Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most recognised castles in Scotland. It is, without doubt, a Scottish icon and certainly one of the most popular visitor attractions in the Highlands. When you first set eyes on it, it is easy to understand why so many people flock to its stout doors year after year. Strategically located on its own little island, overlooking the Isle of Skye, at the point where three great sea-lochs meet, and surrounded by the majestic splendour of the forested mountains of Kintail, Eilean Donan’s setting is truly breath-taking.

Crossing the bridge to today’s castle, the fourth version, you can clearly understand why Bishop Donan chose the tranquil spot back in 634 AD to settle on it and create a monastic cell. The first castle was later established in the 13th century by Alexander II in an effort to help protect the area from Viking incursions. At this stage in history the original castle encompassed the entire island and is believed to have been constructed with seven towers connected by a massive curtain wall. Over the centuries, the castle contracted and expanded for reasons that still remain a mystery to this day, until 1719 when it was involved in one of the lesser known Jacobite uprisings. When the British Government learned that the castle was occupied by Jacobite leaders along with a garrison of Spanish soldiers, three Royal Navy frigates were sent to deal with the uprising. On the 10th of May 1719, the three heavily armed warships moored a short distance off the castle and bombarded it with cannon. With walls of up to 5 metres thick, these cannon had little impact, but eventually the castle was overwhelmed by force. Discovering 343 barrels of gunpowder inside, the Commanding officer gave orders to blow the castle up; following which Eilean Donan lay in silent ruin for the best part of two hundred years.

The castle that visitors enjoy so much today was reconstructed as a family home between 1912 and 1932 by Lt Col John MacRae-Gilstrap, and incorporated much of the ruins from the 1719 destruction. At this point the bridge was added; a structure that is as much a part of the classic image as the very castle itself.

Visitors now have the opportunity to wander round most of the fabulous internal rooms of the castle viewing period furniture, Jacobean artefacts, displays of weapons and fine art. Historical interest and heritage are in abundance with informed guides happy to share a wealth of knowledge. Extremely popular with families, a visit to Eilean Donan promises lots of fun for the kids whether it be swinging a Claymore, spying through the spy holes, lifting the cannon balls, gazing at the fearsome portcullis or exploring the ancient battlements. Wildlife surrounds the island too, with regular viewings of porpoise, dolphins, otters and birdlife. For those feeling particularly romantic, weddings can even be arranged inside the beautiful Banqueting Hall.

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Address

A87, Highland, United Kingdom
See all sites in Highland

Details

Founded: c. 1250
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Angus Smith (17 months ago)
Stunning location, beautiful building, great coffee shop BUT not worth going inside!! Why not? Simply because the interior of the castle and the random selection of obscure family heirlooms and pictures etc do nothing to enhance the visit. The information inside the castle is almost entirely about the purchase and rebuild of the castle in the early 1900's. The early history is not given of perhaps not known, other than the story of the destruction of the castle in the 1700's by the English. The items on display would possibly be of interest to the direct family members of the castle owners, but not for me. The interior of the castle is nice enough and the audio tour was OK, also the guides were helpful and friendly, but I left feeling a little let down about the lack of history with the castle and the poor (or lack of) useful displays inside. I am of course comparing Eilean Donan to the dozens of other castles I have visited in Scotland which have a long and interesting history. As a long term member of Historic Scotland I rate the experience here at a massively lower level. To sum up - Definitely park up and take pictures of the castle, also drive up the Carr Brae road to get the best views. I would also recommend visiting the coffee shop so long as it is not too busy, BUT I would recommend leaving it at that. All of the information gained from visiting the inside of the castle can be read online as well. This review was written after a visit on 28th Feb 2019 in the 'quiet' season. If visiting I would recommend November to March as outside those months the castle is incredibly busy and you would probably struggle to even get parked!
James Paterson (17 months ago)
It was a worthwhile visit , the castle was stunning. The gift shop is worth a visit and also the coffee shop. A really good experience.
Santosh Dadi (17 months ago)
Views are fantastic and you don't need to go inside the castle to enjoy it. You have to visit it during both high and low tides and near dusk to admire the beauty. Pop in for a bit pricey ticket but the kitchen settings with life size figures are very well setup.
Mike Bell (17 months ago)
Visually this is the classic Scottish castle and kept in wonderful condition. The internal restoration is done very well and gives the visitor a very good idea of what life inside might have been like.
Guido Gloor Modjib (17 months ago)
Loved the audio guide, and there were plenty of humans around that you could ask questions, too. The castle is impressive, and it's really interesting that the family still lives there. Even though (and maybe because) that means that not all areas of the castle are accessible to visitors.
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