Battle of Allt Camhna

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Battle of Allt Camhna
Part of the Scottish clan wars
Wee beach at the mouth of the Allt Camhna - - 970786.jpg
Allt Camhna
Date 1586
Location Allt Camhna, Scottish Highlands, Scotland
Result Clan Gunn and Mackay victory
Clan Mackay
Clan Gunn
Clan Sinclair
Commanders and leaders
William Mackay, 1st of Bighouse [1] Henry Sinclair [1]
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
Unknown 140 (seven score)[1][2]

The Battle of Allt Camhna was a Scottish clan battle fought in 1586 between the Clan Gunn and Clan Mackay against the Clan Sinclair.


In 1585 a meeting took place at Eglin, Scotland between George Gordon, 1st Marquess of Huntly, Alexander Gordon, 12th Earl of Sutherland, George Sinclair, 5th Earl of Caithness and Hugh Mackay of Strathnaver. The purpose of the meeting was to repair relations which had become damaged between the Earl of Sutherland, Earl of Caithness and Hugh Mackay due to actions by the Clan Gunn and Hugh Mackay in Assynt, both having gone there on the orders of the Earl of Caithness.

It was decided at the meeting that the Clan Gunn should be "made away", because they were judged to be the principal authors of these "troubles and commotions". However both Hugh Mackay and George Sinclair, Earl of Caithness were unwilling to attack their old allies the Clan Gunn and therefore departed from the meeting at Eglin.

In consequence, in 1586, George Gordon, Marquess of Huntly came north to Sutherland, the lands of his cousin, Alexander Gordon, 12th Earl of Sutherland. He sent a message to both Hugh Mackay and George Sinclair, Earl of Caithness to meet him there. The Earl of Caithness met with the Gordon Earls of Huntly and Sutherland but Mackay did not and was denouunced as a rebel by Sutherland. At this meeting an agreement was made that George Sinclair, Earl of Caithness, chief of Clan Sinclair would expel the Clan Gunn from the lands of Sutherland and Caithness. The Clan Sinclair gathered under the command of Henry Sinclair who was cousin of the Earl of Caithness and also the uncle of William and Hugh Mackay.

Having been informed of the proceedings at this meeting, the Clan Gunn gathered their forces and prepared for battle. They were joined by William Mackay and a strong force from the Clan Mackay. William Mackay proposed to attack the men of the Clan Sutherland but this was overruled by the Clan Gunn who opted to fight the Clan Sinclair of Caithness instead.[3][4]

Account of the battle of Allt Camhna[edit]

Historian Sir Robert Gordon (1580–1656), who was living at the time of the battle and was a close relative of John Gordon, Earl of Sutherland, wrote an account of the battle in his book the Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland:

So having the advantage of the hill, they set upon the enemy with a resolute courage. The Caithness-men came short with their first flight of arrows; by contrary, the Guns spared their shot until they came hard to the enemy, which then they bestowed among them to great advantage. In the end the clan Gun overthrew the Caithness-men at Auldgown, upon the borders of Caithness, the year 1586, and killed seven score of their most resolute men, with their captain Henry Sinclair, cousin to the Earl of Caithness, and uncle to Hugh and William Mackay. William Mackay was sore for the slaughter of his uncle, Henry Sinclair, whom he knew not to be there till he was slain; but afterwards in the chase William Mackay spared no man. The Caithness host had been all destroyed, had not the darkness of the night favoured theirflight. Hugh Mackay was then in Caithness, with Earl George; but the inhabitants of Caithness understanding that his brother, William Mackay was with the clan Gun at the conflict of Auldgown, they sought for Hugh Mackay to slay him; whereupon he was forced in all haste to flee secretly into Strathnaver, thereby to eschew their present fury.[1]


Shortly after the Battle of Allt Camhna the Clan Gunn was defeated at the Battle of Leckmelm by the Clan MacLeod, the Clan Sutherland and the Mackay of Aberach branch of the Clan Mackay.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580–1656). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. pp. 183.
  2. ^ Sinclair, Thomas. (1890). The Guns. pp. 47.
  3. ^ Mackay, Robert. (1829). History of the House and Clan of the Name Mackay. pp. 149 - 150. Quoting: Gordon, Sir Robert (1580 - 1656). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. .pp. 182.
  4. ^ Sinclair, Thomas. (1890). The Guns. pp. 46.
  5. ^ Mackay Robert. (1829). History of the House and Clan of the Name Mackay. pp. 151 - 152. Quoting: Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580 - 1656). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. pp. 184.

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