These menacing walls make it clear: the Clan MacLeod rules here. Surrounding the fortress is a garden worth seeing.
For some eight hundred years now, the castle has been owned by just one family: the Clan MacLeod. Each generation has left its mark on it. So the Castle was expanded and rebuilt again and again until it had its present form.
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Over the centuries, of course, the family collected some interesting memorabilia, which visitors may marvel at in the castle’s exhibition rooms. First and foremost is the Fairy Flag, which is significantly older than the castle itself. It is said to have been given to the MacLeods by fairies, and as long as it was in their possession, it protected the family.
To ensure that nothing would happen to the flag itself, it was put behind glass for safety’s sake, so that it could survive the next few centuries. However, the ravages of time have already gnawed at the delicate silk anyway. More than a yellowish shred is barely visible.
Another showpiece of the collection, one of great tradition, is the Sir Rory Mor’s Horn, a drinking vessel made from an ox horn and decorated with silver. It holds just over a litre. According to tradition, the prospective chief of the clan must be able to empty the horn in one go to prove his manhood. To this end, it is filled with wine.
Through detours via the MacDonalds, relics from the time of the Jacobite Rebellion have also made their way into the castle. A lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie‘s hair and a drinking glass with a dedication. Plus the bodice of Flora MacDonald and a few odds and ends more.
In addition to all these beautiful things, there are also sober things to see in the castle: The kitchen, for instance, or worse, the dungeon.
If the stone walls become too oppressive for visitors, they can head into the lush and well-manicured garden, where they can amuse themselves among rare plants and waterfalls.
Knowledge: The origin of the fairy flag
Although this is disappointing, the Fairy Flag probably doesn’t come from actual fairies. Rather, the more tangible assumption that it is a flag from the Crusades is correct. This assumption is at least supported by the silk from which the flag is woven. That, in fact, comes from the Middle East, as far as the Crusaders penetrated.
The material has been dated to the period from four hundred to seven hundred AD. That is, considerably earlier than the first Crusades took place. That’s why more theories surround the rag, such as that it was from the shirt of a saint … …but it’s impossible to find out for sure. It would be a pity to lose the beautiful legends.
By the way, Dunvegan Castle remains the one ancestral home of the MacLeods, and precisely not Eilean Donan Castle. That was only taken as a backdrop for the film “Highlander.”
Tip: Photos of the castle
It’s quite tricky to capture the front of the castle on photo. Either trees are already growing into the view from the side, or the lines of the building are starting to fall. So the only option is a wide-angle lens or a panoramic shot.
In the garden you can go to the boathouse, then you can also see the castle quite well. However, I don’t know if you are still allowed to go there without further ado.
There are other possibilities: If you go to Coral Beach, for example, you’ll get a good view of the castle at one point along the road on the way back – but a telezoom should be in order.
There is still an alternative way to catch the Castle in its entirety, and that is to drive to Uiginish before or after visiting the Castle, and photograph from there with a telephoto. Uiginish is reached by taking the turn off from the A863 onto the B884 about two kilometres south of the small town of Dunvegan – following the brown signs for “Skye Silver”. After another three kilometres, a little road to Uiginish branches off to the right, marked with a dead end symbol. Follow the road until behind, it ends at residential houses. Stop here and walk a little to look for a good position for the photo.
By the way, at the back of the castle’s “terrace” there is again a terrific view of the MacLeods Tables, Skye’s two mesas.
Personal note: Happy in the garden
On my first visit to the castle, I was less enchanted by the structure and much more by the garden. I remember there was wonderful weather on Skye at the time, lots of sunshine. After a brief flying visit inside, I then spent the afternoon on the lawn right next to the flower bed. Sadly, I’ve never had good weather on Skye since …
With sat nav: “IV55 8WF” will get you close.
Without sat nav: From Portree, you first take the A87 to Uig, but soon have to take the A850 to Dunvegan. Once in the village turn right to the castle, it is of course well signposted.