Eilean Donan Castle

[Crest of Clansfolk of Clan MacKenzie] Crest of Clansfolk of Clan MacKenzie
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Eilean Donan Castle is located on a rocky promeontory where Lochs Long, Duich, and Alsh meet. There is evidence of a Pictish fort (dun) was uncovered during excavations. Around 600 AD St. Donan (d.618) lived on the island as a religious hermit; the name 'Eilean Donan' means 'Island on Donan'.

The first fortified stronghold was established in the reign of Alexander II (1214-1250). In 1263 Alexander III gave the castle to Colin Fitzgerald, son of the Earl of Desmond and Kildare (later to become MacKenzies) as a reward for services in the Battle of Largs. This battle culminated in the defeat of the Norwegian king, Hakon and following his death shortly after, his successor, Magnus, ceded all the Western Isles to Scotland.

Eileen Donan was Clan MacKenzie's most important stronghold from the 13th Century until it was destroyed in 1719.

A tradition is that when Robert the Bruce was being hunted by the English, he was given refuge in Eilean Donan Castle by John MacKenzie, Second of Kintail in the early part of the fourteenth century. When Robert became King, he sent his nephew Randolph, Earl of Moray and Warden of Scotland to Kintail. An interesting note is that Randolph's crown officer beheaded fifty local misdoers and exhibited their heads around the battlements of the Castle as a warning to others.

The MacRaes, the bodyguard of the Chief of Kintail, were known as 'MacKenzies Coat of Mail'. They first became Constables of the Castle in 1509. The castle was destroyed on May 10, 1719 by the English frigates, Worcester, Enterprise, and Flamborough in an attempt to quell the Spanish involvement in the unsuccessful Jacobite rising to the Old Pretender, James. The Spanish, who were assisting the Jacobites, had headquartered their expeditionary force at Eilean Donan.

The castle was in ruins for over 200 years until it was restored to it's present state by LTCOL John MacRae-Gilstrapwith the aid of Farquhar MacRae who had seen a vision of the stronghold restored to its former glory. Between 1912 and 1932 and at the cost of a quarter of a million pounds, the Castle was rebuilt. The look present structure was also confirmed by old plans of the castle preserved with other records in Edinburgh Castle.

The tourists are allowed into the Billeting Room and the Banqueting Hall only, the rest being closed off for the present Constable MacRae and family when they visit. They do have a nice gift shop though!

Lynette Aasheim
Among her sources of information: -
Eilean Donan Castle Near Dornie, Ross-shire, by John MacRae.
Newport, Isle of Wight: J. Arthur Dixon, 1978

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See Eilean Donan; by Joanne Winters

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