Eilean Donan Castle

Discover Eilean Donan Castle, a medieval fort that once defended Scotland from a Viking invasion

Eilean Donan Castle

You cannot miss Eilean Donan Castle once you leave the Isle of Skye and return to Scotland's mainland via the Skye Bridge. It stands proudly protecting the lands of Kintail beyond, originally from Viking raiders who controlled the Lochs and coastal areas between ad 800 and ad 1266.

The fort lay in ruins for over 200 years until Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap purchased the island and spent 20 years restoring the old fort to its self. It was an incredible achievement, and now we can go inside and explore this fascinating home.

Eilean Donan Castle is an ideal stop after leaving the Isle of Skye and heading into the Highlands. Include Eilean Donan on a Private Tour of Scotland.

Guardian of the Islands

A Brief History of Eilean Donan Castle
The Eilean Donan Castle site was probably a religious community dedicated to the Irish Saint, Bishop Donan. Legend is that he arrived in Scotland 580 ad. Isolated locations attracted saintly monks, allowing them to be free from the corruption of larger settlements.

The Original Castle
The Lords of the Isles constructed the first stronghold in the early 13th Century. The separate Sea-Kingdom controlled the islands, lochs and coastal regions of north-western Scotland. The castle was a place to retreat and protect the territory against raids from the Vikings of Scandinavia.

Seafaring waring Clans populated the maritime highways around Scotland, and ideally positioned Eilean Donan was a great prize. The volume of men, ships and castles a leader controlled had a direct relationship to status.

Over many years the castle changed shape and size for various reasons, including garrisoning the fort with adequate troops. In the 16th Century, Eilean Donan platforms were added to accommodate modern new cannons.

The Jacobite Rebellion of 1715
The Jacobite Rebellion (Stuart dynasty supporters) of 1715 was an attempt by James Edward Stuart's (son of King James 2nd of Britain) and his supporters to seize the British throne. James's army attacked Stirling Castle unsuccessfully and crossed into England, reaching the Lancashire town of Preston. Street fighting ensued for two days until the rebellion's leaders surrendered; the first Jacobite Rebellion was over. The Battle for Preston is reputedly the last battle fought on English soil.

Still, in the far reaches of Scotland, supporters of the Stuart dynasty regrouped. Spanish allies of the Stuarts transported gun power to Eilean Donan Castle and waited patiently for a cannon consignment from Spain. British spies received this valuable intelligence and sent three fully armed warships. The vessels launched their artillery at the stubborn 14 thick walls of Eilean Donan; despite the aggressive bombardment, the walls remained intact.

The navy attacked from the land and the Spanish garrison surrendered. Government troop searched the castle to find 343 barrels of gunpowder. The soldiers used the explosives to destroy what was left.

A Romantic Ruin to Comfortable Home
For two centuries, the fort remained a romantic ruin. Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstraop purchased the island in 1911. The Colonel wanted to rebuild using the original ground plan and transform the derelict castle into a comfortable home. For twenty years, building and restoration brought Eilean Donan gradually back to life; it was an extraordinary achievement.

Today the castle is open throughout the year.

Inside the Castle
Climb the stone steps and creep inside. See fascinating historical objects, including cannonballs fired at the castle in 1719. Enjoy the quirky stuff, too, such as duelling pistols, Dirks (daggers), Liverpool China and Chippendale furniture. The fort has a Great Hall and those spiral stone cases you would expect; it is an atmospheric place, especially when the mist comes rolling in from the Loch.

Touring and Accommodation
Eilean Donan Castle is a jewel on the north-west coast of Scotland, arguably the most beautiful part of Scotland and therefore is a must when touring the Highlands of Scotland for the first time. A visit fits in well with a stay on the Isle of Skye, but this is not essential.

Getting to and from Eilean Donan Castle is a an adventurous drive through maintain and Loch landscapes – it is all part of the experience.

Our customisable Highlands and Islands Tour features the beautiful and wild Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle once you return from the island to the mainland and head into the Highlands. Eilean Donan Castle is a 1hrs 35 minute day tour from Fort William, which can include exploring the most beautiful mountain drives of Scotland's Highlands.

Inverlochy Castle Hotel is an ideal location to take day trips into the Highlands, including a stop at Eilean Donan Castle. The Airds Hotel is a beautiful small restaurant with rooms on the west coast. Day tours from here to Eilean Donan are viable; the journey is around 2hrs to the castle, but the drive is one of the best and worth it. 
Eilean Donan Castle can be part of a transfer day from one region to another. It is a special place, and not surprising that it is one of Scotland's most photographed spots.

Lord of the Isles

Most Photographed Castle in Scotland

  • Stay in a Cottage Onsite
  • Private Tours Available
  • Hiking Trails Nearby
  • Private Boat Trips Available

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