From 2000 to March 2006 The Cottars were composed of two pairs of siblings: Ciarán and Fiona MacGillivray of Albert Bridge, and Jimmy and Roseanne MacKenzie of Baddeck, Nova Scotia. Their style of music would most usually be called Celtic.
In 2002, they released their first album entitled Made In Cape Breton, which was well received by the critics and public and led to them winning the Best New Artist award at the 2003 East Coast Music Awards. In 2004 The Cottars released their follow-up to Made In Cape Breton entitled On Fire; for this, The Cottars won the Best Roots/Traditional Album at the 2005 East Coast Music Awards. In 2006, the group's latest recording, Forerunner, was released on Rounder Records, which was their first American release.
The group was nominated for a Gemini Award in 2003 for their performance at the 2003 East Coast Music Awards in the category of Best Performance or Host in a Variety Program or Series.
In March 2006, The Cottars shared a 25-city tour with Irish group The Chieftains, ending in Carnegie Hall in New York City on St. Patrick's Day, sharing the stage with Elvis Costello. "The Cottars have the same kind of drive and energy The Chieftains had when we were first starting out", says Paddy Maloney, founder of The Chieftains. "With their combination of incredible musicianship, amazing voices and wonderful dancing, what a future they have ahead of them!" (See The Cottars quotes)
In July 2006, it was announced that the group would disband, citing disagreements between the two pairs of siblings. A Billboard magazine article reported that the MacGillivrays were behind the termination of the professional relationship, an allegation disputed by the MacGillivrays. Soon after the report, a new line-up, without the MacKenzies, appeared at previously scheduled tour dates. It was later made clear in press reports that the MacKenzies' withdrawal was health-related. Roseanne had been quoted as saying she was 'devastated' at the break-up. Replacement members were added last minute, on a temporary basis, in order to meet The Cottars' touring commitments through the end of 2006. Claire Pettit, 16, a fiddler who spends her time between New York and Nova Scotia has been integrated successfully into the band, joining the MacGillivrays to form the new, temporary line-up of The Cottars along with guitarist Bruce Timmins, the only non-teen in the group.