Scotland usually conjures up images of bagpipes, awe-inspiring lochs (lakes), verdant green mountains, and of course magnificent castles. There are about 1000 castles including Floors Castle and the Culzean Castle, dotted across the country, but perhaps the most photographed one is no other than that found in Eilean Donan.
This small island is nestled in the Kintail National Scenic Area and was once inhabited by a Celtic Saint named Donnán of Eigg, who was martyred in 617. This place has a serene setting with a majestic mountain in the backdrop, making it a great place to escape from the frenetic world.
Its key highlight is its medieval stone-clad Eilean Donan castle, which was originally built in the 13th century by either King Alexander II or III as a defense against the invaders like the Vikings. Interestingly, Scottish castles were primarily used to protect the communities against invaders, which is why many of them were built in places that were most at risk from invasion. Today, this scenic place has become a tourist hotspot and a wonderful wedding location.
Historical Legacy Of Eilean Donan Castle
We all know about the notorious Viking invaders, who raided and settled much of the northern part of Scotland and the western isles between 800 and 1266. And Eilean Donan was particularly at risk due to its location.
During its early period, the castle was very large. It was decked out with seven towers and a curtain wall that surrounded almost the entire island. But due to many invasions, the castle underwent many facelifts.
Around the 17th and 18th centuries (at the time of Jacobite risings), Eilean Donan Castle was destroyed because of several bombardments.
For a very long time, it was neglected and abandoned until Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap, a British Army officer from the famous Black Watch regiment, bought the island in 1911.
Together with Farquar Macrae, Eilean Donan went through a reconstruction phase, which was officially completed in 1932. The castle got its teetering towers and the grand entranceway.
By 1955, this grande dame opened its doors first time to the public. Currently, the castle is operated by the Conchra Charitable Trust.
Can You Go Inside Eilean Donan Castle?
For a very long time, Eilean Donan has been under the radar of many invaders, but it also piqued the interest of creative people. Thanks to its sheer beauty, the castle was featured in many movies such as James Bond – The World is Not Enough (1999), In Elizabeth, the Golden Age (2007), and Made of Honor (2008).
Many also used this location for their ‘Highland Wedding’ theme, which is why this castle has become an iconic spot for taking memorable pictures. Thanks to social media, many tourists come here to enjoy the sweeping view of the location and learn more about the history of the castle.
By simply taking a tour of the castle — yes, visitors can go inside — one can go back in time to see the restored parts. The barrel-vaulted ceilings, modern electrical lighting, and sleek-quaint rooms are features that cannot go unnoticed.
But the real standout is the Banqueting Hall, adorned with a grand ceiling made of the finest Douglas Fir. There are also some secret spy holes, and above the door of the castle, one can see MacRae-Gilstrap’s coat of arms. Other sections of the castle include a kitchen, an inner courtyard, and the Main Keep.
Inside the castle, visitors will also find 20 different tales, stories, and myths relating to the castle and the area.
Look for the ‘Black & White shield’ which has the title of the tale and a QR code that will guide visitors directly to each story.
Some interesting tales include that of a warrior from the Clan Matheson, who possessed supernatural powers, he was known as the mystic warrior.
Tips And Details For Visiting Eilean Donan
The visitor’s center is composed of a ticket office, a coffee shop, and a gift shop, where one can purchase a selection of gifts from the Clan Macrae Society.
Rucksacks and large bags are not allowed inside the castle. Visitors can use the free security lockers which are adjacent to the main visitor center.
Accommodations At Eilean Donan
Looking to stay overnight in this fantastic location? Then book the Holiday Cottage, which can accommodate about four people in the comfy double and twin bedroom with their ensuite bathroom.
Peak Season (May-Sept): £1106 per week ($1,303.66)
- Low Season (Oct-Apr): £952 per week ($1,122.14)
The property is composed of living areas outfitted with large airy windows offering a sublime view of Loch Long.
Opening Hours At Eilean Donan Castle
- Visitor Center: 9:00 AM – 05:00 PM
- Gift shop: 9.30 AM – 05:30 PM
- Admission Fees: £9.00 – £29.00 ($10.61 – $34.19)