The Clan Donald Lands Trust by Rob McDonald Parker, International Director

In issue number 12 of the Clan Donald Magazine we were all looking forward, with great anticipation, to the ceremonies to celebrate the centenary of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh. These great events are now behind us and no doubt are recorded elsewhere in this issue, in greater detail. Other ceremonies to make important events in the Clan’s history have also taken place since then, including the tercentenary of the Massacre of Glencoe (1692) and the quincentennial of the forfeiture of the title of the Lord of the Isles (1493) from Clan Donald. The Clan Donald Lands Trust played a major role in both events with perhaps the refurbishment and restoration of the site of the Glencoe Monument, being the biggest accomplishment. A project was developed by the Trust, to develop a new entrance to the monument, create new pathways around the monument and improve the landscaping. All in all, it took two years, from start to finish and had final costs of over £35,000. For the financial support we have to again take our hats off to the generosity of the Glencoe Foundation Inc. in USA, along with Scottish Natural Heritage and Highland Regional Council. I’m sure those of you who have visited the site since the work has been completed, have seen a marked improvement.

In 1993, a group of Clan Donald USA Clansmen arranged to use the galley ‘Aileach’, to follow the route, through the old sea kingdom of Clan Donald. Leaving from Armadale on Skye, the vessel sailed or was rowed to Eigg, Colonsay, Iona, Islay and Kintyre. In keeping with the tradition of the Lordship, the galley was taken out of the water and manhandled across Kintyre to Loch Fyne, where again it was placed in the water. From there, it was rowed to Bute and on to Renfrew (where Somerled was assassinated) and finally to Glasgow. The last event on this tour, was a visit to Paisley Abbey, where a ceremony to mark an ancient tradition started by Reginald, son of Somerled took place. The tradition of granting ‘8 cows and 2 pennies’ (see Donald J Macdonald’s history of ‘Clan Donald’ pages 444-445) was symbolically re-enacted, with the gift of a cow and a penny to the Abbey.

1993 also saw the Clan Donald Lands Trust come of age, celebrating twenty one years since it was formed. Looking back over the years, the success of the Clan Centre is something all MacDonalds should be proud of. The restoration of the Stables, Armadale House, and the Gardens, plus the development of a Museum Exhibition, Library & Study Centre and the addition of six luxury cottages, are all major achievements which have helped establish the Clan Donald Visitor Centre, as one of the top visitor attractions in the Highlands. We continue to pursue a path of quality and excellence and in May 1994 we became the first visitor attraction to achieve the Investors in People standard. This was followed later in the year by the receipt of a Scottish Tourist Board Thistle award in the category of Tourism for All’. This award recognised our interest and concern, in designing all of our facilities, to include access for disabled visitors. In November we were also presented with a Scottish Tourism Oscar in recognition of our ‘huge achievements’ in tourism.

All of our work though does not just focus on the Clan Centre, as a major landowner in South Skye, we take the responsibility for our 20,000 acres very seriously. To this end, the trustees have approved a major project for Dalavil Glen, at the heart of our Estate, which will see 300 hectares of deer fence being put up, to permit natural regeneration of the area. In partnership with Forestry Enterprise and Scottish Natural Heritage, this valuable and beautiful glen, which has been showing serious signs of over grazing by deer, cattle and sheep, will be totally enclosed by the fence. This will prevent grazing within the fence line and should permit natural generation of the trees, plants and wild flowers. This in turn will encourage the return of flora and fauna in the glen. Similar regeneration projects are being considered for other areas of the estate. Responsible management of the land should ensure that future generations will enjoy the beauty of the estate and that the area will continue to enjoy it’s historical title of the ‘Garden of Skye’.

The work of the Trust is ongoing and far from complete and we would urge all interested members of Clan Donald to help support our work by considering becoming a member. If you wish to help, please write to me at the address shown above.