Eilean Donan Castle | Scotland’s Most Photographed Castle

Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most famous castles in Scotland. It is a classic Scottish castle that attracts tourists worldwide, all eager to witness this breathtaking place and the majestic view it offers.

This castle is also the most photographed infrastructure in Scotland and has featured is several TV shows and movies including, famously, Highlander.

Eilean Donan Castle

So if you’re looking for the next place to travel or explore, the castle might be something to explore. For a more detailed description of the Eilean Donan Castle, read on…


Where Is Eilean Donan Castle?

Eilean Donan Castle | Scotland's Most Photographed Castle 1

Located near the Isle of Skye, Eilean Donan Castle is situated on the West Coast of Scotland, between the sea lochs of Loch Long, Loch Duich, and Loch Alsh. Moreover, it is 90 minutes west of Inverness and about four and a half hours north of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Strategically placed where three sea lochs meet and where it overlooks the Isle of Skye, it offers a breathtaking view of forested mountains and the lochs.


When Was It Built And By Whom?

The original castle was built during the 13th century, Alexander II built the Eilean Donan castle. However, it was extensively refurbished later on as we’ll see later on…

While other castles served as homes for royal families and stood as an open structure for the community to seek help, this castle was built to keep people out. Its primary purpose was to protect the people and land from being controlled by enemies and prevent destruction.


What Is The History Of Eilean Donan Castle?

Eilean Donan translates to the island of Donnan, named after a Celtic saint who came to Scotland around 580 AD. He was known as Donnán of Eigg. His legacies were building and founding communities and a chapel during the 7th Century, an extra step towards civilization and development.


The First Structure of Eilan Donan Castle

Contrary to its primary purpose at present, which is a tourist attraction, the first structure of the Eilan Donan castle was built in the 13th century as a defensive measure from the Vikings.

It served as a protective structure for the lands of Kintail between 800 to 1266 because of the ongoing incursions from enemies outside. The mid 13th century was a time of clan wars, raids, and control of islands, so building this defensive position was the perfect solution for that.


The Eilan Donan Castle Over the Centuries

As time passed by, the castle underwent various changes. It was considered the most extensive and highest structure in the area. It was made up of gigantic towers and extensive curtain walls that covered almost the whole island.

However, it was reduced to about a fifth of its size around the 14th century possibly due to the shortage of men required to defend the castle.

The following centuries were filled with various historical events, which caused the castle to be equipped with more defensive weapons. This also increased the historical importance of the Eilean Donan Castle. During the 16th century, the east wall was mounted with hornwork to make space for a firing platform for cannons.

An event in history went down in 1719 when the castle was garrisoned by 46 Spanish soldiers supporting the Jacobites. In a few words, Jacobites referred to people who supported the exiled king because they firmly believed that monarchs could not be removed.

With Spanish soldiers positioned around the castle, the Eilan Donan castle was attacked for three days which did nothing to break or shake the structure. An admirable detail to note was these castle walls were up to 14 feet thick, making them almost impenetrable by enemies. It was built to endure even the most intense attacks.

Although solid and sturdy, the castle was almost totally destroyed when government troops blew it up by lighting 343 barrels of gunpowder.

Two hundred years later, the debris and remains of the Eilean Donan castle remain untouched and neglected.

Eilean Donan Castle | Scotland's Most Photographed Castle 2
Castle Ruins (1911)

The Restoration and Reconstruction

The once highest and strongest structure was destroyed and unrecognizable until someone cared enough to buy and restore it, and that person was Lieutenant Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap. He came across the island, bought it in 1911, then dedicated 20 years of his life (1912 to 1932) to bring back the former beauty of the Eilean Donan Castle.

Eilean Donan Castle | Scotland's Most Photographed Castle 3
Lieutenant Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap

It was finally finished in 1932, with everything the same because its reconstruction was based on its original ground plan.


Eilean Donan Castle In The Present Day

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Eilean Donan castle, in the Scottish Highlands, seen at dusk.

At present, the Eilean Donan Castle now serves a multitude of purposes. A place to explore new cultures and history, a place of relaxation, a place to hold gatherings for important occasions and events. Now serving as the complete opposite of its initial purpose, it has become one of the pride and treasures of Scotland.

The modern-day Eilean castle now has its amenities such as car parks, ticket offices, gift shops, and even restaurants since it now caters to all who wish to see and visit it. As a structure that is a reminder of history, it is now managed by the Conchra Charitable Trust. The MacRae family founded Conchra Charitable Trust in the 1980s to help them maintain, preserve, and manage the castle and everything in it for the nation and future generations to see.


A Peek Inside Eilean Donan Castle

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As a visitor, here are the sights you can look forward to when you finally enter the doors of one of Scotland’s most famous castles. Aside from wandering around many rooms, you will also get a glimpse of furniture, tools, and crafts from long ago. This involves Jacobean artifacts, weapons, and other forms of art. If you have a knack for historical events and culture, the castle itself will become your all-in-one teacher and tour guide.

Whether you’re alone, with your family, or even with your kids, a trip to the Eilean Donan is something worth experiencing. If you’re worried about the kids becoming bored, lots of activities are available for them to do! This includes swinging, lifting cannonballs and climbing on cannons, looking through spy holes, and gazing at ancient war materials and weapons. Rest assured, there’s no space for boredom in a castle as huge as this.

If that isn’t enough, then the view is undoubtedly something that will take your breath away. You’ll get it once you experience it.


How To Get To Eilean Donan Castle?

How To Get To The Castle By Road

If you’re going to the castle by driving, the best route would be to pass through Dornie from Inverness, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. It would take you 2 hours, 5-6 hours, and 7-8 hours of travel time, respectively. Using an app that allows you to track your route and estimate your travel time would also be helpful.

How To Get To The Castle By Rail

While you can opt for a more efficient and accessible travel option, taking a train to the castle is also possible. However, you’ll have to change your mode of transportation at a point. If you’re planning to travel to the Eilean Donan Castle by rail, it’s going to take at least 8 hours and 30 minutes. The usual way is by taking the train to Inverness, another train to Kyle of Lochalsh, and finally, a taxi or bus to Eilean Donan.

How To Get To The Castle By Bus

Generally, these transport lines have routes that pass near Eilean Donan Castle. Bus 915, 916, and 917. Taking the bus to visit the Eilean Donan Castle would take up to 7 hours which is longer than traveling by rail, but this has more transport lines you can opt for. For an additional guide on your travel time depending on where you will come from, you can refer to the list below.

  • From Bearsden (407 minutes)
  • From Westerton Railway Station, Bearsden (405 minutes)
  • From Glasgow Airport, Paisley (331 minutes)
  • From Tesco, Stirling (348 minutes)
  • From Perth Railway Station, Perth (409 minutes)
  • From Stirling Bus Station, Stirling (338 minutes)
  • From Westerton Railway Station, Bearsden (405 minutes)
  • From Fort William (116 minutes)
  • From Inverness Railway Station, Inverness (122 minutes)
  • From Andrew Miller Building, Stirling (405 minutes)
  • From Stirling Railway Station, Stirling (340 minutes)

Eilean Donan Castle Opening Times And Cost Of Entry

Depending on the announcement, the Eilan Donan Castle is open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM, 9 AM to 5 PM—it all depends on the management. At present, the Eilean Donan Castle Admission Rates are as follows:

  • Adults – £10.00
  • Concessions (Seniors Aged 60+) – £9.00
  • Family (2 Adults + 3 Children Age 5-15) – £29.00
  • Children over 5 – £6.00
  • Under 5 – Free

Wrapping Up & Summary

All in all, there are plenty of reasons why you should consider visiting the Eilean Donan Castle. Aside from the majestic and breathtaking scenery it offers, traveling can also increase your cultural awareness and satisfy your adventurous spirit. All structures have history engraved in their walls and totality; you just have to see it and appreciate it.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is Eilean Donan Castle famous?

It’s famous partly for being a compleely intact castle – due to its reconstruction – and it’s spectacular location it is one of the most photographed castles in the world.

It has also bee used several times in TV shows and movies – especially the popular movie Highlander in the 1980s.

Where is the Eilean Donan Castle located?

As we’ve seen the castle is on the west coast of Scotland, near the Isle of Skye, in between Loch Long, Loch Duich, and Loch Alsh.

Who owns the Eilean Donan Castle?

Eilean Donan Castle is owned by the Conchra Charitable Trust, founded by the family of Lieutenant Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap, who rebuilt the castle in the early 20th century,

Can you go inside Eilean Donan Castle?

Yes of course. It’s a popular tourist spot and has several fascinating exhibitions inside on the castle and its history.


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