Exploring Scotland | Eilean Donan Castle & the Road to Skye
It was on the road to Eilean Donan castle that I first got to see those amazing mountains I’d been dreaming about since we set out on our Highland adventure.
Having checked out of Eagle Brae earlier that morning, we drove alongside Loch Ness for a while (Like, a really, really LONG while: that thing is huuuuuuge, seriously…), before veering right, and heading for the west coast. It was at this point that the weather, which we’d been reasonably lucky with until now, suddenly took a turn for the terrible, and I found myself secretly hoping that Terry wouldn’t want to stop off at any of the viewing points along the road, and make me stand in the sleet, wind and cold to take photos, or something crazy like that.
For the first hour or so of our drive, the landscape around us was pretty similar to what we’d left behind. Then, all of a sudden, a cheeky little mountain popped up at the end of the road. I got really quite excited about this… and then, a few minutes later, I felt really quite silly for that initial excitement, because that one little mountain turned into this:
The Road to Skye
“Mountains, Gandalf!” I shrieked. “Mountains!” And yes, folks, these were most definitely mountains, and not just very big hills, say. They were magnificent: and honestly, while it would’ve been nice to have been able to see them without feeling like we were about to freeze to death at any moment, I have to admit that the mists and rain did help add to the sheer drama of it all. Driving past Loch Cluanie, and down through Glen Shiel, we truly felt like we were on a grand adventure – and it’s not often I get to say THAT, let me tell you. We did actually end up making a couple of stops, just to look at the view (And once to try to work out why the car was making that weird noise: always fun to feel like you’re about to break down in the middle of a mountain range!), but then we pressed on to our next destination – Eilean Donan Castle:
Eilean Donan Castle
Some of you will probably recognise Eilean Donan Castle as one of the settings used in the movie Highlander. I actually don’t recognise it from that, because, shockingly, I’ve never seen Highlander: I did, however, recognise it from the many, many photos I’ve seen of it over the years, because this is another one of those truly iconic Scottish sights, and probably one of the most photographed buildings in the country.
In this respect, I guess March was actually a pretty good time to visit: it was, as you can probably tell from the photos, bitterly cold, but while there were plenty of tourists around, it wasn’t too crowded, either, so we were able to take our time and have a good look around the exterior, which is reached by a short bridge from the mainland.
The island the castle sits on is located at a point where three sea lochs meet, which makes it incredibly dramatic, and just ridiculously photogenic, really. Although there’s been a castle on this site since the 13th century, though, I was surprised to find that most of what you see today is actually reasonably modern: by the start of the 20th century, the castle had fallen into ruin, and was almost completely rebuilt between 1919 and 1932 – which, as I say, surprised me, because it looks so authentically ancient:
Regardless of its age, though, Eilean Donan is still one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever been, and well worth braving the elements to see: although I’m not totally sure Max would agree with that statement, to be honest:
Speaking of Max, you see that dummy he has in his mouth here? We’ve been trying to wean him off that, so its presence in this photo is a sure sign that he was right on the edge of the kind of meltdown that can’t be easily contained. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend at Eilean Donan, as it was really just supposed to be a quick stop on the way to Skye, and as Max was desperate for food and a nap, we decided it would be more sensible to spend that time feeding him, and then letting him get back into the car for a nap, than walking around the castle itself, which I’m pretty sure he’d have strongly objected to. Such is life with a toddler, folks… (And such is the subject of an upcoming blog post, actually – if I ever get round to actually finishing it, that is…)
Here are some things we would have found out about Eilean Donan Castle if we’d had more time there:
It was built on a sacred site
It was built on the site of a sacred island: Eilean Donan Castle was constructed on the island of Eilean Donan, which had long been considered a sacred spot by the ancient Celts. The castle was built to honor the site’s religious significance.
It was destroyed by government forces
In 1719, the castle was destroyed by government forces during the Jacobite uprising. It lay in ruins for nearly two centuries until it was restored in the early 20th century.
Eilean Donan Castle has been used as a film location
Eilean Donan Castle has appeared in many films and TV shows, including Highlander and James Bond’s The World is Not Enough. Its striking appearance and dramatic location make it a popular choice for filmmakers.
It has a secret tunnel
Legend has it that the castle has a secret tunnel that leads to the mainland. While no evidence of the tunnel has been found, many visitors enjoy speculating about its existence.
It’s home to a ghost
The castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of a Spanish soldier who died during a battle on the island. Visitors have reported seeing the ghostly figure roaming the castle’s halls.
It has an unusual flagpole
The castle’s flagpole is located on a small island off the shore of Eilean Donan. The island is so small that it can only be accessed by boat, making the flagpole one of the most unusual in the world.
It’s a popular wedding venue
Eilean Donan Castle is a popular venue for weddings, with couples from all over the world coming to tie the knot in its romantic setting.
The Vistor Centre at Eilean Donan Castle
I might not be able to show you the inside of the castle, then, but, well, I CAN show you inside the visitor centre/cafe, if that’s any good to you?
To be fair, it WAS a pretty good visitor centre: and I’m pretty sure our view for lunch was one of the best you’ll find. Oh, and the company wasn’t bad, either:
(Totally cheered up as soon as there was food in front of him. SO like his daddy…)
And so ended our brief visit to Eilean Donan: and I feel like I end all of these posts right now with a promise that we’ll be back one day to see it all properly, but I really hope we will – we have to get inside at least ONE of these castles we keep visiting, don’t we?