Even with the castle blurred in the background, the castle touted as being the most photographed castle in Scotland is easily recognized as the beautiful Eilean Donan Castle.
Home of the MacRaes.
Eilean Donan Castle was held by the Mackenzie clan from the early 13th century. The MacRaes arrived in Kintail around 1362, and a bond between the MacRaes and Mackenzies grew due to the MacRaes' loyalty and distinguished service. MacRaes were expert marksmen and served as archers and warriors in service to the Mackenzies where they were hailed as 'the Mackenzies' shirt of mail'. As the Mackenzie power grew from chiefs to barons, then as lords and earls, the MacRaes were appointed constables of Eilean Donan Castle. Though historically known best for their prowess in battle, MacRaes were also counselors to the chiefs and tutored the chiefs' sons. They were poets, ministers, doctors, and musicians.
The original name MacRae was given to men thought to have an unusual gift of sanctity and grace.
Let's start with some of my favorite photos.
Now for a bit of history and my thoughts.
The tower house and curtain wall was first built as a defense from Vikings in the early 12th century. Eilean Donan (which translates as Donan's Island), situated at a point where three sea lochs meet, was the perfect defensive spot for the Sea Kingdom of the Lord of the Isles.
The medieval castle's tower and curtain wall covered almost the entire island with the main keep rising from the island's highest point. But for some reason, in the 14th century the castle was reduced to almost one-fifth its original size. In the 16th century, a platform was added for the newly added cannons.
The castle's size changed much over the centuries, until 1719...
Jacobites were in control of the castle, and 46 Spanish soldiers garrisoned there, amassing gunpowder as they awaited a delivery of weapons including cannons from Spain. English frigates were sent to keep this from happening, and bombarded the castle for three days. However, the castle walls were 14 feet thick in most places, and the bombardment had limited success. The English commander then sent a party ashore and at last took the castle.
Twenty seven of the more than 300 barrels of gun powder were then used to blow up the powder magazine--and much of what was left of the castle.
For nearly 200 years the castle lay in ruins. In 1911, Lt Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the castle and spent 20 years bringing Eilean Donan back to its original state using ground survey plans and other bits of drawings and written descriptions. This is the reason we see the MacRae-Gilstrap coat of arms and motto over the entrance.
"Candide Fortitudine Secure" "Openly, Fearlessly, with Fortitude"
I'll end the post with a few scenes viewed from the castle over the loch or back to the mainland. Photos were not allowed to be taken inside. You'll need to visit Eilean Donan yourself for those views. It'll be well worth your trip.
Of course, I took a moment to have updated photos done. What better place, right? Thanks to Rayleen for her photography skills. You can tell me which you like best. Thanks!
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