Fantasy ancestry road trip to the highlands – part 1

I’ve created a new Google map of ancestral locations of the highlands. There’s many regions for me to choose from, including: London, Edinburgh, Lancashire, Derbyshire, etc. That would be just a few branches of my Victorian ancestors. I’ve chosen the highlands as I haven’t been back there since I was at School on the Morayshire Coast, and because I’ve been recently researching my Scottish ancestors who hail from that part of the world.

This is only the start of my planning because it’s actually been quite hard locating the homes of my ancestors and other important landmarks:

I’ve staredt with Keppoch House near Roy Bridge in the Parish of Kilmonivaig, Inverness-shire, close to where the River Roy meets the River Spean.

Keppoch House, Parish of Kilmonivaig, Inverness-shire

The house is still standing and it’s where my great great great grandparents Angus McDonnell of Keppoch, 20th Chief and Christina MacNab lived and where my great great grandmother Christina Mary Theresa McDonnell was born in 1845. I’ve written more about Keppoch House, and actually thought it was in Dumbartonshire at one point.


Map showing farms of Keppoch Macdonald cadet families of Keppoch, Clianaig (Chlinaig) and Inch (Insh)

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland has an entry for Keppoch House, which has the following to say:

Keppoch House, c.1760-5 Traditional West Highland laird’s house built by Ranald Macdonell, 17th Chief of Keppoch, to replace the earlier house destroyed after the `45. (For more on the Macdonells of Keppoch, see p.73). More generously proportioned than is usual, the two storeys are raised up over an exposed basement. Later 19th-century additions included the prominent gabled porch reached by a flight of steps, the flanking bi-partite windows, plate glass and canted dormers. Large walled garden, its once formal Victorian design of paths radiating out from a central hexagonal fountain now grassed over. This was the successor to the famous Garadh nam Pearan – Pear Garden – of Keppoch, destroyed by Cumberland’s troop’s in 1746 (one pear tree is said to survive). Barn, c.1750. An exemplary model of the Lochaber bank barn, its great whitewashed range (formerly lofted inside) pierced by slender rounded windows with louvres, and alternating pairs of slit vents.

Cille Choirill
near Roybridge is the ancient burial ground of my Keppoch Ancestors:

Cille Choirill
Note: Cille Choirill is just across the river from the ruins at Achnacochine, which I’ve found on on StreetMap (see my Keppochs of Achnacochine or Achnancoichean post).

The next location would be Torgulbin, where my gt gt gt gt grandfather Donald MacDonell died in 1834, and where Angus MacDonnell above was born in 1801. It’s hard to pin point an exact location. Firstly, I couldn’t find Torgulbin via Google Maps. I found it instead on Street Maps, and so I’m not sure whether this is accurate, or where they may have actually lived.


Update: I have found a photograph of Tòrgulbin and you can see this on my Torgulbin: Kepppoch Macdonald home? post.

This location might be impossible to find. Angus and Christina above married in Sherrabeg in 1845. Christina was the of daughter of John MacNab of Shenaghart in Kintyre, and of Sherrabeg in Badenoch. I found a site record for Sherrabeg Bridge on the The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments site. There’s a ruin besides what is now a reservoir, so I’m not sure if this was the MacNab’s ancestral home or if it is now submerged. It’s close to General Wade’s Military Road, so would be interesting enough to visit along that route.

Update: These is a farm that can be seen on Google Maps that coincides with the coordinates from StreetMap below, this may have been my ancestors home.

Ruin at Sherrobeg

I’ve had less luck with Shenaghart in Kintyre which could also be Sheughiart or Shenaghairt, Cantyre. I found a Shenaghart mentioned in the former parish of Kilberrie, based on a list of Rebels in Argyll and Tarbert (relative to MacTavish), pertaining to the Earl of Argyll’s part in the Monmouth Rebellion. Kilberry seems to be near Loch Stornoway on Kintyre Peninsula, but exact location would need some more research.

Update: I’ve now managed to locate ruins at Sean-Ghart near Bàgh Seann Ghairt (‘old field bay’), see my MacNab of Shenaghart or Seann-Ghairt or Sean-Ghart? post):

Ruin at Sean-Ghart

John McNab
had married Jessie ‘Macdonald, she was the eldest daughter of Alastair/Alexander Macdonald of Garvabeg and Charlotte Macdonald, youngest daughter of Alexander 17th Chief of Keppoch who died at Culloden and Jessie Stewart, daughter of Robert Stewart, 8th of Appin. I found a Steetmap of Garvabeg and have plotted it’s location on Googlemaps. I’m guessing that somewhere round here is the MacDonalds of Garvabeg‘s ancestral home.

Update: I have found a photograph of Garvabeg you can see on my Garvabeg: Keppoch Macdonald home? post.


I’m also assuming that Alexander 17th Chief of Keppoch lived near what is now Keppoch House mentioned above. I’ve included the Culloden Battlefield where he died for its historical significance, but also because it’s at the Inverness end of the Caledonian Canal.

I went school not far away from Inverness and boarded in Duffus House, which was also the home of Keith Alicia daughter of my ancestor George Ramsay of Barnton. She married Sir Archibald Dunbar, 7th Baronet of Northfield, in 1827.

Donald MacDonell
and Ann McDonald were the parents of Angus McDonnell of Keppoch, 20th Chief, mentioned above. They lived in Kilmore, Argyllshire. Scotland. Barbara MacDonell of Keppoch and Rev Patrick MacDonald were Anne‘s parents. Patrick was the minister at Kilmore in Argyll when he published ‘A Collection of Highland Vocal Airs’ in 1784. I can’t find the exact location of where he lived, but thought this church yard ruins could be a possibility.

After Culloden the Jacobite Chiefs met at Achnacary on 8th May 1746 and entered into a bond of mutual defence. The Keppoch Clan was represented by my ancestor
Angus ‘ban’ Macdonell of Inch, who was the natural son of Alexander, 17th of Chief of Keppoch who died at Culloden.

After Achnacary Angus remained for a long time in hiding with MacNab of Innisewen. Some of the time was spend near Loch Treig (Loch of Death), and afterwards accompanied the Prince through some of his perilous wonderings.

I haven’t managed to locate Inch yet, but I noticed on some forum that Inch was a place not far from Cranachan in Brae Lochaber. This would make sense as far as vicinity is concerned. That said the only Cranachan I can find though is a traditional Scottish dessert of oats, cream, whisky and raspberries. Sounds delicious but not what I’m looking for.

Update: I’ve just had a comment below from Doug who thinks Cranachan was a farm rather than a town or village that he has located here. With luck I’ll be able to find Inch nearby.

Update: Amazingly, looks like Doug’s found Inch or Insch on StreetMap below (see Fantasy Ancestry Road Trip: Inch Found post). It’s just the other side of the river from Keppoch Hose above:


Map showing Keppoch House and Macdonell of Keppoch farms at  Insh (Inch) and Clianaig (Chlinaig) and Inch (Insh)

According to the Wikipedia, the Keppoch Murders (Scottish Gaelic: Murt na Ceapaich) is the name given to the murder of Alexander MacDonald, 12th of Keppoch and his brother Ranald, who were murdered in September 1663 by rival claimants to the chieftainship.

The seven killers were hunted down, killed and decapitated. The well where the heads of the seven murderers were washed before presentation to the Lord MacDonnell of Invergarry is known as Tobar nan ceann in Scottish Gaelic, meaning the ‘Well of Heads’, and is located not far from Invergarry.

My ancestor Alexander, 16/17th of Keppoch, married Jessie Stewart the daughter of Robert Stewart, 8th of Appin. I can’t find out where he lived, but Appin is located in the West Highlands between Benderloch to the South and the Ballachulish Narrows to the North in modern day Argyll (see Clan Stewart of Appin). One of the sights of interest there is Castle Stalker. No idea if any of my ancestors actually lived there, but it was featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Highlander.

Castle Stalker

The Manse of Durness may have been where my ancestor Rev. Patrick MacDonald was born in 1729, and where his father Rev. Murdock MacDonald was minister of the parish. If not here it would be close by. It is, however, a little further North than the other locations in the trip I have been planning so far, as they all run along the Caledonian canel, more or less. Maybe this is one for another trip. His father Donald and mother Margaret Ross both hailed from Rosshire which is a little further South in the North West Highlands, but I’ve no idea where.

My great great great grandmother was Christina MacNab, her father John was a cadet of the family of Innisewen. The RCAHMS database list the The Suie, the Macnabs of Innishewan Burial Enclosure. Apparently, there’s a cross-incised slab at the south-east corner of the enclosure, which several experts have dated to the 6th or 7th Century.  This stone is described as an ‘early marker’, as opposed to a memorial or grave stone, with links to the very earliest Christian worship.  According to RCAHMS database the cross-marked stone may be “coeval with St Fillan”. I think Innisewen could be a farm just across the river on the other side of the glen. This is a bit further south than the locations above, but there’s more to find out about my MacNab ancestors and St Fillan here.

Update: I eventually found Innisewen or Innishewan or Inishoane thanks to a post on The Hazel Tree which mentioned that there was an inscription at the MacNab’s Suie Burial enclosure saying it was built by Iohn Macnab, posesser of ‘Inishoane’ 1759. They assumed that the ‘Inishoane’ refers to the Innisewen farm across the river on the other side of the glen, and I then found it StreetMap (see my MacNab ancestors post).

Innishewan, home of my MacNab ancestors?

There’s probably more to see in the region, but this is a good start because the further I go back the messier it is becoming about exact locations, and they are getting further away from the trip along the Caledonian canel. At the same time, my cousin Hamish has done a fantastic job of tracing my MacDonald ancestry. From Alexander of Culloden it is possible to connect with many many other clans. Just a short trawl up a few branches, includes the following:

Macdonalds of Glengarry, Clanranald, Auchnamurchan, Sleat, Dunnyveg, Lochalsh, etc

Campbells of Lochnell, Ardkinglas, Lochow, Auchinbreck (and Kilmichael), Argyll, etc

Stewarts of AppinAtholl, Albany, Lorne, Innermeath, Periston, Bonkyl & Garlies, etc

Macleods of Dunvegan and Harris

Macleans of Duart and Coll

… and many many more, and that’s before I start looking at my Maitland ancestors.


7 thoughts on “Fantasy ancestry road trip to the highlands – part 1

  1. I discovered myself to be descended from the MacDonalds of Cranachan, as well as the McDonalds Fersit. Both were cadet branches of the MacDonalds of Keppoch. I think Cranachan was a farm rather than a town or village. Some notable people cam from the Cranachan family, including ‘Long John’ MacDonald of whisky fame and Saint Mary MacKillop of Australia. After much searching on the internet I think I have located Cranachan farm here:,-4.797061&spn=0.000782,0.001725&t=h&z=19

    Also see:

    …for a very rough location as description of the nearby mass stone.

    …for a photo of the farmhouse itself, which matches the above satellite view in Google maps.

  2. It looks like the spellings Inch and Insh (and possibly Insse) are interchangeable. For example “CNOC NAN CEANN BEAGA: “Hill of the Little Head.” Located southwest of Beinn Chlianaig and due south of Insh/Inch.” –

    The settlement of Insh, very near Roybridge and Keppoch House, is here:,+Highland+&searchp=ids.srf&mapp=map.srf

    There is an Insh Farm at co-ordinates 56.883669, -4.873811

    Whether this was the original farm house of the MacDonnells/MacDonalds of Insh I don’t know, but…

    “On the banks of the River Spean, and nearly opposite Keppoch, stands the farm house of “Inch” – “Tigh na h-Innse.” … –

    Insh even had it’s own ‘Holy Woman’…

  3. Hello,
    I am hoping that you may be able to enlighten me on some inconsistencies(?) I am searching for Archibald and Margaret Macdonald (they sailed to Australia on the William Nicol in 1837) I can find a large info on Archibald being the son of Donald and Mary MacDonald, (I also have his death certificate) which lists his place of marriage to Margaret at Isle of Skye. All of his brothers are listed as being born at Cranachan, however Archibald was born (1785) at Moirdart. does this seem right? Or is the wrong family listed?
    Archibald is listed as 18. on the following website
    family information states that Archibald and Margaret may have sold some land prior to leaving for Australia, and this adds up as he purchased a very large piece of land within a couple of years of arriving here.
    Archibald was listed as a brother to Flora MacDonald Father. (Mary Mackillop)
    If there is anything that anyone may have found that may assist me, I would appreciate any assistance :-)
    Kind Regards

    1. Marie, if you know how these MacDonalds are connected to my ancestors then I might be able to give some pointers. But otherwise, I’m not sure I can help.

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