The conservation and heritage charity for the
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

Clans

Cattle thieving or 'reiving' - a Highland clan way of lifeLittle more than 20 miles / 32 km from Glasgow there was once a different Scotland. The Highlands, for most people, started at Loch Lomond and The Trossachs.  They still do - but no longer in the sense understood by Lowland Scots until well into the 18th century.

The Highlands were a different society, where the Highland clan system held different values. The feudal system of Lowland Scotland (and England), where ‘vassals’ held land from ‘superiors’, did not prevail in the Highlands. Instead land tenure was closely linked to kinship and loyalty – members of the clan had an allegiance to their chief, a kind of mutual protection whereby the clansfolk lived securely in their territories but would unswervingly answer the chief’s call to arms if it came.  In effect, clans were - potentially – private armies. In mediaeval Scotland they had even threatened the established monarchy.

A clan’s wealth was formerly measured in cattle (as a means of seeing them through the harsh Highland winters). Many of the clans around Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, closest to the Highland line, and with the rich farms of the Lowlands within easy reach, gained a reputation as cattle-thieves. At the very least they had expertise both in cattle-droving or protecting cattle from other marauding clans. The most famous drover, dealer and protection operator was, of course, Rob Roy Macgregor.