Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Duich
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Duich

Eilean Donan is a stereo-typically picturesque, and somewhat over-exposed, 13th century castle which almost traditionally features on many Scottish calendars and postcards. It lies on a small island of the same name, at the junction of Loch Alsh, Loch Duich and Loch Long in the Skye and Lochalsh district of Highland Council Area.

The castle was built by King Alexander II (1198 - 1249) to give protection from the Vikings. His son, Alexander III (1241-86) gave the castle to Colin Fitzgerald, son of the Irish Earl of Desmond and Kildare, in return for his help in defeating King Haakon of Norway at the Battle of Largs in 1263. It then passed into the hands of the Mackenzie clan before 1331, when its existence entered the written records on the occasion of Thomas Randolph, the Earl of Moray, sending his man to take possession. The castle was subsequently exchanged several times between the Morays and Mackenzies. In 1509, John Mackenzie of Kintail was granted the castle by Royal Charter. Cartographer Timothy Pont (c.1560 - 1630) described the strength of the castle in the early 17th Century. The Mackenzie Earls of Seaforth invited Spanish troops to occupy Eilean Donan during the failed Jacobite Rising of 1719 and it was shelled by government frigates. The ruined castle was abandoned until 1912 when it was purchased by Lieutenant-Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap. Rebuilding was undertaken between 1914 and 1949 and it was at this time that a bridge was built to link the island to the shore.

The first notable image of Eilean Donan was drawn in 1815 by William Daniell (1769 - 1837) with the resulting aquatint published in his Voyage Round Great Britain and held by the Tate Gallery in London. It has also appeared as a location in numerous films such as The Master of Ballantrae (1953), with Errol Flynn, Prince Valiant (1954), featuring James Mason and Janet Leigh, Highlander (1986), with Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, The World is not Enough (1999), starring Pierce Brosnan, Robert Carlyle and Robbie Coltrane, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) and Made of Honour (2008).

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