‘WE have been welcoming guests from Scotland to Bodega San Juan for over a century,” beams Cristina Millan Martín, pointing to a black and white photo of tourists being serenaded by local musicians into her family vineyard. I’m in good company as a Scot as the third largest island in the Canaries is alive with Scottish connections. We even brought golf to Gran Canaria.

The Scottish connection stretches beyond wine tourism. Gran Canaria is famous for its rum too. Checking into my hotel in the capital of Las Palmas – the slick, modern Occidental Las Palmas – I chat to the receptionist who tells me the rum distillery’s first machines were shipped over from Glasgow. Today, Arehucas produces superb white and gold rum, plus the sweet ron miel (honey rum), which I have to agree with receptionist is indeed similar to Glayva.

I’m staying by the city’s vast La Luz Port in the district where many Scots lived and worked during the port’s construction. Many stayed on afterwards. A Scottish family firm, Swanston and Co., were ones commissioned to construct La Luz Port back in 1883 and it was the fulcrum for the growing Scottish and British community at the time.

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Protestant churches were built and a graveyard after a scandalous case when a British non-Catholic woman was not allowed to be buried within the city boundaries. That led to the first British cemetery, which was accompanied by schools, churches and the Queen Victoria Hospital.

Spain’s first golf course emerged in the heart of Las Palmas too. That course may be long gone, but the Scottish legacy continues at the dramatic volcano-side course at Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas (Spain’s oldest golf club) – near Bodega San Juan. It was designed in the 1950s by Philip Mackenzie Ross, the Scot behind the rebuilding of the Ailsa Course at Turnberry following World War Two.

The most striking throwback to the days when Scottish tourists joined the commercial enterprises is the Santa Catalina Hotel, a lavish Las Palmas bolthole since 1890. I savour lunch on the terrace at the 1890 La Bodeguita – Canarian potatoes, Iberico ham and local seafood – with Oscar Calle, who works at the impressively refurbished hotel. He sees my interest in the uniforms of the waiting staff: tartan aprons and tartan trims on their tops. “It’s Scottish of course, we’re very proud of our links with Scotland. You’re sitting having lunch here as many of your countrymen have done for years. We owe the port that runs our city to you.”

One of the critical imports in the early days was coal and one of the oldest coal trading companies was Scottish. In 1824 Thomas Miller came to the Canaries from Fife to join his cousin, James Swanston Miller. They tried their hand at trading cochineal and other dyes, plus barilla (used to make soap), but they made their money and their name in coal. Thomas Miller & Co. became synonymous with the new steam ships plying their trade to and from the Canaries.

Trade in those days was brisk with the “New World”. The strategic position of Gran Canaria en route to the Americas was a huge draw – after all, Columbus himself stopped by on Gran Canaria – there is a house dedicated to him in the chocolate-box pretty old quarter of La Vegueta. Here I find a disputed Scottish legacy. Striding outside the hulking Santa Ana Cathedral are a pack of striking bronze dogs. They’ve become a symbol of the city. There are competing stories of their origin – one is that they were a present from the Millers.

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I leave Las Palmas with Scottish connections swirling around, bound for the island’s south. You can take the motorway, but I highly recommend forging through the mountains that help lend Gran Canaria its “Continent in Miniature” moniker. I stop off to wander the hanging balcony-kissed old core of Teror, and check out the wee galleries of whitewashed Fataga. The highlight is yomping up to Roque Nublo. This rocky outcrop is another icon of the island, soaring to over 1813m. Gran Canaria island boasts serious mountains rising to a touch under 2000m; that’s roughly Ben Nevis with a couple of Conic Hills plonked on top.

Joining me on the hike is Daniel Quintana, a local with a serious passion for Scotland. He turns up in a Scotland top looking more Murrayfield than mountain bound. Daniel has spent time in his beloved Scotland, including tackling the West Highland Way. He’s passionate not only about Scotland, but a keen supporter of Scottish independence, seeing some parallels with Gran Canaria: “We understand that sense of feeling distant from the government, of feeling a separate identity. Alba gu bràth!”

I arrive in the palm-fringed south and check into the grand Seaside Palm Beach just by the famous sweeping Maspalomas sand dunes. Over dinner with Lisa Tuckman, an Englishwoman so charmed by Gran Canaria she now calls it home, I learn the most engaging Scottish connection for me of all. My eldest is called Tara. “On Gran Canaria Tara is a goddess, our earth mother,” Lisa smiles, as I raise a toast with local honey rum to an island awash with Scottish connections, links that add depth to a holiday on our gloriously scenic Atlantic cousin.