Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Time Remembered

Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland, named after Irish Saint, Bishop Donan, is recognised as one of the most famous castles around the world and is one of the most visited castles in the Scottish Highlands.

Strategically located on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet it was first inhabited around the 6th century by the Picts.  Since then, at least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built as the feudal history of Scotland unfolded through the centuries. 

The first fortified castle was built in the mid 13th century and stood guard over the lands of Kintail.  At this time, the area was at the boundary of the Norse-Celtic Lordship of the Isles and the Earldom of Ross.  

In 1539 Iain Dubh Matheson, chief of the Clan Matheson, died whilst defending the castle against the Clan Macdonald of Sleat on behalf of Clan Macrae and Clan Mackenzie.

Supporters of the exiled James Stewart, the "Old Pretender", sought new support from Spain and led to the Jacobite uprising of 1715. An advance party of 300 Spanish soldiers arrived in Loch Duich in April 1719, and occupied Eilean Donan Castle. The expected uprising of Highlanders did not occur, and the main Spanish invasion force never arrived.

At the beginning of May, the Royal Navy sent ships to the area. Early in the morning on Sunday 10 May, HMS Worcester, HMS Flamborough, and HMS Enterprise anchored off Eilean Donan and sent a boat ashore under a flag of truce to negotiate. When the Spanish soldiers in the castle fired at the boat, it was recalled and all three ships opened fire on the castle for an hour or more. The next day the bombardment continued while a landing party was prepared.

In the evening under the cover of an intense cannonade, the ships' boats went ashore and captured the castle against little resistance. According to Worcester's log, in the castle they found "an Irishman, a captain, a Spanish lieutenant, a sergeant, one Scots rebel and 39 Spanish soldiers, 343 barrels of powder and 52 barrels of musquet shot".

The naval force spent the next two days demolishing the castle, which took 27 barrels of gunpowder. The Spanish prisoners were put on board Flamborough and taken to Edinburgh.  The remaining Spanish troops were defeated on 10 June at the Battle of Glen Shiel. 

Eilean Donan lay in ruins for the best part of 200 years until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and proceeded to restore the castle to its former glory. After 20 years of toil and labour the castle was re-opened in 1932.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool, thanks for the story. Nice to hear about other places in the world.