Eilean Donan Castle
In a superbly romantic setting amid silent, tree-clad hills, Eilean Donan Castle possesses a rare and dream like quality. Yet, standing lone sentinel on its rocky promontory at the meeting point of three sea lochs - Loch Long, Loch Duich and Loch Alsh - it is, in reality, a fortress of solid stone and formidable defences.
It is not hard to realise the position commanded by the Castle during the troubled times of the marauding Norse and Danish adventurers who raided along these coasts. Nor is it difficult, when gazing down today from the heights above the shore of the loch, to visualise an era of savage but somehow glorious warfare, when the Clans fought and the MacRaes found refuge in this impregnable fortress, defying the attacks of their enemies.
Much of the history of the castle has been preserved within its solid walls and immortalised in the ballads and stories handed down from generation to generation.
The beginnings of Eilean Donan Castle reach back into the early mists of time. Evidence of a pictish fort was found in vitrified rock uncovered during excavations-some of which has been kept for visitors to see. At the beginning of the seventh century St Donan (d.618) lived on the island as a religious hermit: the name "Eilean Donan" means "Island of Donan". This was the period when Christianity was first introduced to the Western Isles.
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. The famous battle culminated in the defeat of the Norwegian King, Haco. Following his death shortly after, his successor, Magnus, ceded all the Western Isles to Scotland.
Traditionally it is believed that in the early part of the fourteenth century Robert the Bruce, out of favour with many of the clan chiefs as well as being hunted by the English, was given refuge in Eilean Donan Castle by John MacKenzie, Second of Kintail. Later, in 1331, the fortunes of Robert the Bruce had changed; he had defeated his enemies and established his position as King of Scotland. He sent his son Randolph, Earl of Moray and Warden of Scotland, to Kintail.