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TITLE
Eilean Donan Castle
EXTERNAL ID
HCD_PRINT_003
PLACENAME
Dornie
DISTRICT
South West Ross
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ROSS: Lochalsh
DATE OF IMAGE
1995
PERIOD
1990s
CREATOR
David L. Roberts
SOURCE
Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre
ASSET ID
13199
KEYWORDS
castles
reconstruction
clans
Mackenzie
Macrae
Eilean Donan
Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle is strategically and picturesquely situated on a small tidal island at the mouth of Loch Long where it converges with Loch Alsh and Loch Duich in Kintail, Wester Ross. Its tranquil setting is in stark contrast to its turbulent past, typical of other clan strongholds in the area. David L Roberts' watercolour shows the castle as it would have appeared in the mid-17th century.

Despite the many disputes amongst clans, parliament and the throne, Eilean Donan has long been associated with the Mackenzies and their loyal allies clan MacRae. From the late 13th century, the Mackenzies were the hereditary constables of the castle on behalf of the Earls of Ross, but by the late 15th century Eilean Donan and the lands of Kintail were in their sole possession. The Macraes moved into Kintail in the mid-14th century, and as staunch supporters of the Mackenzies, eventually became hereditary wardens of the castle in their turn, under the Mackenzie Earls of Seaforth.

An Iron Age vitrified fort and the early Christian cell of St Donan lie below the present castle walls. The vestiges of an early 13th/14th century castle can be discerned, comprising a number of towers linked by walls enclosing most of the island, with a gated entrance on the seaward side. Subsequent construction reduced the castle to a main tower and small courtyard, with further buildings on the south side and a prominent artillery bastion towards the mainland.

The failure of the Jacobite rising in 1715, and an attempt to recover the situation in 1719, led to the ruination of the castle. A garrison of Spanish troops was stationed at Eilean Donan before joining forces with local Highlanders, but Government ships responded to the plot by bombarding the castle, leaving an uninhabitable ruin.

So it remained until 1912 when Major (later Lt. Col.) John MacRae-Gilstrap began the huge task of reconstruction. He was ably assisted by his Clerk of Works Farquhar MacRae, who is said to have visualised the finished castle in a dream. Detailed plans of the structure as it was in 1714 did not come to light until after the rebuilding. The main tower was reconstructed and much of the castle follows a similar ground plan to the earlier version; features such as gothic windows, oak beamed ceilings and the more elaborate main entrance were introduced by the architect George Mackie Watson. The three-arched bridge from the mainland was also an addition, but is very much a part of the iconic Scottish castle which attracts thousands of visitors today. With its loch and mountain setting, the castle must surely be the most photographed and recognizable in Scotland.

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.


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Eilean Donan Castle

ROSS: Lochalsh

1990s

castles; reconstruction; clans; Mackenzie; Macrae; Eilean Donan

Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre

David L. Roberts' Prints and Drawings

Eilean Donan Castle is strategically and picturesquely situated on a small tidal island at the mouth of Loch Long where it converges with Loch Alsh and Loch Duich in Kintail, Wester Ross. Its tranquil setting is in stark contrast to its turbulent past, typical of other clan strongholds in the area. David L Roberts' watercolour shows the castle as it would have appeared in the mid-17th century.<br /> <br /> Despite the many disputes amongst clans, parliament and the throne, Eilean Donan has long been associated with the Mackenzies and their loyal allies clan MacRae. From the late 13th century, the Mackenzies were the hereditary constables of the castle on behalf of the Earls of Ross, but by the late 15th century Eilean Donan and the lands of Kintail were in their sole possession. The Macraes moved into Kintail in the mid-14th century, and as staunch supporters of the Mackenzies, eventually became hereditary wardens of the castle in their turn, under the Mackenzie Earls of Seaforth.<br /> <br /> An Iron Age vitrified fort and the early Christian cell of St Donan lie below the present castle walls. The vestiges of an early 13th/14th century castle can be discerned, comprising a number of towers linked by walls enclosing most of the island, with a gated entrance on the seaward side. Subsequent construction reduced the castle to a main tower and small courtyard, with further buildings on the south side and a prominent artillery bastion towards the mainland.<br /> <br /> The failure of the Jacobite rising in 1715, and an attempt to recover the situation in 1719, led to the ruination of the castle. A garrison of Spanish troops was stationed at Eilean Donan before joining forces with local Highlanders, but Government ships responded to the plot by bombarding the castle, leaving an uninhabitable ruin.<br /> <br /> So it remained until 1912 when Major (later Lt. Col.) John MacRae-Gilstrap began the huge task of reconstruction. He was ably assisted by his Clerk of Works Farquhar MacRae, who is said to have visualised the finished castle in a dream. Detailed plans of the structure as it was in 1714 did not come to light until after the rebuilding. The main tower was reconstructed and much of the castle follows a similar ground plan to the earlier version; features such as gothic windows, oak beamed ceilings and the more elaborate main entrance were introduced by the architect George Mackie Watson. The three-arched bridge from the mainland was also an addition, but is very much a part of the iconic Scottish castle which attracts thousands of visitors today. With its loch and mountain setting, the castle must surely be the most photographed and recognizable in Scotland.<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>