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TITLE
Duntulm Castle
EXTERNAL ID
HCD_PRINT_004
PLACENAME
Duntulm
DISTRICT
Skye
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Kilmuir
DATE OF IMAGE
1995
PERIOD
1990s
CREATOR
David L. Roberts
SOURCE
Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre
ASSET ID
13200
KEYWORDS
castle
reconstruction
ruins
clans
Duntulm Castle

This watercolour by David L. Roberts shows Duntulm Castle as it may have appeared around 1635. The fertile ground behind is being prepared for planting. Early drawings by the artists Moses Griffiths and William Daniell, and photographs from the late 19th century by George Washington Wilson, were used in conjunction with archaeological research of the site for this artistic reconstruction.

From a basalt promontory on the north west coast of Trotternish on Skye, Duntulm Castle looks out across the Minch, with Tulm island lying just offshore. The castle ruins are perched on the very edge of 30m cliffs pounded by the sea below: a perfect situation for a structure which was both a secure stronghold and a symbol of strength and chieftainship.

This dramatic setting was probably the site of one of the many Iron Age duns or forts which dotted the coastline of Skye. The castle may well have been under Norse control for a time, assuming the name 'Dun Dhaibhidh' (David's Fort), but from the 13th century its ownership was hotly disputed by the MacDonalds and MacLeods, and changed hands frequently down the centuries.

During the 16th century the Crown too became involved. Royal charters were issued granting the stewardship of the Trotternish lands, including the castle, to one clan or the other depending on the politics of the time. As part of his tour in 1540, James V visited the castle, remarking on its position and strength.

After a period of abandonment by all parties, the castle was repaired and refurbished by Sir Donald MacDonald of Sleat in the early 17th century. For a time Duntulm was known for its feasts, balls and music. Sadly this period of grandeur and enlightenment did not last and the MacDonalds established a home on their lands at Armadale in south Skye. Whilst retaining possession of Duntulm, no chief of the MacDonalds resided there after 1720. By the 1730s the deserted site was being quarried for stone to build a new, smaller residence at Monkstadt, some five miles away.

This partial dismantling, coupled with its exposed position, conspired to hasten the decay and collapse of the structure. The tower walls, once embellished with turrets and decorative stonework, have collapsed and debris fills the vaulted chambers and dungeons. Despite some stabilization work, the castle remains in a somewhat precarious state, although its dramatic setting continues to attract thousands of visitors.

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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For further information about purchasing and prices please email
Skye and Lochalsh Archives

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Duntulm Castle

INVERNESS: Kilmuir

1990s

castle; reconstruction; ruins; clans

Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre

David L. Roberts' Prints and Drawings

This watercolour by David L. Roberts shows Duntulm Castle as it may have appeared around 1635. The fertile ground behind is being prepared for planting. Early drawings by the artists Moses Griffiths and William Daniell, and photographs from the late 19th century by George Washington Wilson, were used in conjunction with archaeological research of the site for this artistic reconstruction.<br /> <br /> From a basalt promontory on the north west coast of Trotternish on Skye, Duntulm Castle looks out across the Minch, with Tulm island lying just offshore. The castle ruins are perched on the very edge of 30m cliffs pounded by the sea below: a perfect situation for a structure which was both a secure stronghold and a symbol of strength and chieftainship. <br /> <br /> This dramatic setting was probably the site of one of the many Iron Age duns or forts which dotted the coastline of Skye. The castle may well have been under Norse control for a time, assuming the name 'Dun Dhaibhidh' (David's Fort), but from the 13th century its ownership was hotly disputed by the MacDonalds and MacLeods, and changed hands frequently down the centuries. <br /> <br /> During the 16th century the Crown too became involved. Royal charters were issued granting the stewardship of the Trotternish lands, including the castle, to one clan or the other depending on the politics of the time. As part of his tour in 1540, James V visited the castle, remarking on its position and strength.<br /> <br /> After a period of abandonment by all parties, the castle was repaired and refurbished by Sir Donald MacDonald of Sleat in the early 17th century. For a time Duntulm was known for its feasts, balls and music. Sadly this period of grandeur and enlightenment did not last and the MacDonalds established a home on their lands at Armadale in south Skye. Whilst retaining possession of Duntulm, no chief of the MacDonalds resided there after 1720. By the 1730s the deserted site was being quarried for stone to build a new, smaller residence at Monkstadt, some five miles away.<br /> <br /> This partial dismantling, coupled with its exposed position, conspired to hasten the decay and collapse of the structure. The tower walls, once embellished with turrets and decorative stonework, have collapsed and debris fills the vaulted chambers and dungeons. Despite some stabilization work, the castle remains in a somewhat precarious state, although its dramatic setting continues to attract thousands of visitors.<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>