Eilean Donan is a small island in the Scottish Highlands located at the convergence of the three great sea lochs – Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh. Eilean Donan Castle, situated on the island of Donan is unarguably the most photographed monument of Scotland, and rightly so. Named after Donnán of Eigg, a Celtic saint martyred in 617. Donán is said to have established a church on the island, though no trace of it remains today. But, there are several churches dedicated to him in the area. Built around 13th Century, the castle has seen time go by, along with it’s own destruction and reconstruction multiple times.
My good fortune brought me to the castle, sometime during the summer of 2013. We were on our way from Inverness to the Isle of Skye when the landscape started to change. Every bend of the mountain road was prettier than the previous one, and I could not help but wonder if there was something special about the village of Dornie that we were crossing now. Streams of water so blue, crissed-crossed their way through the mountains and made such pretty picture postcards, like the one below. We stopped, and stared at this breath-taking beauty for a while.
Reluctantly, we moved forward only to discover a castle which was straight out of a fairy tale. Though Scotland’s beauty cannot be measured in words, Eilean Donan Castle is nothing but sheer poetry. I even attempted an abstract one, staring at those stone walls which seemed to narrate tales of the times gone by. The Eilean Donan Castle is a work of art for sure, but nature plays a very important part when it comes to this one. It is one of those places where you can see a beautiful amalgamation of nature and human workmanship, often wondering who did a better job! I bet it’s not an easy answer, and nature does not win at this one by default.
Surrounded by beautiful views all around, Eilean Donan Castle took my heart away! Though my friends wandered around clicking pictures and making merry, I walked alone by the waters, staring at Eilean Donan, scribbling words on a piece of paper. I also shed a tear or two here, without reason. Beautiful places sometimes have that effect on me.
As I approached the castle, I saw an inscription which in translation reads: “As long as there is a Macrae inside, there will never be a Fraser outside”, referring to a bond of kinship between the two clans. Digging out more information, I came to know about the one the multiple destructions and restorations that happened here. Destroyed yet again in an uprising in 1719, Eilean Donan lay in ruins for the best part of 200 years until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and proceeded to restore the castle to its former glory. After 20 years of hard work the castle was re-opened in 1932.
Today, Eilean Donan Castle stands tall and narrates its own history. One can go inside and explore the castle up close by taking a walk to the Billeting Room which hosts the fascinating collection of local historical artefacts, furniture from Chippendale and Sheraton, cannonballs fired during the bombardment of 1719, tea sets of Liverpool china, duelling pistols and dirks. There’s a coffee shop and a gift shop too, if you want to romanticize the visit. Would you believe it if I said that it’s possible to even get married here!