Since then, every 5 to 10 years, the Camerons hold a clan gathering at Achnacarry, hosted by Lochiel, with Highland games, music, and a shinty match (a no-holds-barred version of field hockey) against the Frasers. Camerons the world over are awaiting word on when the next will take place. "It's the overseas people of Highland origin who keep the clan going," Lochiel says. "They return to the land of their forefathers and feel reassured to find us here."
A decade ago, inspired and enormously helped by his son, Donald, he turned a cottage on the estate into the Clan Cameron Museum. Every year it attracts thousands of people, come to bone up on Cameron history and to see Bonnie Prince Charlie's magnificent red-and-gold vest and a reward poster that put a £30,000 bounty on his head.
Lochiel encourages visitors to roam his estate in the footsteps of the fugitive prince. He recommends his own favorite spot above Loch Arkaig, a half-mile hike from Achnacarry, for its stunning wildness, its almost eerie sense of isolation. On the far shore of the loch you can scramble up to the cave where Bonnie Prince Charlie sheltered, or search for his gold. Buried for safekeeping by the Gentle Lochiel's brother somewhere among the Lochaber hills, it has yet to be recovered.
STAY AT Inverlochy Castle Hotel & Restaurant, Torlundy, Fort William; 888/424-0106 or 44-1397/702-177; www.inverlochycastlehotel.com; doubles from $518.
Old Pines, Spean Bridge, Fort William; 44-1397/712-324; www.oldpines.co.uk; doubles from $251, including five-course dinner and full breakfast.
EAT AT The hotels above.
Pier House Hotel, Port Appin, Argyll; 44-1631/730-302; www.pierhousehotel.co.uk; dinner for two $94.
CHECK OUT Clan Cameron Museum, Achnacarry, Spean Bridge; 44-1397/712-480.
West Highland Museum, Cameron Square, Fort William; 44-1397/702-169.
The Commando Memorial, Achnacarry, Spean Bridge.
The Jacobite steam train that journeys in summer from Fort William to Mallaig (44-1463/239-026; www.westcoastrailway.co.uk). This is the very locomotive that delivers students to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies.
The walking path along the Caledonian Canal.
CLAN CAMERON WEB SITE www.clan-cameron.org
SEVENTH EARL AND 25TH THANE OF CAWDOR
It has long been held that William, third thane of Cawdor, was told in a dream to tie a coffer of gold to a donkey's back and build a castle wherever the animal lay down to rest. The donkey settled under a holly tree—pagan and Christian symbol of life and good luck—and the thane did as instructed. The trunk of the holly still stands in the vault of Cawdor Castle; the tree is estimated to have died in 1372, more or less when the castle's foundations were laid.
Twenty-two thanes and a moatful of legends later—one of the most persistent arising from the dramatic license taken by Shakespeare when he made Cawdor Castle the setting for Macbeth—Colin Campbell seems to have inherited the genes of a practical dreamer. As Thane of Cawdor, he is a chieftain of the great and, at one time, enormously powerful Campbell clan, renowned for its political savvy at backing the winning side. Colin takes pride in his ancestry, wears a kilt when he feels like it (and not just to weddings and funerals), but doesn't have much time for clan duties.