Course: Introduction to Scottish Highland Heritage

Registration now closed.

Introductory Level: Four-week course for people who wish to explore the basics of Scottish Highland culture, society, and heritage during the clan era (the 12th through 18th centuries). No previous experience or training is necessary.

A romantic depiction of Scottish Highlanders
drawn in the 19th century

There are millions of people whose ancestors originated in the Scottish Highlands, and it is natural that their descendants would want to know about the daily lives of the natives of the Scottish Highlands and the clan system. Their colorful clothing – the tartan and kilt, in particular – has made a fashion statement for generations now, and characters based on Highland heroes have been popularized in such Hollywood films as Rob Roy and Outlander. The romantic image has often upstaged realistic details about their way of life and cultural expressions in their native language, Scottish Gaelic, however. These nuances are worth studying for those interested in learning about Scottish Highland heritage in a manner that is historically accurate and grounded in actual lived experience. To do so, the course highlights texts created by and for the natives of the mountains themselves.

Details about how the courses are designed and how they work are on this webpage.

What We’ll Discuss

We will explore a number of common questions about the way of life of Scottish Highlanders during the clan era, including the following:

  • What do the terms “Celt(ic),” “Scot(tish),” “Gael(ic)” mean and what are the differences between them?
  • How did the division between the Highlands and Lowlands emerge in Scotland?
  • Where do Highland surnames come from and what do they mean?
  • How did the clan system really work? What social roles did people occupy in the clan system?
  • What stories did people tell about the origins of clans and how should we interpret them today?
  • How did Highlanders provide food, shelter, and clothing for themselves?
  • What did Highlanders do to commemorate birth, marriage, and death?

As a bonus to learners of Scottish Gaelic – including the thousands using DuoLingo – the coursepack includes a glossary of Gaelic terms relevant for the concepts discussed each week.

Course Texts

  • The Everyday Life of the Clans of the Scottish Highlands (available as both paperback book and eBook). You can order it from your local bookshop with the ISBN-13: 978-0971385825 or from these links: paperback from Amazon US; Kindle eBook from Amazon US; Apple eBook; paperback from Amazon Canada; paperback from Amazon UK.
  • Supplemental PDF coursepack (to be emailed to you after you register)
Depiction of Highlanders playing camanachd (“shinty”)

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