Eilean Donan Castle picture
Eilean Donan Castle
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Petr Meissner/Flickr

Key Info

Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh

Details

Castles/Palaces Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.6scorecard
  • 4.5Value
  • 4.5Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

Of all the castles to visit in the Scottish Highlands, Eilean Donan Castle is the one worth taking the detour for. Located near the small town of Dornie in the northeastern Highlands, Eilean Donan Castle is considered an icon among locals for its rich history and picturesque placement at the junction of three different lochs (Loch Alsh, Loch Duich and Loch Long all meet here). The castle was originally built in the 13th century by Alexander II of Scotland to guard the area against possible Viking invasions. The castle stood in grandeur for hundreds of years until the 18th century, when the Jacobites (Catholic Scottish opposition group to the Protestant, English-ruling government) took over the castle and occupied it. Soon after, English forces descended upon the castle and destroyed it in battle, leaving Eilean Donan in ruins for hundreds of years. It wasn't until the early 1900s that a lieutenant colonel bought the land the castle occupied and rebuilt Eilean Donan from the ground up.

Inside the castle, you'll find period decor, as well as weaponry and artifacts from the Jacobite era. However, most travelers admit making time for Eilean Donan primarily for its scenic address. The castle is situated on a very small island surrounded by lochs lined with leafy munros. Accessible only by an old stone footbridge, it's easy to see why the castle is considered such a special place for Scots. Travelers do say that since this is such a popular attraction, it's best to get there early as coach buses are known to stop here on tours of the Scottish Highlands.

You can reach Eilean Donan Castle by taking Stagecoach to the town of Dornie and walking to the castle (less than a half-mile south). Hours vary by the season, but generally the castle is open from 10 a.m. to 4 or 6 p.m. Admission costs 7.50 pounds ($9.70) for adults. For more information on Eilean Donan Castle, visit the attraction's website.

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Isle of Skye
Glencoe
Type
Time to Spend
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#1 Isle of Skye

If you only had time to visit one part of the Scottish Highlands, let it be the Isle of Skye. Located on the west coast of the Highlands, Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides. The island is filled to the brim with otherworldly landscapes. There's a lot to see on this island, but travel experts and visitors say you can't leave without peeping these gems: the Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr, Neist Point and the Fairy Pools.

The Quiraing is the perfect introduction to Skye's spellbinding geography. As you descend down the Quiraing, you'll be greeted with sweeping views of stunning geography: Cracked plateaus with craggy cliffsides lead the way to an expansive valley of verdant rolling hills, stately rock formations and alpine lakes. Situated 13 miles south is the Old Man of Storr, a single, pinnacle-shaped rock which stands out for its looks; it's so tall and distinct, it can easily be spotted from sea level miles away.

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