Saturday, August 25th 2018

This morning, we departed our lodgings in Inverness and drove South down the Great Glen to our first stop at 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.

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.

Next, we continued South, tracking the western side of Loch Ness before turning off to connect with the A87 and on towards Skye.

Our next stop was Eilean Donan Castle which sits at the confluence of lochs Duich, Alsh and Long. Here guests toured the Castle interior and later availed of refreshments.

Eilean Donan Castle

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, onward, across the Skye Bridge and then left down to Armadale where we visited the excellent Museum of the Isles at Armadale Castle. This excellent facility covers an extensive range of topics including cultural and social history, Somerled and the Sea Kingdom, Clan Donald, the Glencoe Massacre, Jacobite Uprising, emigration, Armadale Castle and much more.

Flintlocks

Woman’s Silk Shawl

Domestic artefacts

Highland Fiddle

Next we visited the ruined castle at Armadale and then embarked on a pleasurable woodland walk in the Castle grounds where we encountered a friendly robin and even a heron.

Armadale Castle

Robin

Woodland Walk.

View of Mallaig from Armadale. Note 2.8bn year old rocks in foreground.

After  concluding the visit to Armadale we returned to Broadford for dinner and then checked into our lodgings at Kyleakin.