The name Mackenzie, or MacCoinneach in Gaelic, means literally, “Son of Kenneth. The original Kenneth, who lived in the 13th Century, was descended from a younger son of Gilleoin of the Aird, from whom can also be traced the once powerful Earls of Ross.
The MacKenzies were, without doubt, of Celtic stock and were not among the clans that originated from Norman ancestors. We know little about the generations immediately following Gilleoin, but in 1267 Kenneth was living at Eilean Donan, a stronghold at the mouth of Loch Duich. He must have been an important vassal, for the Earl of Ross appears to have married Kenneth’s aunt and thus strengthened the relationship which already existed between the two families.
At the start of the fifteenth century the Earldom of Ross came, through marriage, into the hands of the powerful family of MacDonald, who owned vast property on the west of Scotland and called themselves, at first without the King’s authority, Lords of the Isles. In this way the Mackenzies became vassals, not of their kinsmen the Earls of Ross but of the MacDonalds.
Clan MacKenzie rose rapidly in importance during the 15th Century through the acquisition of lands extending across Scotland from the west to east coasts, in the counties of Ross and Cromarty, and parts of Sutherlandshire.
In 1991, under the leadership of Cabarfeidh, the Clan Mackenzie announced plans to restore the original portion of Castle Leod, built at the end of the 15th Century. The restored Castle will include a Clan genealogical center and will be open to the public. The Earl and his family will continue to live in an extension to the Castle built in the Victorian and Edwardian periods.
The clan country of the Mackenzies includes almost every kind of scenery and conditions to be found in Scotland. The original home of the clan is Kintail, which in Gaelic means “head of the sea.” High hills fall steeply down to Loch Duich, giving little space for cultivation. At the mouth of Loch Duich stands Eilean Donan castle, no longer a stronghold of the Mackenzies, but the first home of their chief. Built on a rocky island at the narrow entrance of the loch, where the arrival of enemy boats could be seen and contested, it looks over the water towards Skye and the west.
Years Attended: Fall 2010 (First Year Attendee!)
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