Castle in Isle of Skye
Caisteal Uisdean (also known as Hugh’s Castle) 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.
Visiting Caisteal Uisdean
Caisteal Uisdein is located on the Trotternish Peninsula just south of Uig. As you head north on the A87 take the left turn signed for Cuidrach (T). It is possible to park one car near the end of the road but there is better parking on the grass beside a disused old quarry on the right hand side of the road about a kilometre down. It’s 2.75 miles return and can be completed in less than 2 hours.
What does Caisteal Uisdean look like?
The castle ruins that we see today are very simple, with a rudimentary tower house with walls over 2m (7 feet) thick. The layout is rectangular, measuring roughly 15 x 10 feet, with only two arrow slits admitting light to the ground floor. There is no door at the ground level, suggesting that entry was by way of an external stair or ladder to an entrance on the first floor. The upper two floors would have had much larger windows. The remaining walls rise to a maximum of about 20 feet high (6m). We don’t know how high the original tower would have stood, but it would never have been a major fortress along the lines of Dunvegan Castle.
History of Caisteal Uisdean
The castle was erected by Hugh MacDonald (Uistean Mac Ghilleaspuig Chlerich) of Sleat, a cousin of Donald Gorm Mor, 5th Chief of Sleat, whose seat was at Duntulm Castle, further north on the Trotternish Peninsula in the late sixteenth century. Hugh was the son of Archibald the Clerk – the MacDonald clan chief – but, when his father died in suspicious circumstances, Hugh was supplanted by his uncle, Donald Gorm Mor of Sleat. Hugh became an outlaw and over the subsequent years became rich from piracy and cattle rustling. He was pardoned in 1589 and given the stewardship of Trotternish and at some point thereafter commenced construction of Caisteal Uisdean to mark his authority in the area.
The castle was built on top of a natural cliff overlooking the entrance to Loch Snizort Beag. It took the form of a rectangular tower although its original height is unknown and it is possible the structure was never completed. Similar in style to nearby Castle Moil, on which perhaps its design was based, the entrance was on the first floor and led directly into the main hall.
Despite his pardon, Hugh sought revenge against his uncle whom he blamed for his father’s death and attempted to incite rebellion within the MacDonald clan. His efforts failed to gain traction and he went on the run once more. This time his luck ran out and he was captured on North Uist. Imprisoned in Duntulm Castle, he was fed with salted beef but denied water until he died of dehydration. After his death the castle was abandoned and today survives as a ruin up to first floor level. Hugh’s bones were displayed in the local church until 1827.
Visiting Caisteal Uisdean