There are several things to see and do on Skye, but visiting the Isle of Skye castles may be one of the best Isle of Skye activities. The seven castles range from opulent stately homes to ruined fortresses, however they all possess a rich medieval history, prominent locations with rugged wild Scottish backdrops. We have also included two bonas castles for you to see!
Two main clans ruled the Isle of Skye for centuries, and Clan MacLeod & Clan MacDonald. Both have castles on the island. Of the smaller clans, the most notable is Clan MacKinnons.
Located near the Skye Bridge, commanding the strait of Kyle Akin between the Isle of Skye and mainland Scotland, Castle Maol (also known as Caisteal Moil) was originally fortified before the tenth century. Owned by Clan Mackinnon throughout its long history it was rebuilt in the late-fifteenth century in the form of a Tower House.
Knock Castle, which is also known as Caisteal Uaine or Castle Camus, was built by the MacLeod clan in the late thirteenth century in order to control the Sleat peninsula. Around 1435 it was seized by the MacDonalds and they substantially rebuilt the structure including adding the Keep and enhancing the fortifications which enabled it to resist an attempt by the MacLeods to retake it.
Armadale Castle is the 19th century seat of the Clan MacDonalds in the south of Skye. The castle was built in 1815 and extended in 1855, but the MacDonald family moved out in 1925 and then the castle suffered a major fire and became the ruin that you see today. It was purchased by Clan Donald Lands Trust that started renovating it and turned it into a museum. You can explore 40 acres of beautiful woodland walks and enjoy spectacular views over the sea to the majestic mountains of Knoydart.
You can also learn about Highland history in their fascinating Museum of the Isles, Skye’s only Museums Galleries Scotland accredited museum!Read more about the Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum of the Isles
Located in the southern part of the island, near the town of Tokavaig this is one of several fortifications built by the MacLeod clan on the Isle of Skye. Dunscaith Castle occupies a large rock overlooking Loch Eishort on the western side of the Sleat peninsula. Also known as Dùn Sgàthaich, it was taken over by the MacDonalds of Skye but was recaptured by the MacLeods in 1495.
Dunvegan Castle can be found on the Eastern shore of the Isle of Skye overlooking Loch Dunvegan. Dunvegan Castle is by far the most famous castle on the Isle of Skye. Probably occupying the site of a much earlier fortification, Dunvegan Castle was built in the thirteenth century by the MacLeod clan as part of their efforts to secure control of the Isle of Skye. It was substantially rebuilt in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries creating the structure seen today. It is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland.
Located near Uig, Caisteal Uisdean is another ruined castle on Skye. Caisteal Uisdean was built by Hugh MacDonald who was the son of a deposed clan chief. Hugh had become an outlaw but was pardoned and built the castle around 1589 to serve as his new residence. However, he continued to seek revenge against those who had killed his father and, when he attempted to incite a rebellion, he was murdered.
Duntulm Castle on the northern coast of the Isle of Skye, on the Trotternish peninsula. Perched high on the cliffs the castle was hotly contested between the Macleod and Macdonald Clans. Centuries of warfare and feuding were ended by a settlement in favour of the latter but in 1730 the castle was abandoned for a more comfortable residence elsewhere.
Castle Ewen is a natural landmark located in Fairy Glen, in the northern part of the island. One of the hills of the glen still has its basalt topping intact which, from a distance, looks like a ruin and has been called Castle Ewan. It is possible to climb to the top where there is not much room, but does have wonderful views. In the low cliff behind Castle Ewan there is a very small cave where it has been said pressing coins into cracks in the rock will bring Good Luck.Read more about the The Fairy Glen of Skye
Eilean Donan Castle
Although on the mainland it would be remis of me not to mention the classic Eilean Donan Castle. The first castle was built in the 13th Century to protect the surrounding lands from Viking raiders. The island it was built on was called Saint Donan’s Isle, and its current name derives from its Gaelic name – Eilean Donan.
Over the centuries the castle expanded until 1719 when it was occupied by Spanish soldiers and blown up by the Royal Navy during the 1719 Jacobite Uprising. For nearly 200 years a neglected stump was all that was left of the castle sitting on its little island.
In 1911 John Macrae-Gilstrap bought the island and set to work rebuilding the castle. It took 20 years, but the result of his efforts is quite simply magical, providing one of Scotland’s most iconic sights and certainly one of the best castles in Scotland.Read more about the Eilean Donan Castle