How to Visit Scotland’s Eilean Donan: Our Epic Castle Tour!

Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Eilean Donan is one of the best castles to visit in the Isle of Skye of Scotland. From the moment you lay your eyes on this incredible fortress, you will be completely entranced by its beauty. Join us as we share helpful tips for Eilean Donan, the history of the castle, and all about our experience. 

How to Get to Eilean Donan Scotland

This unique castle is located on the west coast of Scotland at the point where three different sea lochs meet. You can find it in the beautiful village of Dornie which is en route to the Isle of Skye region.

We took the A87 from Inverness to Skye and stopped in Eilean Donan along the way. This same road goes past Loch Ness where you can hop on a cruise like this if you have time!

Many travelers include the picturesque castle in a longer road trip through Scotland. You can check out our own 10 Day itinerary here. Undoubtedly, the best way to get to Eilean Donan is by renting a car.

We recommend using this company to compare prices and pick up your vehicle from airport when you fly in. From there, you can plan your Isle of Skye route and experience this amazing castle along the way.

There is also public transport available to reach Eilean Donan Scotland. Many bus tours make the trip here from major cities with the most popular starting in Inverness.

Book a Full Day Isle of Skye Tour With a Stop at Eilean Donan!

Scotland Eilean Donan

Eilean Donan Castle History

To truly understand how this became one of the most romantic castles in Scotland you’ll first need to know who built Eilean Donan. Its likely beginnings came from a small chapel site built on the island of Donan by the Celtic Saint Donnan of Eigg in the 6th century.

Yet, much of the fascinating Eilean Donan Castle history wouldn’t come until much later. The original castle was not constructed until the 12th century by King Alexander II. It was then inhabited by Scottish Royalty and various Clans up until a Jacobite Uprising in 1719.

Unfortunately, this was the year that the British destroyed Eilean Donan and left it in ruins for almost 200 years. It wasn’t until the early 1900s when the site was purchased by Clan MacRae, rebuilt, and officially opened again in 1932.

So who owns Eilean Donan Castle now? The MacRae family still hold the present building and formed the Conchra Charitable Trust in 1983 to watch over it. It’s now one of the most photographed castles in all of Scotland and has even been a filming location for James Bond and other movies. 

5 Magical Castles in Scotland That Completely Blew Us Away!

Eilean Donan Scotland

Buying Your Eilean Donan Tickets

Unlike other castles in Scotland, you can not pre-book your tickets for Eilean Donan online. The only way to gain entry is by purchasing them directly from the visitor centre when you arrive. Tickets for Eilean Donan cost £11 Pounds for adults, children 5-15 for £6.50, and those under 5 years old are free. 

Since you can only buy tickets at the site we recommend arriving early. The doors open at 10am year-round and close around 5pm. This is especially important in the busy summer months of July and August when most travelers visit the Isle of Skye. 

Much to our surprise, some people don’t actually enter the Eilean Donan Castle! If you’re not up for a tour you can stop by for some pictures around the exterior of the small island. 

Eilean Donan Tickets

How Long Does it Take to Tour Eilean Donan Castle?

We only took about one hour to explore Eilean Donan. This is due to the fact that isn’t very large compared to other castles we saw around Scotland. Once you get there you’ll see it’s really more like a large stone house than a castle!

Even so, we really enjoyed taking in the different exhibits which display the rich history of this famous site. Know that there is no time limit at Eilean Donan you don’t have to rush your way through it. 

Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland

Our Trip to Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

We visited Eilean Donan on our road trip through the Isle of Skye in early July. After our boat cruise on Loch Ness, it took almost two hours to drive through the rolling hills to the Western Highlands of Scotland.

The morning we arrived it was pouring rain, giving off a mystical vibe around the loch, castle, and surrounding mountains. The orange and yellowish seaweed which often builds up around the small tidal island gave it a strange glow as the rain came down.

The parking lot was pretty packed around 11am but we were able to find a spot. After paying a small fee at the electronic meter, we made our way to the visitor centre to buy our tickets. There’s also a restaurant and coffee shop near the main entrance where you can grab a soup, sandwich, or drinks if needed. 

One Incredible Day in the Isle of Skye! Our Experience in Scotland

Eilean Donan

Inside Eilean Donan Castle

Once we got our tickets, we headed across the long stone bridge to the iconic castle. This was such an incredible view and we stopped to take a ton of pictures before making our way inside. 

When first entering the castle you will be drawn in by the many history exhibits. The tour is self-guided and audio guides are available when buying your tickets. This is where we learned about the bloody battles which were fought here, and the integral role the Eilean Donan Castle history played in shaping the Scottish Highlands. 

One skirmish in particular that startled us happened back in 1331. Randolph, Earl of Moray was having the newly built castle prepared for a reception. This apparently included surrounding Eilean Donan with 50 heads on spikes as a warning to the locals of the region. 

We would read about other infamous residents such as the Mackenzie Clan and the castles part in the Jacobite Rebellion. Proceeding upstairs, we explored the luxurious living quarters where the walls were adorned with paintings. There were also some opportunities to go outside and take in the views above the waters of Loch Duich from the fortress walls. 

In the basement level you can see the kitchen and other inter-workings of Eilean Donan. Towards the end of our tour it got very crowded in this section so we breezed through and made our way out. 

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle View

Is Eilean Donan Worth Visiting?

Absolutely! After our short Eilean Donan Castle history tour, it was easy to see what makes it such a popular attraction. You will likely be passing it anyway on your drive through the Isle of Skye so it’s totally worth stopping into.

Once we finished here we continued onto the Fairy Pools, Old Man of Storr hike, and the Nevis Range near Fort William. 

With all that said, we do recommend arriving to the small islet as early as possible if you’re going when we did in July. It’s also one of the most beautiful places to experience in the off-season if you’re traveling through Scotland outside the summer months.

Is Eilean Donan Worth Visiting

Have any questions about this article or want to share tips from your own visit to Eilean Donan in Scotland? Let us know in the comments below. 

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

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Eilean Donan Castle

Scotland Travel Planning

More Posts: StonehavenBalmoral Castle  – Oban – Edinburgh CastleRoyal Mile – Isle of Skye Ferry

 Rental Car: The best way to get around Scotland is by rental car! We always use Discover Cars when traveling in Europe and have found some great deals by booking in advance.

Transportation: Omio is a great place to search for trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Scotland.

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Scotland. You can find everything from a Scottish Highlands tour from Edinburgh to a Loch Ness boat cruise, Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour, and even chocolate making classes.

 Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from London to Aberdeen for $30 USD and Edinburgh to Budapest for less than $80! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best prices such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

Scotland Travel

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2 Comments

  1. Kimmy
    December 30, 2023 / 6:37 am

    What a great source of information! This is very useful to me since we are here in Scotland for a 1-week vacation I need to find relevant information on what to visit or to add to our itinerary list! We surely visit this Eilean Donan Castle and we are so excited about this maybe on the next day after we visit our second destination which is Glen Coe then we go here thank you for sharing this useful information!

    • Brigitte & Jake
      Author
      December 30, 2023 / 6:51 am

      So glad it was helpful! Enjoy your trip 😊

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