When you think of Isle of Skye, the main thing you think of is all the natural beauty. We spent most of our time hiking and admiring the view, but I also knew I wanted to see Dunvegan Castle. Similar to Eilean Donan Castle, the setting of the castle is lovely, right on the water. Unlike, Eilean Donan castle, it was not left abandoned for 200 years. Instead it has been continuously occupied by the MacLeod family for 800 years!
In addition to the castle, you must visit the magnificent gardens. It had been raining, but stopped when we arrived. So we decided to see the gardens while it was still dry. I guess I am not sure what I expected but these gardens rival many botanical gardens! First we visited the water garden, which had two large waterfalls and some cute bridges.
Next we walked to the walled garden, which was my favorite. This garden has several areas each with their own personality including a reflecting pool and a gazebo. There were so many flowers of different types and colors, and everything was meticulously maintained. Next we walked to the round garden, which was beautiful as well. It gets its name because flowers are planted in a circle bed.
Then, it was time for a few pictures of the outside of the castle (especially since photos inside are not allowed). I love the green and oranges you see around the castle. There were still ominous clouds but that just added to the ambiance for the picture.
After our pictures we headed inside. It is hard to believe that the Fairy Tower was built in 1500 because the castle has been so well maintained. When you enter, you just feel like you are in a castle since it is beautifully decorated. The grand staircase in the entrance hall reminded me of something from a southern plantation.
Throughout the castle you will find portraits of members of the MacLeod Clan and plenty of other historical pieces. I would encourage you to read as much as you can of the displays because the stories and artifacts are fascinating. I thought I would highlight of few of the things items that really stuck with me.
One of the first things we came across were handwritten letters from Sir Walter Scott (author) and Dr. Samuel Johnson (inventor of the dictionary) who both stayed at the castle. It seems like both guests really enjoyed their stays. Queen Elizabeth II has also visited the castle.
We also enjoyed looking through the impressive collection of books in the Library. You will definitely find some titles here that you recognize – for example there was plenty of Shakespeare. All the books are old and I imagine are some kind of 1st or special edition.
You can also go in the Dungeon. I have to admit this freaked me out a little bit especially after I read that one of the wives was put in there to die. It was dark and pretty much everything you would expect from a dungeon in a medieval castle. I went in and pretty much came right out!
The Fairy Flag may not look like much but it is one the MacLeod clan’s most prized possessions. The story is that the flag was given to the family by fairies and it has sacred powers. Legend has it that if the fairy flag shown during a battle, the clan can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The flag can only be used three times and it has already been used twice!
To me, it is mind boggling that this castle has been part of the MacLeod family for so long. They have done a great job preserving the castle and its history. Both the gardens and the castle are well worth a visit. Have you visited Dunvegan castle? What things really struck you?
Expert Tips for Visiting Dunvegan Castle:
- I would recommend allocating 2-3 hours to see both the gardens and the castle.
- A combined ticket for the both the gardens and the castle costs £12 per person and can be purchased at the ticket office when you arrive.
- Read the stories that go along with all the historical items.
- Unfortunately, no photography is allowed inside the castle.
Disclosure: No financial compensation was received, but we did receive complimentary tickets to Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. As always, opinions expressed here are my own.
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