Over nine million Canadians can trace their ancestral roots back to the Celtic isles of Scotland and Ireland. With Scottish-designed architecture and an annual highland games in the calendar, the Caledonian influence is alive and well in Montreal.
As our new Glasgow to Montreal route makes travelling to your Canadian holiday destination a breeze, discover the city shaped by highlanders. From the 30th of May, Glaswegians can follow their ancestors to Montreal with flights every Monday until October.
Trace the Scots’ first steps in Canada’s Montreal with our choice of landmarks and attractions that celebrate Scotland.
Montreal’s Golden Square Mile
While many diverse groups such as the French or Italians have contributed to Montreal’s growth, none had more of a prolific impact in the 19th century than the wealthy Scottish community who bought their own style of building and business to the city changing it forever. Nowhere is this clearer than in the downtown neighbourhood at the foot of Mont Royal. Today, this area is the city’s business centre, with its skyscrapers and office buildings forming Montreal’s skyline. It was once the most affluent residential area in Canada, fondly nicknamed the Golden Square Mile for its wealthy inhabitants. The majority of families that built their mansions on the Golden Square Mile in the 1850s were of Scottish descent, becoming a close community of businessmen whose combined power ruled over Canada for decades.
One such entrepreneur was James Ross, the man who worked to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Canadian Rockies in 1848. He resided at what is now called the Chancellor Day Hall on the campus of McGill University. The building has retained its neoclassical-meets-Victorian architecture as is typical of the streets near Mont Royal. Many of the other properties in the neighbourhood have also been transformed into public buildings such as museums, embassies and hotels.
Scottish heritage in Montreal
Established by David Ross McCord upon his arrival in Canada, the McCord Museum opened in 1878. The museum showcases items collected from his many travels searching for historically important objects to tell the story of his new home. Beside an impressive collection of Canadian relics and cultural artefacts, the museum still houses many Scottish objects, particularly those of the Celts who prospered in the Golden Square Mile.
Perhaps more recognisably Scottish, The Black Watch’s base in Montreal is reminiscent of the clan castles that governed Scotland during the Jacobite risings. The Black Watch, however, is the Royal Highland Regiment of Canada that formed as the 5th Battalion Volunteer Militia Riffles in Montreal over a century later in 1862. The regiment’s armoury on Bleury Street in Montreal was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2008.
Montreal Highland Games
The Montreal Highland Games have been running for 38 years as a celebration of Scottish heritage and an opportunity to connect with Celts from all over Montreal and the world.
This year the event takes place on July 31st at Parc Arthur-Therrien in the city’s Verdun borough. Holidaymakers can expect to be swept up in the tartan fun and games as events such as highland dancing, caber tossing and the traditional Caledonia Run amuse spectators. Visitors will experience the sounds and tastes of Scotland as well, with bagpipers providing music and several refreshment concessions serving up foods from the Motherland for one day only in Montreal.