On ascending to the Banqueting Hall one is immediately impressed by its grandeur and nobility. It contains beautiful Sheraton and Chippendale furniture, fine paintings and rare furnishings. The carefully arranged trophies and souvenirs give added grace and colour to this magnificent hall. The paintings are of former generations of MacRaes. There is a portrait by J.B. Anderson of Lt.-Col. John Macrae-Gilstrap, restorer of the Castle, and other family portraits by Skeoch Cumming.

From the heavy oak-timbered ceiling hangs a large circular chandelier wrought in iron. Beneath it the elegant dining-table is surrounded by a superb collection of Windsor chairs. The table's centre-piece is a very rare Cutlery Vase; on the sideboards stand a number of cutlery boxes. There is a case exhibiting watches, seals and rings of past centuries and, in another, some lovely family miniatures. Relics of Bonnie Prince Charlie can also be seen, including a lock of his hair and a letter from the Prince to the Clan Chiefs, written in August 1745, calling upon them to support him and come to the raising of his standard at Glenfinnan.

The famous Raasay Punch Bowl is also displayed. Doctor Johnson drank from this bowl during his visit to Raasay in 1773. Drinking cups made from cannon-balls, and two vases hollowed out of thick ivy stems taken from the walls of the castle, are among other interesting items. Standing in a corner below the Piper's Gallery is an oval table believed to have come from one of Nelson's ships.

banquetinghall



In the stone walls are slanting slits enabling watchers posted outside to observe the activities of those in the Hall without themselves being seen -  a necessary precaution in the days when a host could not wholly trust their guests. There is no chapel in the castle but the Piper's gallery could be used as a pulpit and place from which the chief's piper could play. It is still possible to be married in this room and the recessed font enables baptisms to be performed. Below the Gallery stands an oval table thought to have come from one of Admiral Nelson's ships.

Around the walls are many Coats of Arms associated with the MacRae family. The weapons exhibited are of particular interest, including a pair of dueling pistols, carved powderhorn and lead shot. Before leaving the Banqueting Hall, the hand-wrought iron Yett, or gate, is worthy of inspection. The gate was recovered from the freshwater well during the time of the Restoration. The stone-lined well was sunk to a depth of 32 feet through the rock in order to ensure a constant supply of drinking water, safe from contamination by the sea or interference by the castle's enemies during a siege.

A number of Jacobite artefacts are on display here. The dirk (short dagger) on the wall was used at the Battle of Sherrifmuir in 1715 by John MacRae on Conchra, one of the "four John's of Scotland"; he died in the battle. There is also a broadsword of John MacRae, the Bard of Kintail, whose poetry is still remembered throughout Gaeldom. He fought at Culloden and in the American War of Independence. His sword was returned to Eilean Donan from New Zealand by his family in 1992.
 








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