Eilean Donan Castle – The Most Romantic Castle in Scotland
Eilean Donan Castle rises like a silent vision where three Scottish sea lochs, Loch Long, Loch Duich and Loch Alsh meet. The name means Island of Donan, for a hermit St Donan who lived on the island in beginning of the seventh century. The original fort was built on the island of Eilean Donan at least eight hundred years ago but the castle you see today is mostly built in the early 20th century.
The castle of today was built on the ruins of its predecessor by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap between 1912 and 1932. This fortress of solid stone stands like a lone sentinel on its rocky promontory, very much like its predecessor over the centuries.
The first structure was built during the early thirteenth century and in 1263 Alexander III gave the castle to Colin Fitzgerald, son of the Earl of Desmond and Kildare as a reward for services in the Battle of Largs. They later became MacKenzies and it is believed that in the early part of the fourteenth century, when he was being hunted by the English, Robert the Bruce was given refuge in Eilean Donan Castle by John MacKenzie, Second of Kintail.
The MacKenzies held Eilean Donan continuously right till the 16th century. The MacRae clan was the bodyguards to the MacKenzie chiefs. During the Jacobite rising of 1715, Government forces were stationed in the castle. They were ejected by the men of Kintail but in the resurgence of 1719, government warships destroyed much of the castle. Eileen of Donan lay as a picturesque ruin for two centuries till it was restored by Farquhar Macrae of Auchtertyre for its new owner, Lt. Colonel MacRae-Gilstrap.
Today Eilean Donan Castle is open to the public and one can explore almost every part of it. A single vault room probably served as a billet for off-duty soldiers. Today it houses a fascinating collection of memorabilia from the castle, MacRae family and the island. Great Hall or Banqueting Hall is a beautifully proportioned room with fine furniture, family portraits and Jacobite relics including a lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s hair. The third floor of the Castle holds the bedrooms which have also been open to the public in 1995 after renovation.