Dunvegan Castle, seat of the Clan MacLeod
Any visit to the Isle of Skye is incomplete without savouring the wealth of beauty and history offered by Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. Built on a rock in an idyllic loch side setting, Dunvegan is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.
On display are many fine oil paintings and clan treasures. Three items are of particular note. The most famous artefact is the Fairy Flag. Legend has it that this sacred banner has miraculous powers, and when unfurled in battle the Clan MacLeod will invariably defeat their enemies. Another is the Dunvegan Cup, a unique ‘mazer’ (wooden drinking cup) dating back to the Middle Ages. It was given by the O’Neils of Ulster as a token of thanks to one of our most celebrated Chiefs, Sir Rory Mor. Sir Rory Mor supported their cause against the marauding forces of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1596. The third is Rory Mor’s Drinking Horn. This is said to be the horn of a bull that Rory fought and killed to save the life of a young man. Tradition has it that each new Chief should fill it with wine and drain it in one draft. It holds 1.5 litres!
The Dunvegan Cup, Fairy Flag and Rory Mor’s horn, photographed in early 20th-century.
Visitors can enjoy guided tours of an extraordinary Castle and Highland estate steeped in history and clan legend, delight in the beauty of its formal gardens, take a boat trip onto Loch Dunvegan to see the seal colony and other wildlife, charter one of its traditional clinker boats for a fishing trip or Loch cruise, stay in one of its charming holiday cottages, enjoy an appetising meal at the MacLeod Tables Cafe, or browse in one of its several shops offering a wide choice of unique Scottish goods.
The Castle as seen from the old jetty
Dunvegan Castle’s five acres of formal gardens began life in the 18th century. In stark contrast to the barren moorland and mountains that dominate Skye’s landscape, the gardens are a hidden oasis featuring an eclectic mix of plants, woodland glades, shimmering pools fed by waterfalls and streams flowing down to the sea. After experiencing the Water Garden with its ornate bridges and islands replete with a rich and colourful plant variety, wander through the elegant surroundings of the formal Round Garden featuring a Box-wood Parterre as its centrepiece. The Walled Garden is also well worth a visit. In what was formerly the Castle’s vegetable garden, there is now a diverse range of plants and flowers that complement the attractive structural features including the Memorial Gazebo, gifted by the Associated Clan MacLeod Societies and dedicated in 2014 by Anne, the Princess Royal to the late 29th Chief John MacLeod of MacLeod. A considerable amount of replanting and landscaping has taken place over the last thirty years to restore the gardens to their former glory and provide a legacy that future generations may enjoy.
A part of the Castle gardens
There is a wealth of activities in the area ranging from walking, fishing and sightseeing to dining on fine local cuisine or camping at the Estate’s Glenbrittle Campsite at the foot of the majestic Cuillin mountain range.
Over time, the Castle has given a warm Highland welcome to visitors including Sir Walter Scott, Flora MacDonald and Queen Elizabeth II – and now looks forward to welcoming you!
Contact the castle directly for more information.