The Clan is named after the ruins of the Pict 'rath-tref', or fort dwelling, in Perthshire which was traditionally connected with ancient religious rites. The Rattrays were influential in the 14th century, and were among the Barons who decided the succession to the throne in 1315.
According to tradition, the Rattrays acquired their land from King Malcolm Canmore in the 11th century but the first record of the name is Sir Thomas of Rattray, who was knighted by Alexander III. He married the heiress, Christian of Aberbothric in 1253, and paid homage to Edward I in 1296. Sir John Rattray of Rattray was knighted by James IV and by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of James 2nd, Lord Kennedy, he had three sons and a daughter.
Sylvester, the third son inherited the title after his two elder brothers, John and Patrick, and the daughter married John Stewart, Earl of Atholl. The Earl laid claim to a portion of the Rattray estates and forcibly took Rattray Castle, and carried off Sir John's two grand-daughters whom he adopted as his "wards". He arranged for the eldest to marry his son claiming half the Rattray lands as his dowry, and forced the other daughter to hand over the other half of the lands.
Patrick, the 2nd son, then moved to the Castle of Craighall which is perched on a 200 feet rock above the River Ericht. Patrick evaded the Atholl men until 1533, but was killed as he took refuge in the Kinballoch Chapel. The Earl of Atholl's niece, Mary Stewart, wife of Kininmonth, fell in love with Sylvester, the third brother, and after Kininmonth's death, she married Sylvester, and persuaded the Earl of Atholl to stop pressuring the Rattrays.
Since then, the Rattrays have lived at Craighall at the spot where Patrick built the first castle. At the Restoration, Craighall was remodeled by another Patrick Rattray, and the lands were consolidated into one free Barony under "Craighall-Rattray" (1648) in a Charter from Charles II. The lands of Rattray were also returned by the Earl of Atholl.
In 1745, the Chief of Rattray declined to join the Jacobites, and sent a donation of £50 instead. However his brother, John, was a physician to Bonnie Prince Charlie. In 1799, the line of male succession died out however, the lands and arms of Rattray passed to James Clerk through his grandmother, and he assumed the name of Rattray. He was an eminent advocate and a friend of Sir Walter Scott, who modeled "Tully-Veolan" the Baron of Bradwardine's castle in "Waverley" on Craighall.