While the MacLaren Clan are generally accepted to be descended from Laurence, Abbot of Achtow in Balquhidder, other members of the MacLaren family can also trace their history back to Lorn, son of Fergus MacErc, founder of the kingdom of Dalriada in the sixth century.
An early mention of the family would arrive during the ‘Ragman Roll’ of 1296, a document listing Scots nobles who had sworn allegiance to Edward I of England. In this document, the MacLaren name is mentioned three times, however, the clan would then go on to fight for Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 – with the family fighting under the banner of Malise, Earl of Strathearn.
After coming under pressure from their more powerful neighbours, the Maclarens would sadly lose their position as Earls of Strathearn in 1344, eventually forfeiting their ancient seat at Balquhidder to the crown. The clan would continue to live here but would be under the control of a Stewart royal bailie and would then suffer further disappointment as James V would grant the remaining MacLaren lands in the area to another barony.
Balquhidder would eventually come under the control of the Murrays of Atholl and after Campbell persecution of the Macgregors would lead them to settle there, MacLaren settlements were burned and innocent lives taken by the larger MacGregors. In the wake of this terror, the only option for the stricken MacLarens was to swear loyalty to the Campbells in return for protection. While this technically turned the family into a sept of the Campbells, they continued to be recognised as an independent clan by the Scottish Parliament.
Retaining their own rights, the Maclarens would fight alongside the Stewarts in various conflicts over the 17th and 18th centuries as they battled with the family until their final demise after the Jacobite Rising of 1745. In the aftermath of the final defeat at Culloden in 1746, the rival Hanoverian troops would ravage Balquhidder – leaving it to be rebuilt once again.
Today, the chiefly family of the MacLarens still reside at Balquhidder and the present chief, Donald, has retired there after completing a distinguished career in the diplomatic service.