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TITLE
Dunvegan Castle, Skye
EXTERNAL ID
HCD_PRINT_002
PLACENAME
Dunvegan
DISTRICT
Skye
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Duirinish
DATE OF IMAGE
1995
PERIOD
1990s
CREATOR
David L. Roberts
SOURCE
Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre
ASSET ID
13198
KEYWORDS
Dunvegan Castle
reconstruction
clans
MacLeod
Dunvegan Castle, Skye

The west side of Dunvegan Castle is seen here from the loch. This watercolour of the castle as it may have appeared around 1680 is by David L. Roberts, and is based on archive sources, surviving masonry, early illustrations and comparison with contemporary buildings.

The castle stands on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Loch Dunvegan in the north west of Skye. The original fort was little more than a strong curtain wall surrounding thatched buildings when Leod took possession some time in the 13th century. The site has been the stronghold of the Clan MacLeod ever since. Over more than seven centuries the castle has been extended, developed or restored to produce the structure which we see today. A romantic restoration was carried out in the mid-19th century, unifying the individual buildings from previous centuries, and adding battlements and dummy pepper-pot turrets.

Access to the castle is currently from the landward side, but until 1748 the only entrance to the castle was up a narrow flight of steps from the shore and through a well protected gate in the curtain wall.

The massive keep or tower, featuring a dungeon cut into the rock, was constructed in the 14th century by Malcolm, the 3rd Chief. This four storey structure included a kitchen with Great Hall above, but after a period of roofless neglect, it was substantially modified in the 1790s by the 25th Chief and now houses a rather elegant drawing room with private apartments above.

The Fairy Tower, on the extreme right of the reconstruction, occupies the south eastern corner of the site. The 8th Chief, Alastair 'Crotach', is credited with its construction around 1500. The interior layout over four floors, roof and outer walls remain as they were built, but further buildings now adjoin on two sides, and doors have been knocked through to allow access at various levels. It was in this building that Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell were entertained in 1773, and indeed Johnson slept in the 'Fairy Room', as did Sir Walter Scott in 1814.

Between the Fairy Tower and the Keep, a new house was built for Sir Roderick MacLeod (Rory Mòr), the 15th Chief, in the 1620s, in a departure from the medieval Hebridean style. This more fashionable and spacious residence reflected the changing times when gracious living and commanding respect and approval of guests became more important than defence. 'Improvements' were continued by Iain Breac in 1664, and a further wing added to the west of the Fairy Tower twenty years later, possibly on the site of a family chapel. Further re-modelling was carried out by Norman, the 23rd Chief, in the 1790s, and was continued by his grandson, also Norman, in Victorian times. In the mid-19th century, he incorporated the complex of medieval buildings into a single, more harmonious structure much as it appears today.

Relics of the Clan's long history and association with Dunvegan are displayed within the castle. The elegantly furnished public rooms house family portraits by Raeburn, Ramsay and Zoffany, while the Library contains a collection of rare books and manuscripts. Clan relics such as the silk Fairy Flag, Rory Mòr's Horn, Jacobite artefacts and a 16th century Irish wood and silver Cup, are also proudly exhibited to the thousands of tourists who visit the castle and its surrounding gardens.

The artist, David L. Roberts (1931 - 1997), set up the Orbost Gallery on the Isle of Skye after moving there in 1975. With a background in architectural studies, he was able to combine his artistic talents and knowledge of structures to provide reconstruction paintings of historical buildings for Dualchas, the local Museums Service. Based on surviving ruins, antiquarian illustrations, and a certain amount of educated supposition, the paintings were produced to illustrate The Mediaeval Castles of Skye and Lochalsh, first published in 1990. This book, republished in 2007, gives detailed descriptions of the architecture of each castle.


This image can be purchased.
For further information about purchasing and prices please email
Skye and Lochalsh Archives

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Dunvegan Castle, Skye

INVERNESS: Duirinish

1990s

Dunvegan Castle; reconstruction; clans; MacLeod

Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre

David L. Roberts' Prints and Drawings

The west side of Dunvegan Castle is seen here from the loch. This watercolour of the castle as it may have appeared around 1680 is by David L. Roberts, and is based on archive sources, surviving masonry, early illustrations and comparison with contemporary buildings.<br /> <br /> The castle stands on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Loch Dunvegan in the north west of Skye. The original fort was little more than a strong curtain wall surrounding thatched buildings when Leod took possession some time in the 13th century. The site has been the stronghold of the Clan MacLeod ever since. Over more than seven centuries the castle has been extended, developed or restored to produce the structure which we see today. A romantic restoration was carried out in the mid-19th century, unifying the individual buildings from previous centuries, and adding battlements and dummy pepper-pot turrets.<br /> <br /> Access to the castle is currently from the landward side, but until 1748 the only entrance to the castle was up a narrow flight of steps from the shore and through a well protected gate in the curtain wall.<br /> <br /> The massive keep or tower, featuring a dungeon cut into the rock, was constructed in the 14th century by Malcolm, the 3rd Chief. This four storey structure included a kitchen with Great Hall above, but after a period of roofless neglect, it was substantially modified in the 1790s by the 25th Chief and now houses a rather elegant drawing room with private apartments above.<br /> <br /> The Fairy Tower, on the extreme right of the reconstruction, occupies the south eastern corner of the site. The 8th Chief, Alastair 'Crotach', is credited with its construction around 1500. The interior layout over four floors, roof and outer walls remain as they were built, but further buildings now adjoin on two sides, and doors have been knocked through to allow access at various levels. It was in this building that Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell were entertained in 1773, and indeed Johnson slept in the 'Fairy Room', as did Sir Walter Scott in 1814.<br /> <br /> Between the Fairy Tower and the Keep, a new house was built for Sir Roderick MacLeod (Rory Mòr), the 15th Chief, in the 1620s, in a departure from the medieval Hebridean style. This more fashionable and spacious residence reflected the changing times when gracious living and commanding respect and approval of guests became more important than defence. 'Improvements' were continued by Iain Breac in 1664, and a further wing added to the west of the Fairy Tower twenty years later, possibly on the site of a family chapel. Further re-modelling was carried out by Norman, the 23rd Chief, in the 1790s, and was continued by his grandson, also Norman, in Victorian times. In the mid-19th century, he incorporated the complex of medieval buildings into a single, more harmonious structure much as it appears today.<br /> <br /> Relics of the Clan's long history and association with Dunvegan are displayed within the castle. The elegantly furnished public rooms house family portraits by Raeburn, Ramsay and Zoffany, while the Library contains a collection of rare books and manuscripts. Clan relics such as the silk Fairy Flag, Rory Mòr's Horn, Jacobite artefacts and a 16th century Irish wood and silver Cup, are also proudly exhibited to the thousands of tourists who visit the castle and its surrounding gardens.<br /> <br /> The artist, David L. Roberts (1931 - 1997), set up the Orbost Gallery on the Isle of Skye after moving there in 1975. With a background in architectural studies, he was able to combine his artistic talents and knowledge of structures to provide reconstruction paintings of historical buildings for Dualchas, the local Museums Service. Based on surviving ruins, antiquarian illustrations, and a certain amount of educated supposition, the paintings were produced to illustrate The Mediaeval Castles of Skye and Lochalsh, first published in 1990. This book, republished in 2007, gives detailed descriptions of the architecture of each castle. <br /> <br /> <br /> This image can be purchased.<br /> For further information about purchasing and prices please email<br /> <a href= "mailto: skyeandlochalsh.archives@highlifehighland.com" >Skye and Lochalsh Archives</a>