Icons of Scotland: Eilean Donan Castle

When you discover Scotland on a relaxing hotel barge, not only will you be treated to the service, warmth and hospitality of a very unique kind of holiday, you’ll also be able to go ashore and visit some of the most iconic places in the Scottish Highlands. This magical landscape is home to a host of ancient fortresses, but perhaps none more famous than Eilean Donan castle. A visit to this wonderful attraction will be offered as a shore excursion on the itinerary of your cruise.

Chances are, within the various travel guides and glossy magazines inviting you to explore Scotland, one of the images you’ll see is of Eilean Donan. Located by Kyle of Lochalsh, near Dornie, it has an air of quiet repose, yet its history is anything but sedate…

Eilean Donan Castle can be visited aboard the Spirit of Scotland and Scottish Highlander luxury barge cruises

Deep History in a Stunning Landscape

While today we recognise Eilean Donan from myriad photographs, films (most famously ‘The Highlander’) and television shows, its notoriety could not have been foretold back in the mid-thirteenth century when it was constructed.

Set on its own tidal island facing the Isle of Skye, the location is at the confluence of three sea lochs, creating a dramatic and starkly beautiful backdrop. The word ‘eilean’ means ‘island’ and Donan is for a Celtic saint who lived on the island in the sixth century. With an area of just one hectare, the majority of the tiny island is taken up by the castle, which, from afar, appears to almost hover above the water of the loch. Access is by foot across the stone arched bridge, which is the only link between the island and the mainland.

During a bloody and turbulent history, the castle was ruined and rebuilt several times prior to the Jacobite uprising at the Battle of Glenshiel, in 1719, when it was all but destroyed for a final time. It languished for nearly 200 years before, in the 1900s, it was purchased privately by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap, who spent the next 20 years painstakingly restoring it to an impeccable standard.

John MacRae-Gilstrap died in 1937, just a few years after the restoration was completed, but in 1955, his grandson opened the castle to the public. Today it is one of the country’s most visited attractions.

Tour the Castle and Step Back in Time

A tour of Eilean Donan is a genuine ‘experience’ and guides are dressed in full period costume, with multiple re-enactors popping up to make your visit highly realistic!

You can explore the authentically furnished rooms and halls of the interior, as well as numerous displays of collections of weapons and other artefacts from centuries past.

There’s also an excellent Visitor Centre, where you can learn more about the past events of Eilean Donan and the surrounding area.

Discover Scotland and Delve into a Storied Past

An excursion to this small slice of Scottish Highland history is just one of the experiences you’ll be able to enjoy when you head off on a cruise in a ‘floating hotel’. And, along with the opportunities to delve into the past and sightsee some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, you’ll be treated to a holiday that provides the utmost in comfort and hospitality.

Luxury Barge Cruises in Scotland

You can visit Eilean Donan Castle on a 6-night luxury all-inclusive hotel barge cruise aboard the 12 passenger Spirit of Scotland, or the 8-passenger Scottish Highlander.

To plan your post-lockdown escape to see Eilean Donan Castle and the Scottish Highlands, please talk to a member of our team or order a copy of our brochure for a slice of armchair travel inspiration.

Inspired? Visit our Special Offers page to further inspire your wanderlust. 

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