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Visit Scotland | Alba

Ancestral tourism is a growing and important market for Scotland. At least 40 million people across the globe able to lay claim to Scottish ancestry. The scope and potential of this market for Scottish tourism is huge.

There are real opportunities for Scottish businesses. Ancestral visitors might want to "walk in the footsteps" of their ancestors. Or they might want to undertake some genealogical research while visiting.

The explosion in DNA-based ancestry and shows set in Scotland, such as Outlander, have brought Scots ancestry to the fore like never before.

Many ancestral visitors report that the minute they set foot on Scottish soil, they feel a real emotional connection. They feel a sense of "belonging" or even a feeling of "coming home".

This is regardless of whether they are visiting Scotland for the first or the tenth time.

Connections to Scotland - Extract from Scotland visitor survey 2025 & 2026

Published July 2017

Our most recent research and insights about ancestry related visits to Scotland.

1. How can I benefit from ancestral tourism?

Businesses across Scotland can benefit from ancestral tourism. Ancestral visitors are particularly warm to Scotland, since they have a personal connection.

Some visitors may wish to undertake genealogic research here in Scotland. Others might simply want to "walk in footsteps" of the ancestors, such as:

  • generally enjoying a visit to Scotland
  • visiting places associated with their own family story
  • visiting places associated with the relevant clan / family names
  • a mix of these aforementioned elements

The main ancestral tourism source countries for Scotland are the USA, Canada, and Australia.

Over a quarter of respondents of these countries cited Scottish ancestry as a major motivation for their trip. More than a third said their ancestors lived in Scotland.

Ancestral visitors tend to stay longer and are more likely to visit outside the peak summer months of July and August than the average visitor.

They have strong emotional connections to Scotland and will visit areas related to their own clan / family history. They're also likely to become repeat visitors.

Top tips to engage with ancestral visitors

  • Know the local history

    Ensure you and your staff have at least a basic knowledge of the history of your local area. This way, you can speak knowledgably to guests exploring their Scottish connections.

    These places could include local visitor attractions, heritage centres, and museums. There, visitors will be able to gain insights into what life was like for their ancestors in the past.

    Does your area has a strong connection with particular surnames? If so, find out about any clans / families associated with those names, and any relevant clan/family sites in the areas.

    Find more information on

  • Film and TV are the best ads

    Keep abreast of developments in the film and TV world which feature famous Scots and events in Scotland’s history. Think of Braveheart or Outlander.

    Stories seen on screen encourage visitors to come to Scotland, especially those with Scottish roots.

  • Share local events

    One of the things visitors with Scottish roots love to do is meet their fellow Scots. Keep abreast of events in the local area where they can meet the locals such as Highland Games, trad music festivals, pub sessions, etc.

  • Tell the story

    Do you run a visitor attraction with historic or ancestral connections? Consider how you can tell its story in an engaging and interactive way that will really bring the story to life for ancestral visitors.

    If you are an accommodation provider, think about ways in which you could bring the history of your building or area to life for guests.

  • Guide visitors to local ancestral research resources

    Be ready to assist those ancestral visitors who want to do genealogical research as part of their visit.

    Ensure you and your staff know where local records offices, libraries and family history societies are.

    Pay them a visit to find out what records they hold and how your guests can access them.

2. Which Scottish ancestry sites and resources are there?

Find a wide variety of Scottish ancestry sites and resources from across the country.

3. Case studies: Ancestral journeys to Scotland

The Scottish Council on Archives produced the following two films produced with our advice.

The first film offers a useful background to ancestral tourism.

The second, longer film, follows the story of a woman undertaking her own ancestral journey in Scotland. It really brings to live the unique and often emotional experience of those making an ancestral visit to Scotland.

Find out more at

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