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Eilean Donan Castle picture in Scottish Highlands
Eilean Donan Castle bridge picture in Scottish Highlands
Eilean Donan Castle at night picture in Scottish Highlands
Eilean Donan Castle picture in Scottish Highlands
Eilean Donan Castle bridge picture in Scottish Highlands
Eilean Donan Castle at night picture in Scottish Highlands

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

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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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#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 ... Read more » sara_winter / Getty Images

#2 Glencoe You may hear the word "glen" a lot during your trip to the Scottish Highlands. A glen is another word for a narrow valley and the Highlands is filled with ... Read more » Shaiith / Getty Images

#3 Cairngorms National Park Cairngorms National Park is its own world. You could easily spend days exploring the many mountains, lochs, rivers, forests and villages that comprise the United Kingdom's largest national park ... Read more » Louise Heusinkveld / Getty Images

#4 Eilean Donan Castle 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 ... Read more » Petr Meissner / Flickr

#5 Glenfinnan & the West Highland Line The "Harry Potter" movies were filmed throughout the Scottish Highlands (the location of Hagrid's hut can be found in Glencoe), but the most recognizable location is in Glenfinnan. Remember ... Read more » miroslav_1 / Getty Images

#6 Loch Ness You can't leave the Scottish Highlands without visiting the infamous Loch Ness, Scotland's largest loch (by volume). Loch Ness is known worldwide for housing the mythical, dinosaur-like monster ... Read more » LordRunar / Getty Images

#7 Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Scotland's first national park houses Loch Lomond, Britain's largest loch. The park is much smaller than its northern neighbor (Cairngorms National Park is 1,748 square miles while ... Read more » coleong / Getty Images

#8 Beaches If you really want to take in the full spectrum of the Highlands' geographical grandeur, make time for its beaches. Some of the beaches feature waters so clear and sands ... Read more » VWB photos / Getty Images

#9 Golf If you're a golfer and happen to be in the Scottish Highlands, you'll want to take advantage of the region's beautiful courses. In fact, the Scottish Highlands ... Read more » ImagineGolf / Getty Images

#10 Duncansby Head England has the White Cliffs of Dover, Ireland has the Cliffs of Moher and the Scottish Highlands has Duncansby Head. Located on the northernmost tip of Scotland's east coast ... Read more » marcoisler / Getty Images

#11 Ben Nevis The most popular trail in the Scottish Highlands is also one of its most challenging. Ben Nevis, the U.K.'s tallest mountain, sits just 7 miles southeast of Fort ... Read more » StevanZZ / Getty Images

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Eilean Donan Castle picture in Scottish Highlands
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Boat tours in Loch Ness picture in Scottish Highlands
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs picture in Scottish Highlands
Beaches in Scottish Highlands picture in Scottish Highlands
Golf in the Scottish Highlands picture in Scottish Highlands
Duncansby Stacks picture in Scottish Highlands
Ben Nevis picture in Scottish Highlands
Isle of Skye picture in Scottish Highlands
Glencoe picture in Scottish Highlands
Cairngorms National Park picture in Scottish Highlands
Eilean Donan Castle picture in Scottish Highlands
Glenfinnan Viaduct picture in Scottish Highlands
Boat tours in Loch Ness picture in Scottish Highlands
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs picture in Scottish Highlands
Beaches in Scottish Highlands picture in Scottish Highlands
Golf in the Scottish Highlands picture in Scottish Highlands
Duncansby Stacks picture in Scottish Highlands
Ben Nevis picture in Scottish Highlands

The Quiraing found in the Isle of Skye (pictured) was once a mountain, but experienced a massive landslide that made the natural wonder look as it does today.  sara_winter / Getty Images

Glencoe is one of travelers' favorite destinations in the Scottish Highlands. Visitors say the best way to take in the area, especially if you're short on time, is to drive along the A82 Highway into Glencoe Village, where you'll run into the pictured peaks.   Shaiith / Getty Images

Cairngorms National Park's abundance of forests make for a perfect trip during fall.  Louise Heusinkveld / Getty Images

Eilean Donan Castle is lauded for its beautiful location, acting as the junction between three different lochs. It also offers up some fascinating history, serving as a point of contention during the Jacobite era.  Petr Meissner / Flickr

If you're a "Harry Potter" fan, you will no doubt recognize the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The Glenfinnan Viaduct is the same viaduct that the Hogwarts Expresses passes on its way to the school in the "Harry Potter" movie franchise.   miroslav_1 / Getty Images

The most popular thing to do in Loch Ness is take a boat tour. While recent travelers say they didn't spot Nessie, seeing the loch from the water made their Scottish Highlands experience all the more memorable.  LordRunar / Getty Images

Autumn is a particularly beautiful time to visit Loch Lomond & The Trossachs.  coleong / Getty Images

To experience the full spectrum of the Scottish Highland's geography, you must visit the beaches. The best beaches can be found on the islands, though if you don't have time to island hop, the northwest coast also has a reputation for beautiful shorelines.  VWB photos / Getty Images

The Scottish Highlands are home to some of the most scenic golf courses in Scotland.  ImagineGolf / Getty Images

England has the White Cliffs of Dover, Ireland has the Cliffs of Moher and Scotland has the cliffs in Duncansby Head. You can find Duncansby Head, with its striking sea stacks, in the northernmost region of Scotland's mainland.  marcoisler / Getty Images

Ben Nevis is the U.K.'s tallest mountain. The hike to the summit is a little more than 10 miles round-trip and takes about seven to nine hours to complete depending on conditions and your fitness level.  StevanZZ / Getty Images

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