Clan Donald Diaspora

With Museum of the Isles at Armadale Castle

The MacDonald kindred, or clan, have been a presence on the west coast of Scotland for hundreds of years. In the Middle Ages, the MacDonalds governed the semi-independent Lordship of the Isles, which covered the Hebrides and parts of mainland Scotland and Ireland.

During the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, Gaelic society in the Highlands and Islands came under increasing pressure to conform to the customs of Lowland Scotland and England. Major social, political, and economic upheavals led many members of Clan Donald to leave for other parts of Britain and overseas. From the late eighteenth century onwards large numbers of emigrants departed for America and Canada, while in the nineteenth century Australia and New Zealand also attracted people from the Highlands and Islands.

The emigrants took with them items of practical and sentimental value, which provided a tangible link to their former homes. Many artefacts taken by the MacDonald emigrants, or owned by their descendants, have since come into the collections of the Museum of the Isles at Armadale Castle on the Isle of Skye. Explore the galleries, and click on the interactive map, to discover the stories of the people and objects that went from Western Scotland out across the world.

Isleornsay on Skye. In the nineteenth century emigrants used to leave from this bay.

What They Took

Objects of the Diaspora


Cartridge Case

Stoneware ginger beer bottle


Where They Went

Journeys of Clan Donald

The Collection Today

The Museum of the Isles at Armadale Castle

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