One of the most famous castle’s in Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle dates back to the 13th century. Located on an island along the west coast of the Scottish highlands, Eilean Donan Castle is a major tourist site and has been used as a backdrop for films and television shows.
The island of Eilean Donan is named after Saint Donnán of Eigg, an Irish priest who came to Scotland in the late 6th century to preach Christianity to the Picts. A legend has it that he built a church on the island, although no archaeological evidence of an early medieval building has yet been found.
The island has a freshwater well, which has allowed it to be inhabited for centuries. The first fortification on Eilean Donan was built around 1260 by Alexander II to defend against Norse invasions. During the 13th-16th centuries the castle gradually expanded, and served as the stronghold of the Mackenzies of Kintail (later the Earls of Seaforth), who were vassals of the Earls of Ross.
In the 16th century the Scottish map-maker Timothy Pont described the castle: The castell of Ylen Donen is composed of a strong and fair dungeon upon a rock, with another tower compasd with a fair barm kin wall, with orchards and trees, al within ane yland of the lenth of twa pair of butts almost round. It is sayd of old that castel consisted of seven tours.
In 1719, the castle was occupied by 300 Spanish soldiers during a Jacobite uprising, but three English warships attacked the castle, and using barrels of gunpowder, largely destroyed it. For the next two hundred years Eilean Donan was left in ruins. In 1912 the island was purchased by Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap, who undertook efforts to rebuild and restore the castle. His descendants opened the castle to the public in 1955, and in 1983 they established the charitable trust to oversee the maintenance of the castle.
Marigold MacRae, a former chief trustee of the Castle, said in an interview, “Throughout the world, Eilean Donan is the one place people generally call to mind when they think of Scotland. In that superbly romantic setting, surrounded by all those wonderful tree-clad hills, it really does to seem to have a rare dream-like quality. And that’s what people remember. It is the quintessential Scottish castle.”