Dunvegan Castle sits on a rocky outcrop at the mouth of Loch Dunvegan in the northwest of The Isle of Skye. The site is likely to have been a Norse fort, dating back to the viking occupation of this part of Scotland from around 800AD to 1066AD.
The castle that stands on this site today started life in the late 13th century and has been extended 5 times over its history. The 25th clan Chief Norman MacLeod of MacLeod commissioned notable architect Robert Brown of Edinburgh to sympathetically renovate the building and bring it up to the standards of the 1840s. This process extended the unification of the castle’s exterior appearance, adding pepper pot turrets and a baronial appearance that was in fashion in the Victorian era.
As was often the case in castles renovated during the Victorian era, the interior boasts many mod cons such as hot water and central heating. It is furnished in the victorian style. But underneath this 19th century modernisation remains five separate buildings each with its own character and history to tell.
Whilst the current clan Chief, Hugh Magnus MacLeod technically lives at Dunvegan he actually spends most of his time in London and overseas meaning that most of the castle is open to visitors. You can explore state rooms, living quarters and service areas. There is even a dungeon next to the kitchens and the aroma of the cooking was said to drive the hungry prisoners mad.
There is a fantastic range of period furniture and artwork on display including portraits of the many clan Chiefs and family members. Most interesting of all is the Fairy Flag that is presented in the dining room. The flag is believed to date from the 4th century and probably came from Syria, making it one of the oldest surviving fabric artefacts in Scotland. The flag has much myth and legend associated to it.
The castle enjoys fantastic views over Loch Dunvegan from a fortified terrace and if you’re lucky the local seal population can be seen basking on the rocks at low tide.
The Castle and 42,000 acre estate are still in the ownership of the clan. The building is a category A listed site of historic importance.