Eilean Donan Castle

The name of the 'Eilean Donan Castle' comes from the Gaelic meaning 'Island of Donan' ('Eilean' being 'Island' and the 'Donan' believed to be named after the 6th Century Irish Saint, Bishop Donan, who was in Scotland during the later part of the 6th century AD).

eilean donan castle
Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

This Scottish castle may well be the most photographed castle in the country, and is also often called the 'most romantic castle of Scotland'.

Both of these honors are well deserved in my opinion, as its' location is uniquely spectacular and isolated - set on a small rocky island at the point where three great lochs (Loch Alsh, Loch Duich and Loch Long) meet.

Although there are indications that a Pictish fortress existed at this location during the 6th or 7th centuries, the Medieval castle was built in the 13th century for Alexander II. The location itself was ideal defensively, and the castle was originally built as a defense against the Viking who repeatedly raided the north of Scotland during these times.

Over the coming centuries, this Scotland castle changed in size and shape, being built, destroyed, rebuilt and renovated, several times, with at least four different versions appearing during that time. The first version, the 13th century Medieval castle, may have been the biggest and excavations suggest that it covered the entire island at that point.

Later, perhaps during the latter part of the 14th or early part of the 15th centuries, the outer walls of the castle were dismantled, and new defensive walls were built around a smaller area, reducing the castle to around 1/5 of its' original size.

During the 16th century additions were made to accommodate newer weapons and allow for better defensive capabilities, but sadly the Jacobite uprisings of the 17th and 18th centuries eventually led to the destruction of castle, and it lay in ruins for almost 200 years.

In the early 20th century, members of the MacRae clan (this castle is now the ancestral seat of the MacRae clan, although it was at first given to the Clan MacKenzie in the 13th century), decided to restore the castle to it's former glory and the results of their hardwork are what you see now.

An interesting tid-bit here is that the castle was rebuilt according to surviving plans of the original castle and legend has it, according to a dream that came to Farquhar MacRae in which he saw exactly how the castle had looked during it's earliest times.

Interesting historical facts about this castle.....

  • It's believed that Robert the Bruce took refuge in Eilean Donan Castle (while being hunted by the British) during the 14th century.

  • Said to be haunted by the ghost of a Spanish soldier, who may have been during a battle which took place at the castle in 1719.

  • This Scottish castle has appeared in many popular movies over the years including - The Master of Ballantrae (with Errol Flynn in the 1950s); Elizabeth: The Golden Age (with Cate Blanchett in 2007); Highlander (with Sean Connery in 1984); Loch Ness (with Ted Danson in 1995); 'The World is Not Enough' (with Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 1999);

  • Is one of the only castles in the UK to feature a left-handed spiral staircase.

To learn more about the detailed history of several castles in this area, including Castle Eilean Donan, check out this book....Mediaeval Castles of Skye and Lochalsh

The Castle and exhibitions are open between March 1 and November 2.

Eilean Donan Castle Official Website

Related Pages:

Scottish Castles

Balmoral Castle

Cawdor Castle

Dumbarton Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Urquhart Castle

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