Eilean Donan means Island of Donan (a religious figure from the 12th century). Eilean Donan was Clan MacKenzie’s most important stronghold from the 13th Century until it was destroyed in 1719. Robert the Bruce was given refuge in Eilean Donan Castle by John MacKenzie, Second of Kintail when he was being hunted by the English at the beginning of the fourteenth century.
Above the entrance to the castle there is a Gaelic inscription which translates as: As long as there is a MacRae inside, there will never be a Fraser outside. Inside the courtyard is the famous Murchison Stone with an inscription about John Murchison of Auchtertyre who was killed in the Battle of Sherrifmuir in 1715. In the upper floor inside the castle there are six bedrooms named Loch Alsh,Loch Long, Eilean Donan, Ballimore, Loch Duich and Conchra. There is also a panel with the names of the constables ( guardians ) of the castle carved on it.
Eilean Donan Castle was originally built in 1220 and owned by the MacKenzies of Kintail. The MacRae Clan who settled in the area came from the Beauly Firth where they had protected the Clan Fraser.They acted as bodyguards to the MacKenzie chiefs. Although there was a number of disputes, the MacKenzies held Eilean Donan right up until until the 16th century. The MacRaes first became Constables of the Castle in 1511 with a lot of control over the surrounding area. A feud between the MacKenzies and the McLeods of Dunvegan, over the disputed claims of Donald Gorm MacDonald to the title of Lord of the Isles, came to a head when he attacked the Castle with 50 galleys. He was shot and killed by Duncan MacRae with a single arrow. The Castle was garrisoned by Government troops but later retaken by the Jacobites before the Battle of Sheriffmuir.
In 1719 it was held by Spanish Jacobites. Three English frigates sailed into Loch Duich and bombarded the castle with cannon fire until it was in ruins. The castle them lay in ruins for nearly 200 years. In 1911 John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the castle and start work to restore the castle over a period of twenty years at a total cost of a quarter of a million pounds. Local materials were used wherever possible.
More recently the castle featured in the film Highlander and a James Bond movie.
Eilean Donan Castle is on an island in the middle of 3 lochs – Loch Alsh, Loch Long and Loch Duich – and surrounded by the mountains of the Highlands. If you climb the hill overlooking the castle you can see the Isle of Skye. The castle is next to the village of Dornie and about 10 miles from the Kyle of Lochalsh and the bridge to the Isle of Skye to the North. The castle is on the west coast of Scotland, about 90 miles north of Glencoe and about 180 miles from Edinburgh. You can take the train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh and take a taxi to the castle. There is a bus route from Glasgow past the castle once a day. There are many bus tours from Edinburgh to the castle.
Due to a change in Scots law it is now possible to get married in a Scottish castle. The castle is open most of the year and it is run by the Conchra Charitable Trust.