Around 600 AD St. Donan lived on the
island as a religious hermit; the name 'Eilean Donan' means 'Island of
The first fortified stronghold was
established in the reign of Alexander II (1214-1250). In 1263 Alexander
III gave the castle to Colin Fitzgerald, son of the Earl of Desmond and
Kildare (later to become the MacKenzies) as a reward for his services at
the Battle of Largs. This battle culminated in the defeat of the
Norwegian king, Hakon and following his death shortly after, his
successor, Magnus, ceded all the Western Isles to Scotland.
Eileen Donan was Clan MacKenzie's most
important stronghold from the 13th Century until it was destroyed in
A tradition is that when Robert the Bruce
was being hunted by the English, he was given refuge in Eilean Donan
Castle by John MacKenzie, Second of Kintail in the early part of the
fourteenth century. When Robert became King,he sent his nephew Randolph,
Earl of Moray and Warden of Scotland to Kintail. An interesting note is
that Randolph's crown officer beheaded fifty local misdoers and
exhibited their heads around the battlements of the Castle as a warning
The MacRaes, the bodyguard of the Chief
of Kintail, were known as 'MacKenzies Coat of Mail'. They first became
Constables of the Castle in 1509.
The castle was destroyed on May 10, 1719
by the English frigates, Worcester, Enterprise, and Flamborough in an
attempt to quell the Spanish involvement in the unsuccessful Jacobite
rising to the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stewart. The Spanish,
who were assisting the Jacobites, had headquartered their expeditionary
force at Eilean Donan.
The castle was in ruins for over 200
years until it was restored to it's present state by LT COL John
MacRae-Gilstrap with the aid of Farquhar MacRae who had seen a vision of
the stronghold restored to its former glory.Between 1912 and 1932 and at
the cost of a quarter of a million pounds, the Castle was rebuilt. The
look of the present structure was also confirmed by old plans of the
castle preserved with other records in Edinburgh Castle.
Thank you to Joanne Mackenzie-Winters for
her help in compiling this brief history. You can visit her site here!
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