Glenshee the Clan gathering place

3 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

August, 2018

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with


Reasons for trip

The mountainous A93 road through beautiful Glenshee – recently designated as part of the Snow Roads route across the highest passes in Scotland – has many attractions for travellers, but there is one, virtually at the roadside, which is often missed, even by frequent visitors.

It’s the clan gathering place for the colourful and adventurous Clan MacThomas, most of whose descendants bear names like MacThomas, McColm, Thomson, McCombie and others listed on an information board at the site and on the clan website

The clan broke away (peacefully) from the more northerly Clan Chattan Mackintoshes in the 1400s and settled in lands near the Spittal of Glenshee which is about three miles from the gathering place. Spittal means there had always been an ancient safe resting place for travellers at that spot and Glen Shee is the valley of the fairies.

The gathering place is a simple, large stone with a rather dramatic history which dates from the mid 1600s which were desperate and bloody times throughout the Cairngorms.

About a mile from the stone, some tax collectors in the employ of the Earls of Atholl brutally robbed an elderly widow of her only possessions, a cockerel and 8 hens, which were also her only source of food for the winter. The men were entitled to one hen in payment of rent, but they bundled the whole flock into a sack and left the old lady distraught and pleading for help from her MacThomas kinsmen.

At that time, the clan chief was McComie Mor – or Big Tommy – who is still celebrated for his feats of strength and leadership. He was disgusted at the actions of the Atholl men and rode in pursuit, catching up with them near the landmark stone and demanding the return of the widow’s poultry.

In refusing, the mistake the enemy made was to laugh at Big Tommy for bringing his clansmen out on such a small matter (as they saw it).

Single-handed, furious Tommy slew four of the Atholl men in a matter of minutes before the rest of them fled, dropping the sack as they went.

The old lady’s prize rooster escaped from the bag and flew to the top of the stone, where he crowed his heart out, a mocking sound that was joined by the triumphant cries of the MacThomases who felt justice had been done that day for one of their own.
Ever since, the stone has been known as the Clach na Coileach, or Stone of the Cockeral, and every few years the MacThomases join in all their different septs (surnames) to celebrate clan unity, friendship and strength.

I had driven past this special place regularly for more than 20 years before deciding to visit to take photos for a friend from America who is a Thomson. It was a real discovery moment, standing in the snow and visualising the battle scene. The pictures taken back in the Spring are best, however, because they show the stone against the snow.

There is a small, free, car park and lots of information at the start point. You go through the Harold McCombie gate and walk a short distance to the stone, which also has a plaque. The above story is just one of the many legends of Big Tommy and his kinsmen, but the gathering stone gives his clan a sense of place and interest in the peaceful glen that was once under their control and protection, however rough the justice might seem 400 years later.

The Glenshee Road is part of a 90-mile scenic route from Blairgowrie to Grantown on Spey, designated one of Scotland’s Snow Roads. The Spittal of Glenshee hamlet nearby is also near the Cateran Trail, a circular walking route of 64 miles through the heartland hills of Angus and Perthshire. The trail has no beginning and no end, so every walk has a special feel.

Not all Thomsons are descended from the Glenshee clan, but the checks are easy to do.


Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.