Highland Cow (calf?) near Clava Cairns

This morning, we departed our lodgings in Plockton near Isle of Skye, and drive east towards Dornie for our first stop at Eilean Donan Castle.

Information on Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

The site (in medieval times) was ideal for controlling the waterways at junction of lochs Long, Alsh and Duich which provide access to the sea.

A summary history of the castle is provided below.

  • There is a record of a castle on the site from the 13th century. Prior to that there is evidence of fortifications dating back to the Iron-Age, about two thousand years ago.
  • The island and castle take their name from a seventh century AD Christian missionary named Donan who was martyred on the Isle of Eigg in AD 618.
  • Ownership granted to Colin Mackenzie by King Alexander III in mid-13th century.
  • Reached peak size in 13th-14th centuries with two towers.
  • Reduced in size during 15th century.
  • During 16th-17th centuries a modest enlargement occurred, principally to include a hornwork or firing platform for the new technology of cannons.
  • Blown up by Government forces during the Jacobite uprising of 1719 from whereon the castle lay in ruins until early 20th century.
  • Between 1913 and 1932 the castle was rebuilt to a design similar to the original. This  project inspired and managed by Lt. Col, John MacRae-Gilstrap and Farquhar MacRae.
  • The principal aspects of the castle today are: Courtyard, Billeting Room, Banqueting Hall, Bedrooms and Kitchen Range. The interior is of the 1930s period.

Today the Clan MacRae Society  is based at Eilean Donan Castle. At the castle there is a memorial to all those of Clan MacRae who died in the First World War.

The castle has featured as a location in the following films and T.V. productions:

  • Bonnie Prince Charlie starring David Niven (1948)
  • The Master of Ballantrae starring Errol Flynn (1953)
  • The New Avengers (1976)
  • Highlander (1986)
  • Loch Ness (1996)
  • James Bond – The World is Not Enough (1999)

Next, we continued north to Castle Urquhart via the Great Glen which entailed tracking the west side of Loch Ness for the final section of the journey.

Information on Castle Urquhart

Castle Urquhart and Loch Ness

This site attracts high volumes of tourist visitors as it provides an excellent platform for viewing Loch Ness and its elusive monster.This is a quality site with much to offer including a short, introductory film, refreshment facilities, gift shop and stunning views over the Loch.

There has been a fortification on the site for about 1500 years, dating back to Pictish times. Like the vast majority of surviving stone castles in the British Isles, Urquhart has its genesis in the 13th century. Initially under control of Alan Durward the castle was extended by the powerful Comyns after 1275. Subsequent milestones:

  • Oscillated between English and Scottish control during the 14th century Wars of Independence.
  • Post 1390, the threat came from the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles in the West of Scotland.
  • Captured by the MacDonalds in 1452 but regained by the Scottish Crown four years later.
  • Plundered by MacDonald clansmen in 1544-5
  • Partly blown up by defenders at time of Jacobite uprising in 1689 to prevent opponents gaining advantage.
  • Subsequently a deteriorating and romantic ruin.

The facilities of this once great castle were extensive and included:

  • Ditch and drawbridge.
  • Gatehouse
  • Guard Room
  • Constable’s Lodging
  • Water Gate
  • Outer Close
  • Chapel
  • Great Hall
  • Inner Close
  • Grant Tower, as shown below. This is the most prominent feature and named after the Grant family who held the castle in the early 16th century.

The Grant Tower  attracts many visitors who climb the narrow stairs to the top to benefit from the stunning views over the loch.

Next, we continued north to the city of Inverness where guests availed of the opportunity for shopping.

Next to Culloden Battlefield, about twenty minutes east of Inverness.

Jacobite Soldier at Castle Urquhart

Information on the Battle of Culloden, 1746.

Culloden Battlefield

For detailed information see this link.

In essence, this was the last battle on British soil which was fought between the Jacobite army of Bonnie Prince Charlie and a British ‘redcoat’ army under General Cumberland at which the latter prevailed thus ending attempts by the deposed Stewart dynasty to regain the thrones of Scotland and England.

Next to the nearby prehistoric site of Clava Cairns

Information on Clava Cairns

Clava Cairns Prehistoric Site

Clava is a prehistoric cemetery which dates from around 2000 BC albeit on a site previously used by prehistoric peoples for domestic purposes. The cemetery site experienced two stages of use:

  1. Around 2000 BC a row of up to five burial cairns were erected of which three remain.
  2. Around 1000 BC the site was re-used and the small Kerb Cairn built.

North-Eastern Cairn

A passage grave intended for  a single body, presumably of a high status person. The passage is aligned to the mid-winter solstice. Originally completely closed.The Cairn is surrounded by a graded stone circle, which is actually an ellipse.

Central Cairn

Central Cairn at Clava

This is a Ring Cairn, not a passage grave, which was positioned so as not to obstruct the view between the N.E. and S.W. cairns.It was never roofed whilst the now empty interior was originally filled with rubble.

South-Western Cairn

Also aligned to mid-winter sun. When first constructed was substantially higher and completely roofed.

Kerb-Circle

Situated 50 feet to east of Ring-Cairn. Maximum 12 feet in internal diameter.

Railway Viaduct near Clava Cairns

Next, we followed a sign for Highland Cows which we found and photographed and then moved on to our lodgings in Inverness.

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