear many languages.  Such is the appeal of these traditional events they attract visitors from around the world.  Among them are those from overseas who can trace their family roots back to Scotland.  With over 50 million people globally able to claim Scottish ancestry, an important and growing tourism sector is ancestral tourism.


Each year, Aboyne Highland Games welcomes 10 clans to its clan village, giving them an opportunity to promote their heritage to visitors.  While clan gatherings are commonplace at other Highland Games.


This year, 25 members of the Clan Forbes Society in America planned to visit Scotland on a six-day trip to learn more about the clan’s Scottish heritage and visit places of ancestral significance.


The itinerary included Forbes, Corgarff, Fyvie, Tolquhon and Craigievar Castles, Knockando Woollen Mill, Culloden Battlefield and the Speyside Cooperage.  Rounding off the trip would be a visit to the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games, whose patron is Sir James Forbes of Newe.  Coronavirus has delayed the trip until next year.


Janet Robertson of Thistle Dubh Enterprises in Colorado helped to organise the trip for the Clan Forbes Society and has been involved in arranging similar clan tours for 15 years.  Janet, who is originally from Scotland, said: “After moving to America and becoming involved in our local games, my love of Scotland deepened and I too felt that same sense of pride, that other people had regardless if they were first or second generation, or part Scots.


“Being a travel consultant, knowing there are over four million people in the USA claiming Scottish ancestry, and sensing the deep desire in people’s souls to belong, bringing people back to Scotland became my passion.”


Bart Forbes, president of the Clan Forbes Society, said: “While our members enjoy seeing Forbes heritage sites such as our clan seat at Castle Forbes and Craigievar Castle, they are particularly excited about meeting other clan members at the Lonach Gathering.  With a growing interest in genealogy, these personal connections are far more impactful to members than castles and mansion houses.


“All tour participants except for two, due to age, have agreed to recommit to the new dates.  I believe that indicates the strong interest in the trip.”


Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said: “It is always a pleasure to welcome those who have traced their family heritage back to Lonach.  Although delayed by a year, we are very much looking forward to our American friends from the Clan Forbes Society joining us at Lonach in 2021.”


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