Eilean Donan – Scotland’s Most Recognizable Castle

Look familiar? Supposedly Eilean Donan Castle in the Highlands is the most recognizable castle in all of Scotland. To be honest, we did not recognize it, but the romantic 13th century castle is now forever imprinted in our minds.

Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland

“A land shrouded in mystery that has borne witness to a thousand tales of courage, bloodshed, adventure, tragedy and elation.”

The Eilean Donan Castle, pronounced Ail-en Don-an, is strategically perched on its own tidal island at the point where three lochs meet and is surrounded by the lush mountains of Kintail. It is located in the western Highlands of Scotland and is part of the Kintail National Scenic Area, one of forty in Scotland. The castle and its surroundings is a majestic and breathtaking sight.

So breathtaking in fact, that Eilean Donan Castle has been featured in many photographs, film and television. To name a few, it has appeared in the following movies:

  • Highlander (1986)
  • James Bond: The World is Not Enough (1999)
  • Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
  • Made of Honor (2008)

The castle was originally built by Alexander II in 1220 as a stronghold against the Vikings. Subsequently it became a fortress for the Clan of Mackenzie, once the most powerful clan in northern Scotland. The original castle is documented to have encompassed the entire island with multiple towers.

Upon his arrival in the 14th century, Thomas Randolph the Earl of Moray executed fifty scandalous men as a powerful display of his strict discipline. The decapitated heads of these men were showcased along the castle walls. The word that spread was that he was so greatly pleased that he said claimed the sight of justice was sweeter to him than any garland of roses. With its ominous past, the castle is said to be haunted.

Whether it’s haunted or not, the Eilean Donan Castle has a dominating presence that you will never forget!

Our Trip to Scotland

We flew into London, stayed there for a few days via public transportation then rented a car to explore the rest of the United Kingdom. We made our way through the south of England then around to Wales. We swung back into England to visit the Lakes District before heading to Scotland. It was a marvelous trip filled with castles, cliffs, moorlands, and cathedrals.

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Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland

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Angela E. is a travel writer from the Chicagoland area who has visited all 50 states in the US and has traveled extensively around the world. She is passionate about exploring the great outdoors and hiking in particular. Her love for nature has taken her to some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. She has written extensively about her travels on her own website, Dang Travelers, and has been published in collaboration with other travel websites and multiple visitor bureaus around the country.

36 Responses

  1. Chris Travels

    Gotta love those castles! Each and every one so different and unique. On our trip to Ireland we made it a point to include any and all within (and some not so within) our path of travel. We delighted in each of them for various reasons and often the surrounding gardens were a true “gem” themselves.

    • Dang Travelers

      We enjoyed soaking up the romance at many castles in Ireland and Scotland as well. You are right the surrounding gardens usually are just as intriguing as the castles themselves.

  2. Stephen

    Sounds like a great trip! I don’t recognize it either, but perhaps that’s a good excuse to re-watch an old Bond film?

  3. Lucy

    mm this castle looks amazing!! I just love the last photo!
    How many days it took you for the whole UK trip?

  4. victoria

    What a beautiful place! It’s been years since we last went up to Scotland – I’ve forgotten how beautiful and peaceful it is – Thanks for the reminder!!

  5. Carol Colborn

    We saw this, but only from a distance, last June 2014! Didn’t know the history and it was raining. Thanks for bringing us back!

    • Dang Travelers

      It’s always fun to remember back on previous trips. Maybe next time the weather will cooperate and you can check it out for yourself.

  6. Simone

    Ooooh amazing! I am visiting Scotland in Jan and have ALWAYS wanted to visit here! You’ve got me so much more excited! Thank you! x
    Simone x

    • Dang Travelers

      Scotland in January should be nice. Excited for you! Definitely need to stop at see Eileen Donan.

  7. Claudia

    I missed this castle when I visited Scotland but you are right, looking at the picture I recognize it from all the movies. It sure looks pretty!

    • Dang Travelers

      It is stunning. Now that I’ve seen the castle, I recognize it all over!

  8. Cai Dominguez

    Omg! This castle looks so stunning. It literally gave me that Wooow! When I first saw the photo. Thanks for sharing this article. I’m looking forward to visit this place someday. 🙂

    • Dang Travelers

      LOL isn’t that the way it always is!! We are from Chicago and have yet to get out on the sky deck they built on the Willis Tower here (one of the best views of the city). We are definitely getting up there next year because I just can’t believe we haven’t done it yet. You should try for 2016 as well 🙂

  9. Anita Hendrieka

    I lived in the UK for 2 years and unfortunatly never made it to Scotland but now its is 100% the next place I need to explore when I next come to the UK! Great post 🙂

  10. Natasha Amar

    I can’t wait to visit the Scottish Highlands- I can only imagine how awesome it must be to explore something like this. I haven’t really seen castles like this, the only place I have visited them is in India and they look so different.

    • Dang Travelers

      The Scottish Highlands are spectacular. Driving through the valleys will take your breath away!

  11. Inma

    So in love with Eilean Donan since we visited it almost 2 years back after spending Hogmanay in Edinburgh. What an epic trip it was.
    Great pic!

    • Dang Travelers

      Thanks Inma! Loved Edinburgh as well. Can’t wait to get back to Scotland someday

  12. leticia

    What a beautiful place! Last time I visited Scotland by train and missed many of these spots. Next time I’ll try renting a car like you did, make sure I don’t miss any

    • Dang Travelers

      Renting a car was the way to go in Scotland for sure. The train is probably easier (not having to worry about directions and driving), but I do feel like you miss things that way.

  13. Marge Gavan

    I’ve never been to a castle and is actually one of my dreams to see one in person. It’s interesting to know the name of the castle that I’ve actually seen in those movies you mentioned. I don’t care if it’s haunted, I’d love to go see the castle for myself someday.

    • Dang Travelers

      All of Scotland is a photographers dream. Deep valleys, moody cliffs and romantic castles.

  14. Carlie

    Awesome photos and great post! I love, love, love old UK castles…ok, let’s be honest, i love pretty much anything British, Scottish, Welsh or Irish. I am desperate to go, so this was great inspiration 🙂

    • Dang Travelers

      Thanks Carlie! We loved our trip to the UK and Ireland as well. Both are so unique and beautiful.

  15. mark

    I am Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I was born in 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. And I am immortal.
    HIGHLANDER my favourite all time movie

    • Dang Travelers

      Ha! That is GREAT 🙂 We must have been living under a rock because we had never seen it.

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