With our muscles nice and loose after climbing around Stirling, we were warmed up and ready to make a grand McFarland return to where it all began: Loch Lomond, located in southern Scotland, about an hour north of Glasgow. The MacFarlane clan claimed an island in the middle of the lake as their own and soon spread their territory further along its shores. We were staying in Arrochar, a small village that seemed to be almost entirely made up of our hotel and a few other buildings, nestled between massive Scottish highland hills and the lake. Hide your wallet, hide your cows! They didn’t call the full moon “MacFarlane’s lantern” for nothing.
As previously mentioned in the first part of my Scotland Series, our clan was notorious for their dignified skills in blackmail. My ancestors would offer to protect the cows of neighboring clans and those who passed through our territory, but if the cows’ owners didn’t agree to the deal, there was no guaranteeing those cows would make it through these parts safely; they might accidentally go missing, if you catch my drift.
We avoided partaking in any cow mischief—this time— on our first day in Arrochar as we actually started the day driving a half hour away to Inveraray to see the castle that stands there. It was the seat of the chiefs of Clan Campbell and I wondered whether or not they had been victimized by my ancestors. Clearly, unsuccessfully since Clan Campbell still has a chief, Torquhil Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll, but a bit of digging into MacFarlane history brings one to the conclusion that we weren’t very successful at much. That’s okay. It’s fine. Everything is fine.* Anyway, the castle was opened in the mid-1700’s, and it makes quite a statement with its turrets and perfectly symmetrical structure, the surrounding gardens making a lovely place to spend a bit of time exploring.
After our visit to the castle, we wandered into Inveraray for some lunch. I was actually surprised at the amount of tourists, bustling around in big groups like cattle—you know what happens to McFarland’s around cattle; it ain’t pretty. Inveraray, however, is incredibly cute and the waterfront is Scottish perfection; it’s understandable why we were part of the many tourists that made this town a destination (there probably weren’t that many, but once you get away from big cities, groups of people are very noticeable).
On the Loch
After leaving Inveraray, we found ourselves racing to catch a boat that would take us out onto Loch Lomond for a tour. We got there just in time to watch it float away, but luckily there was one more tour happening later that day. It worked out well because to kill the time, we had a cider at a restaurant nearby, and drinking cider really is the proper Scottish way to go about waiting.
Soon enough, our veins pumping with Somersby Cider, it was time to board the boat. My mom handed the man running the whole thing her credit card to pay for the tickets, from which he could read our last name. “No McFarland’s allowed on this boat,” he said with a smirk. Great-great-great-great-great Grandpappy and Grandmama sure did make an impression, didn’t they?
Boats are, in my opinion, one of the best ways to tour. It’s relaxing yet informative, and the views are brought to you while someone else does the steering. The tour guide pointed out the island on which the MacFarlane’s would hold ceremonies, particularly those of the marriage variety, where newly wed MacFarlanes had to spend the night after their nuptials.
It was strange gazing upon a plot of land that had a direct connection to my bloodline, knowing that if I had a family tree that encompassed every person going back at least 600 years, it would lead me to these people without question or break in the chain. I wondered who they were, my ancestors from hundreds of years ago, and I wondered what it would be like to face them (gauging how I feel about the general population, I would definitely like at least half of them and loathe 30% give or take). There are so many McFarlands in the world now and yet we all descend from this small clan of rabble-rousers in the middle of Scotland. It felt to me that returning to this place closed a circle for me and connected me to this loch with whom I had only just been acquainted. Family names have a funny way of doing that, I’ve learned.
The tour guide explained to us the location of the aforementioned original island to which MacFarlane’s first laid claim and from which the clan grew and prospered. The tour itself hadn’t headed that way, so after our ride we decided to go look for ourselves. It was an island similar to the wedding island, giving me similar sentiments about the origins of my family, only this time my dad, sister, and I embraced the 21st century and took selfies with the island in the background. The human race has come so far.
Our final stop on our ancestry tour for the day brought us to what is not only now The Claymore Hotel, but was also the final seat of Clan MacFarlane. Originally built in 1697, the stone building faces the loch, a final ode to the clan that once roamed these waters and made all other bad neighbors seem somewhat pleasant. Plenty more gazing in wonderment at my predecessors footsteps–this activity clearly took up the majority of the day–before heading back to our hotel. I was MacFarlane’d out**, as I’m sure you the reader are by now… but hold onto your hats because day 2 is just around the corner!
*I mean, look at me, a travel writer who’s never been paid to write. Clearly I descend from a long line of talent.
**Just trying to seem relatable here. I’m never MacFarlane’d out.