Eilean Donan Castle is a glorious Scottish castle situated between three lochs, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh, on it’s own island. The site itself has been fortified since the Iron Age, however the castle you see now was rebuilt from ruins one hundred years ago, along with the romantic footbridge. You would never know it wasn’t a thousand years old!
Eilean Donan Castle History
The island was the site of a monastic cell founded by the Irish bishop, St Donan, which is where the name Eilean Donan (Island of Donan) came from. History tells us that the huge original castle and surrounding wall, which encompassed the whole island, was built by Kenneth MacKenzie, of the MacKenzie Clan. He built it to protect the Scottish crown from the Viking invaders, who controlled most of Northern Scotland between 800 and 1266 AD. In some areas, Eilean Donan castle’s walls were 4m thick!
Around the 1400s, the castle was substantially reduced in size, and during this time Robert the Bruce was hid here from the English. The keep was the main area that was kept in tact, but the huge northern tower and surrounding walls were demolished. No one is really sure why this happened.
The MacKenzie Clan supported the royalists (Cavaliers) in the Civil War. After the execution of King Charles I, the constable was removed from his post and the castle was garrisoned by a Scottish parliamentary force (Roundheads). They were not welcomed by the local people and several of the garrison were killed and the rest forced to flee. In 1645 General Monk, Cromwell’s Lieutenant, returned with a large force, and had his revenge by burning and plundering the district.
The castle has it’s fair share of executions and uprisings, in 1331 the Earl of Moray had 50 men executed here and had their decapitated heads put on display along the castle walls. Whilst later on in 1719, the castle was demolished (again) by the English, because of it’s role in the Jacobite rebellions, where it housed 40-50 Spanish soldiers who supported the Jacobites. It took 3 days of English bombardment to finally bring Eilean Donan castle to ruin.
Some say they have seen a ghost of a Spanish soldier wondering around the gift shop, with his head in his arms!
For the next 200 years, Eilean Donan castle was left in a perilous state, abandoned. But there was hope, when Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap finally bought the castle in 1911, and forged ahead with it’s rebuild over the next 20 years. He restored it back to how it would have been back in the 1700s, so today you get a good feel of how it once was.
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Here is a fantastic digital render of Eilean Donan Castle, created by Sven Dannart over at medievalworlds.com:
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