How to visit Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland: Ultimate guide (2024)

Want to visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland? This Scottish gem is a must-see, perched on an island at the junction of three lochs.

I visited Eilean Donan Castle on my way to the Isle of Skye (it’s right next to the bridge), and in this post, I’ll share everything you should know about how to visit this iconic Scottish landmark.

I’ll cover the essentials: getting there, the best times to visit, and how to best enjoy the views.

Let’s dive in.

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Eilean Donan Castle History

Eilean Donan Castle has a long history that’s deeply intertwined with Scotland’s past.

It’s strategically located at the intersection of three lochs, which made it an important defensive site, especially during times when Vikings were a threat.

The earliest records suggest the site began as a religious retreat around the 6th or 7th century, founded by Saint Donan.

The imposing castle we see today was built in the 13th century during the reign of Alexander II and was a key defensive point for the Lord of the Isles and their sea-based power.

Scotland

Over the centuries, the castle has seen its share of conflict and power struggles, with different clan chiefs claiming it as their own. Its location was not only strategic for defense but also for controlling the lucrative sea trade routes of the time.

However, its involvement in the Jacobite rebellions led to its destruction by English forces after it hosted a Spanish contingent.

The ruins of Eilean Donan lay untouched until 1911 when Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the castle and began restoration work.

The castle was reopened to the public in 1932 and has since become a popular tourist destination and a filming location for movies like James Bond and Highlander.

visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

How to visit Eilean Donan Castle

Here’s what you need to know about the Eilean Donan opening times and ticket prices.

Eilean Donan Castle opening times

Eilean Donan Castle has varied opening times throughout the year, so make sure to check the exact times before you plan your trip.

Generally, the castle opens at 10 AM and closes around 4 PM to 6 PM, depending on the season.

Eilean Donan ticket prices

Adult tickets typically cost around £10.00, while children can enter for about £6.00.

Concessions are available, and family tickets can offer better value if you’re traveling as a group.

How to see Eilean Donan Castle without paying

You can’t go inside the castle for free. But honestly, Eilean Donan Castle is prettiest from the outside. And there are several ways to see the castle without purchasing a ticket.

Simply walk around Eilean Donan Island and see the castle from all angles. 

visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

How to get to Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle sits in the Scottish Highlands, not too far from the Isle of Skye. You can get there by driving, taking the bus, or with a guided tour.

Rent a car

Driving is definitely your best bet to reach this somewhat out-of-the-way spot.

If you’re coming from Fort William or Inverness, you’ll take the A82 up to Fort Augustus, then switch to the A87 that’ll lead you straight to Eilean Donan and on towards the Isle of Skye.

Take the bus

You can also take the City Link buses that run from Glasgow and Fort William to Uig on the Isle of Skye. If you’re relying on public transport, make sure to book everything early, including any connections you might need once you’re in the Highlands.

Guided tours

If you’re not keen on navigating Scottish roads, consider joining a guided tour. That’s what I did.

There are day trips from Inverness or even multi-day adventures from Edinburgh that include a stop at Eilean Donan Castle.

visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Is Eilean Donan Castle worth visiting?

Yes, Eilean Donan Castle is definitely worth a visit.

It’s a classic Scottish landmark with stunning views, especially since it’s right where three lochs meet.

It’s packed with history, and if you’re into that or just want to see a beautiful place, you’ll probably enjoy it.

The inside has some interesting bits to explore, but the outside is really where it shines. Just seeing the castle from the outside is worth the trip!

visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Things to see in Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle is not only one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks, but it’s also home to a wealth of history and stunning scenery.

When you visit, you’ll have the chance to explore various parts of the castle and its surroundings.

Cross over the bridge to Eilean Donan Island

Begin your Eilean Donan visit with a walk across the stone bridge that spans the meeting point of three sea lochs.

The journey to the island itself sets the scene for the historic atmosphere you’re about to enter.

visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Explore the Eilean Donan Island

Before entering the castle, take your time to roam the castle grounds.

The surroundings are serene, and you can soak in views of the Scottish Highlands from a unique vantage point.

visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Go inside the Eilean Donan Castle

When you enter the castle, you’ll see a combination of impressive medieval architecture and a cozy, homey feel.

Every room, including the Banqueting Hall and the bedrooms, has been carefully restored and decorated to give you a real sense of what life was like in the past.

visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Eilean Donan Visitor Centre & Gift Shop

Once you’ve explored the castle and its history, head to the Visitor Centre to check out the informative exhibits and learn more about the castle’s background.

Make sure to pick up a souvenir from the Gift Shop to commemorate your trip.

visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Eilean Donan Café

If you’re hungry, the café has plenty of snacks and gives you a spot to sit and relax.

You can use the time to eat some local food and figure out what you want to see next at the castle.

visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Take a walk around Loch Duich

Check out the walking paths around Loch Duich for great views of the castle. This was my favorite thing to do here because there are so many great spots for taking photos.

visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

FAQ – Visit Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

How long do you need to see Eilean Donan Castle?

Around 1 to 2 hours should do it for Eilean Donan Castle. This gives you enough time to check out the castle and soak in the views.

Do you need to book for Eilean Donan Castle?

Yes, it’s a good idea to book your tickets in advance for Eilean Donan Castle, especially during peak tourist seasons, to ensure entry at your preferred time.

Can you go inside Eilean Donan?

Yes, you can go inside Eilean Donan Castle. The interior is open to visitors, offering a chance to explore its rich history, restored rooms, and period furnishings.

What is special about Eilean Donan Castle?

Eilean Donan Castle is special for its unique location at the meeting point of three sea lochs, surrounded by the breathtaking Scottish Highlands.

It’s become one of Scotland’s most iconic sights, often appearing in movies and photographs. The castle has a fascinating history, marked by clan disputes and Jacobite uprisings, and was beautifully restored in the 20th century.

What movies was Eilean Donan Castle used in?

Eilean Donan Castle has been featured in several movies, making it a recognizable symbol of Scotland around the world. Some notable films include:

  • “Highlander” (1986), where it served as the home of the Clan MacLeod.
  • “The World Is Not Enough” (1999), a James Bond film, where it was used as the Scottish headquarters of MI6.
  • “Made of Honor” (2008), where parts of the movie were set in Scotland, featuring the castle.

Was Eilean Donan Castle in Game of Thrones?

No, Eilean Donan Castle was not featured in “Game of Thrones.”

The series was filmed at various locations, primarily in Northern Ireland, Croatia, Iceland, and Spain, among others, to bring its fictional world to life.

visit Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

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