clan burial customs

MacSorlie graveyard Glen Nevis

MacSorlie graveyard in Glen Nevis

A Scottish clan is a group of people wo believe they share the same ancestor. A clan is far more than family. In the Highlands they were a political unit as well, a source of support and defence. A sept or a branch, however, is somthing different and that has to be remembered when talking about the MacSorlie graveyard in Glen Nevis, because none of the stones here bear the name MacSorlie or MacSorley. They will beremembered as Camerons.

the MacSorlies or Camerons of Glen Nevis

“One of the original four branches of Clan Cameron (and therefore not technically a “sept,” but included here for clarification) the MacSorlies were one of the earliest tribes of Lochaber.  They are said to have originally descended from the same “stock” as the MacDonalds, as their patronymic implies – “Sliochd Shomhairle Ruaidh,” “The Race of Somerled the Red.”  Closely allied to their neighbors the MacMartins, the MacSorlies resided in Glen Nevis.
By the end of the fifteenth century the MacSorlies came under the leadership of Clan Cameron, although they seemingly didn’t adopt the name of Cameron until the early seventeenth century.  The MacSorlies/Camerons of Glen Nevis were not the most faithful adherents to the Cameron Chiefs; they were know to be at feud with them on numerous occasions.
In the 1745 Jacobite Uprising the MacSorlies/Camerons of Glen Nevis were not “out” under their their leader, Alexander Cameron of Glen Nevis, but many of them were with Lochiel’s regiment nevertheless; Alexander’s brother Angus “brought out” the Rannoch Camerons to join the regiment.” (source:

their burial place

Near Glen Nevis House on a mound to the South of the road, lies a little burying ground called “Tom-eas-an-t-slinnean” (Knoll of the waterfall of the shoulder). Here lie buried the old Camerons of Glen Nevis, who bore the patronymic of MacSorlie, a branch of Clan Cameron now extinct. (source: Canmore)

To get there you need to walk a few hundred yards from the road along the track to “the burial path”, the route used by clans from further away to carry their dead to the old graveyard in Glen Nevis. It is said that the journey was too far for many people who gave up and buried their loved ones along the path! (source:

The views from this peaceful place towards Ben Nevis are spectacular. This burial place has a very special atmosphere. A sense of ancient loyalty and belonging.

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Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. 

Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel.This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.

The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.


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