EILEAN DONAN CASTLE, IV40 8DX
Postcode: IV40 8DX
Lat/Long: 57.2739N 5.5162W
Notes: Large car park immediately adjacent to the castle/visitor centre. Despite the remote location the castle is served by good road connections that lead onto the Isle of Skye.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
A tower house largely rebuilt from medieval ruins in the 1920s/1930s situated in extremely picturesque scenery. Internal viewing is by tour only.
1. Allegedly the most photographed castle in the country, Eilean Donan also featured in the movies Highlander and James Bond ‘The World is not Enough’.
2. Eileen Donan castle is situated at the intersection between the Lochs Alsh, Duich and Long.
3. When the forces of the Royal Navy took the castle in Summer 1719 they found significant quantities of ammunition that had been landed by the Spanish to support the uprising. In particular the British seized 343 barrels of gunpowder and 52 barrels of musket balls. The captured Spanish garrison were taken to Edinburgh Castle and eventually repatriated to Spain.
Strategically situated at the intersection of three sea lochs, a castle has existed at Eilean Donan for over 700 years. Used in support of the Jacobite uprisings of the eighteenth century it was left in ruins following an attack by the Royal Navy in 1719. Today’s castle dates from 1912-32.
HISTORY OF EILEAN DONAN CASTLE
Eilean Donan island is situated at a merging point of three sea lochs and has been inhabited since the Iron Age. For hundreds of years it was positioned in a hotly contested area; first between the Scots and the Vikings (who both raided and settled around the North of Scotland and the Western Isles) and later between the self style ‘Lords of Isles’ versus the King of Scotland. With its superb sea basing and location at the intersection of the lochs (the arteries of communication for medieval Scotland) the island was fortified no later than the thirteenth century.
The first known fortification was probably built for Clan MacKenzie. This structure was a fortified enclosure encompassing approximately two-thirds of the island. By the early fifteenth century rebuilding had been conducted with the castle being significantly reduced in size; probably due to the manning/garrison requirements.
In 1504 the castle was attacked by the Earl of Huntly, allegedly acting on behalf of James IV, prompting the appointed of Clan MacRae as Constables of the castle. The castle was attacked again, this time by members of Clan MacDonald, in 1539 and this may have prompted the sixteenth century upgrades that added a horn shaped extension that led to a hexagonal bastion on which artillery was installed.
War came to Eilean Donan again during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1719. Many of the Highland clans, who were predominantly Catholic, had opposed the overthrown of James VII (II of England) in 1688. Furthermore they had become disillusioned with the Act of Union (1707) prompting many to support the 1715 rebellion. This was defeated but when Britain went to war with Spain in 1718, that country saw a chance to destabilise Britain by inciting another Jacobite Rebellion. In April 1719 a small Spanish force under George Keith, Earl Marishcal landed first on the Isle of Lewis and then at Loch Alsh making Eilean Donan Castle their headquarters. Support for the uprising was muted - the Indemnity Act of 1717 which had pardoned most, but not all, of those involved in the 1715 rebellion - made Highland chiefs reluctant to participate. But when Clan MacGregor, which had been excluded from the reconciliation process, joined others were prompted to follow including members of Clan MacKenzie. Eilean Donan became their headquarters and the Spanish ships that had brought Keith to Scotland offloaded significant quantities of ammunition and gunpowder. A small Spanish garrison was left at Eilean Donan whilst the army proceeded inshore in an attempt to incite more Clans to rally to their cause. Their absence was timely as on 10 May 1719 a Royal Navy detachment - HMS Enterprise, HMS Flamborough and HMS Worcester - attacked the castle. Launching a heavy bombardment the small garrison was compelled to surrender. The 1719 rebellion itself came to an end the following month after the Battle of Glenshiel.
Following the 1719 action, Eilean Donan Castle remained ruinous for the next two hundred years. What hadn't been destroyed by the bombardment was done by explosives once the castle had been captured and the subsequent ruins were later depleted by quarrying of stone for local buildings. However the castle was resurrected in the early twentieth century; in 1912 a descendant of the MacRae’s commenced rebuilding and it is that structure which can be seen today.