Younger Generations Experience More Ancestral Connections in the Scottish Highlands

On Wednesday, July 24th, we awoke to yet another beautiful, sunshiney day in Dingwall. I enjoyed sharing some of the unique ancestral sites in Dingwall with Errin and Grace the day before. I hoped it would help them connect with their ancestral roots in the Scottish Highlands. Showing them tangible examples that they could touch, see, and feel with their own senses might help them set the experience in their own memories. It certainly helped me when I first visited these same sites many years ago.

Before we left Dingwall to head back to Aberdeen, I still had a couple of more examples of connections to share with them. Perched upon Mitchell Hill above the town of Dingwall is another cemetery where several more members of our family are buried. I took them up there to see their headstones as well.

The first headstone we visited belonged to James MacDonald Frew, who was a brother of William Rose and John Rose Frew. James was the Chemist in Dingwall. His Chemist Shop occupied the building of what is now the Reception Area and entrance to the Dingwall museum we visited yesterday. Notably, after James’ untimely death at the young age of 33, his wife, Willamina, became the first female Chemist in Scotland. She was then able to carry on with the family business they had established together!

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IMG_2198A little further along, we came to Lindsay’s great grandfather’s headstone. John Rose Frew, who served as the Provost of Dingwall, also had a business in town just down the High Street from James’ Chemist shop. IMG_1938John was a jeweler and also made high-quality watches and clocks.

We continued on wandering about the graveyard, pointing out various other headstones of more distant cousins until we reached the headstone for Daisy Frew and her husband, Neil Gunn.


As you may remember from my previous post, we visited the Neil Gunn monument on the hill above Dingwall the day before. I thought it was relevant to show the girls their final resting place as well.

Left to right: Neil’s nephew – Dairmid, Jessie Dallas “Daisy” Frew, Neil Gunn






As we made our way back to the car through the cemetery, we also passed the Mitchell Monument, and the old canon’s on display.

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We piled back in the car and headed back down the hill into town, catching one last glimpse of the clock tower on our descent.


We took one last drive through town to show them a few more sights. We showed them a number of remaining sites: the house John Rose Frew lived in, the only remaining remnant of the Dingwall castle from days long past, the National Hotel, the town’s War Memorial, the Sherriff’s Courthouse (where our ancestor, Thomas MacNaughten I, worked as the Sherriff’s Officer), and the Dingwall Canal where it meets the Cromarty Firth.

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Although we hated to leave Dingwall, it was time to begin our journey back to Aberdeen. I chose a different route back to Aberdeen than the way we had come. I wanted the girls to experience a different part of the beautiful countryside, and therefore, have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of Scottish landscapes.

Our first stop, Inverness was only a short distance about 20 miles away.

Dingwall to Aberdeen through the Cairngorm National Park map

In the center of Inverness is another ancient and historic cemetery dating back to about 1164! (See more interesting historical details on the interpretive panel below.)


IMG_9286Another one of our direct ancestors is buried in Chapel Yard Cemetery. Her name was May Naughten – my 3rd great grandmother.  She was Thomas MacNaughten’s mother.  She died before the invention of photography, so, unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of her, but I always enjoy visiting her gravesite whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

Naturally, being so close to Loch Ness, it was imperative to let the girls see it while we were in the vicinity.


IMG_2225We drove south through Inverness. At the first opportunity to pull over and park, we stopped so the girls could see Loch Ness firsthand. They could touch it’s colorful pink and grey rocks, and of course, dip their tootsies in the cold clear water below.

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Our next stop was about 50 miles southeast of Inverness nestled in the Cairngorm Mountains at the scenic village of Aviemore.

I had hoped we would arrive in time to catch a ride on the old Strathspey Railway Caledonia Steam Locomotive at the train station. Alas, when we arrived, it had just left the station for its last run of the day just minutes before we got there. Drat!

IMG_2253We were hungry by this point, so instead, we walked across the street to the Cairngorm Hotel & Restaurant and enjoyed a delicious bite to eat before traveling on.

We still had about 100 miles to go to get to Aberdeen by nightfall. The route I was following took us over the mountains via “The Lecht Ski Area” on the scenic old military road through the moors. We piled back in the car and continued onward. It was a gorgeous drive, and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

Where the road over the Lecht ends, near the River Dee back in Aberdeenshire, there is a lovely viewpoint to stop at, and it’s a great spot to take a break.

IMG_9297From the viewpoint, you can see Corgarff Castle off in the distance on the opposite hillside and across the River Don running through the valley below.

Also, there are metal seats you can sit in, out of the wind, where you can enjoy the stunning views.


Our last stop of the day was near the Cairngorm National Park boundary – Glenbuchat Castle. It’s a ruinous castle and is all fenced off for safety reasons. One can’t get any closer to explore than what the pictures portray below. It is, however, a lovely spot to take a break from the car and stretch your legs. It’s a short walk from the car park up to the castle, and it doesn’t cost anything to enter either.

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According to Historic Scotland, “Glenbuchat Castle was built in the late 1500s with a Z-shaped plan for John Gordon of Cairnbarrow to mark his wedding. It shows how sophisticated tower houses had become by this time, with it’s round and square corbelled turrets. Like the castles at Auchindoun and Huntly, Glenbuchat belonged to a branch of the Gordon family. These castles demonstrate the dominance that the Gordons held over north-east Scotland in the late-medieval period.”

That concludes my tales about our jaunt over to Dingwall from Aberdeen and back again and all of the ancestral sights we enjoyed visiting.

The next day we all took it easy in the morning while we rested after our whirlwind of activities. We did some laundry and began packing our bags in preparation for our flight early the following morning from Aberdeen to Amsterdam. We would start the next leg of the journey; exploring Germany’s Rhine River Valley and Bavaria for the next three weeks!  We also encountered a bit of luck!

Errin had called the airport to see if Grace’s luggage had arrived while we had been off galavanting across the countryside the last couple of days. Unfortunately, the woman who answered the phone said that she didn’t know of any unclaimed baggage that fit her description.

Consequently, we were about to go to a few more charity shops to buy Grace some more clothes. However, when we got in the car to go shopping, Errin had a hunch. She suggested we drive out to the airport and have a look for ourselves just to be absolutely sure.

When we arrived, I dropped Errin and Grace off at the front door while I went to park the car. I  barely got the car parked and was walking over to where I had dropped them off when here they came with Grace’s suitcase in tow!  Errin’s hunch had paid off. Sitting right in front of the desk of the woman who she had talked to on the phone earlier, was Grace’s bag sitting all by its’ lonesome! The woman didn’t even look up from her computer terminal when they approached so they just gleefully grabbed her suitcase and walked out!  Tra-la! We were so happy we had heeded Errin’s hunch and investigated for ourselves!

Besides making preparations for starting the next leg of our journey over to The Netherlands and Germany,  we still managed to squeeze in one more visit later that day to a distinctive and breath-taking Scottish historical site – Dunnottar Castle. More on that in my next post!  Stay tuned!


Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

One thought on “Younger Generations Experience More Ancestral Connections in the Scottish Highlands”

  1. Like being there with you, and I still learned a few things, like that piece of ruin in Dingwall was remnants of the old castle. I always wondered what that was!

    Liked by 1 person

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