Updated: Oct 24
All Scots love finding their surname on a clan map! However, most “clan maps” appear to be pleasant fictions that bear only slight resemblance to actual ancestral family lands.
A quick survey of popular “clan maps” indicates that while the “Forbes” sections are generally within the area of the River Don in Aberdeenshire, the sizes and locations vary. Few maps specify the basis for the section: is it land held, actual residence, or “influence?” In addition, the dates of the determination are rarely mentioned. Are the sections the “origins” of the clans before the 13th century, the height of clan rivalries in the 15th and 16th centuries, or right before the 18th century Jacobite uprisings when many families’ ancestral lands were seized by the government?
One test of the accuracy of these maps to match the ancestral estates and strongholds of the House of Forbes, such as Druminnor (Castle Forbes) which was in Forbes control from 1272 to 1770 and 1955 to today; Castle Forbes (Putachie), held from 1411 to today; Pitsligo Castle, held from 1423 to 1746; Tolquhon Castle, held from 1433 to 1716; Craigievar Castle, held from 1610 to 1963; Corse Castle, held from 1476 to today; Corgarff Castle, held from 1550 to 1746; and Culloden House and Estate, held from 1626 to 1897. These were located on various “clan maps” to determine their accuracy. Here are the results.
The Clans and Castles website offers “A map of the principal Clan Lands created by Alastair Cunningham for the Colin Baxter publication Scottish Clans and Tartans.” The major lands of Forbes are correctly located between the River Dee and the River Don – but only Craigievar Castle is included. The area indicated as “Forbes” does seem to include Castle Forbes, Druminnr Castle, and Corse Castle. However, Culloden is in Rose lands, Corgarff Castle is in the middle of the Grants, Pitsligo Castle is in the area designated as Cumming, and Tolquhon is somewhere between the Keiths and Leslies.
The History Scotland website presents a Scotland clan map produced by Lochcarron of Scotland, self-proclaimed as “the world’s leading manufacturer of tartan.” With this map, both Craigievar Castle and Corse Castle appear to be within the “Forbes” area but Druminnor Castle and Castle Forbes seem to be in Gordon Territory. Culloden is somewhere between Mackintosh and Brodie lands. Pitsligo Castle appears to be in Fraser territory and Tolquhon Castle seems to be in the hands of the Gordons.
The Highland Titles website provides a “Clan Map of Scotland,” but does not credit any author or creator. This map is more accurate in the placement of Castle Forbes, Craigievar Castle, and Corse Castle within the Forbes area. However, Druminnor Castle and Tolquhon Castle are adrift in Gordon lands. Culloden is straddling the Mackintoshes and Brodies. Pitsligo Castle is stuck between the territories of Ogilvy and Fraser.
“Scotland of Old,” first published in 1956, is probably the most accurate “clan map” since it was crafted by Sir Iain Moncreiffe of That Ilk, Bart., (1919 –1985) Albany Herald and Don Pottinger (1919–1986), Unicorn Pursuivant of Arms. This version was also approved by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs and the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The map notes that the lands indicate “general spheres of influence, usually about the time of King James VI but taking the history of each district or family as a whole.”
The map clearly indicates the Forbes lands in eastern Aberdeenshire and actually marks the locations of Druminnor Castle, Castle Forbes, and Craigiever Castle. While the castles are not indicated, the map does include the Forbes estates of Tolquhon and Pitsligo. While Culloden is indicated, this area is ascribed to the Mackintoshes, rather than Forbes. Corgarff Castle is relegated to the Gordons.
The book House of Forbes (Alistair and Henrietta Tayler, 1937) provides the most historically comprehensive view of Forbes lands. This map was meticulously researched by Miss Kitty Forbes of Newe and was based on all the charters granted to member of the House of Forbes. The book also lists over 160 place names that were inhabited by Forbes, along with the associated parishes. This is the true indicarion of the location and the influence of the House of Forbes.