Arguably Scotland’s most famous castle, Eilean Donan is one of the world’s most photographed castles. It appears in numerous films and TV shows like Highlander, James Bond – The World is Not Enough, and many others, also making it one of the most filmed castles in Scotland. Built sometime in the early 1200s, the castle was destroyed in 1719, and rebuilt by 1932, and is now one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks.
Eilean Donan Castle Near Isle of Skye
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Address: Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh IV40 8DX
Hours: 9:00am – 5pm Daily
Admission Price: £10 Variable
(see here for details)
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Eilean Donan Castle, which is located outside of the village of Dornie on the route to the Isle of Skye, is one of Scotland’s most recognizable landmarks, and according to tours given at the castle, the world’s most photographed castle. The name Eilean Donan means Donan Island – “Eilean” meaning ‘island’ in Scottish Gaelic, and Donan, which comes from Saint Donan, an Irish priest who attempted to introduce Christianity to the “pagans” living in Scotland around the year 619. He was martyred on the island when the locals rejected his proselytizing and instead took his life. The tiny island and its gorgeous castle has a fascinating history, and many major events in Scotland’s storied history either occurred at Eilean Donan Castle or involved the structure in some way.
I’ve wanted to visit this incredible work of Scottish architecture ever since I first learned of it back in middle school, when one of my closest friends told me about how some of his ancestors used to live there while we were discussing the fact that we were both Scottish. He showed me a photograph of it, and I thought it was one of the most beautiful castles I’d ever seen, and I wanted to see it for myself. I can’t remember who he was related to or why they spent time at Eilean Donan castle, but seeing incredible photographs of the castle online, paired with my own Scottish heritage and a curiosity about my family’s origins, ignited within me a passion for exploring Scotland that has followed me into adulthood.
Access to the castle is quite simple, and those wishing to simply make photographs of the castle need only pull into the parking lot and get out to walk about. There is no admission fee charged unless you wish to either join a tour or cross the bridge to access the castle grounds. Once inside the castle, visitors are not permitted to take photographs, because parts of the castle are still a private residence. I asked permission and was told it was perfectly fine to take pictures out of the castle windows towards the lochs, which you can see below.
While the castle itself is only open to visitors during the hours of 9am – 5pm each day, the parking lot remains open nearly all the time, so visitors can swing by to take photographs of the castle or the surrounding mountains and lochs at anytime. Drones cannot be flown until after 5pm, when the castle is closed, and may not be flown anywhere near people or over the castle.
This small island sits where three lochs, Loch Alsh, Loch Duich, and Loch Long, converge. During our visits to the castle, which we passed most days on our way to the Isle of Skye, the water level was quite low, which is why you can see so much green, orange, and yellow-brown seaweed. Typically this isn’t the case, as Scotland is famous for its near constant rainfall, but Scotland and the entirety of the United Kingdom was under a drought and experiencing a heat wave. It still looked otherworldly, and on our fourth time passing the castle, it was raining so we stopped to make some new photographs.
The castle’s visitor centre has a small café located inside, restrooms, and one of the most elegant gift shops in Western Scotland. It sells a number of kilt supplies, beautiful tartan scarves, and various Scottish clan merchandise, as well as teas and snacks. Many other gift shops in the area are tacky or overpriced, but everything at Eilean Donan Castle’s gift shop was very high quality and made excellent souvenirs for our family members back home.
I can’t imagine visiting Scotland without taking the time to explore this famous castle. I could spend an entire year wandering throughout the land of my ancestors, and it wouldn’t be enough time to take in all of the incredible historical sites like this castle, or the natural splendor of Scotland. I hope you enjoyed reading a bit about one of my favorite places in the world, and I hope you get to see it someday for yourself!
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