Eilean Donan (the “Island of Donan” in Gaelic) with its beautiful castle on the island has a mysterious past and is likely named for 6th century Bishop Donan who came to Scotland sometime around 580 AD. There are several churches dedicated to the good Bishop Donan in the area but the first fortified structure at Eilean Donan was not built till the 13th century. The island fortress seen today has spent centuries becoming one of the most iconic images of Scotland for locals and tourists alike.
In the 13th century Alexander II built the first defensive structure at Eilean Donan in order to defend the area of Kintail and the Isle of Skye against Viking attacks. In 1719, a Jacobite uprising largely destroyed the structure, and for the next 200 years it slowly turned to rubble. Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap bought the small island in 1911 and with some assistance from his Clerk of Works, Farquar Macrae, restored the castle and grounds reopening to the public in 1932.
Bishop Donan, like the island named for him was also something of a mystery. It is said that he most likely came from Ireland where he was possibly born and may have spent his youth before he crossed to Galloway. The lack of information about his life before martyrdom is not uncommon for people of the time that were not nobility. What is known about him, and what lead to his name being used so often in the names of churches is that he was brutally murdered along with 52 of his parishioners in the refectory of a monastery in the region.
Eilean Donan Facts
- You can easily rent the castle and grounds for private events and it makes a beautiful venue for weddings
- In the 16th century a hornwork was added to the east wall providing a firing platform for cannons
- Eilean Donan played a large role in the Jacobite risings of the 17th and 18th centuries, which ultimately lead to the castle’s destruction
- Eilean Donan Castle claims to be “The Most Romantic Castle in Scotland” (this cannot be verified)
- Eilean Donan is a drone free area