we visit Dunvegan Castle (9,50 £/per Person)

Dunvegan Castle

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Dunvegan Castle


The Building of Dunvegan

The castle is situated on an upstanding mass of partly columnar basalt approximately 30 feet in height arising from the shores of
Loch Dunvegan. Around it originally the sea ebbed and flowed. Now after centuries of natural deposits of silt, and assisted by the modern needs of supplying an entrance from the land, the sea has receded from that side of the Castle. The top of the Roch is more-or-less level and forms a roughly oval platform indented on the North-west sector, the long access lying North-west and South-east. This platform measures about 175 Feet in length and 110 feet in it's greatest breadth.

Dunvegan Castle

 The Building of Dunvegan

The Rock descends all round fairly vertically to the shon scree slopes that blanket its bare, except in the indent on its North-westem quarter, where there is a kind of "slack" in the cliff, up which a doubly-curved flight of rough stone steps mounts to the Sea-gate. Before the opening of the first landward door in 1748, this was the only entrance to the Castle, and very likely from remotest times there has been an access to the summit of the Rock at this point.

Dunvegan Castle

 Leod's original Fort.

Another important Feature which gave Dunvegan Castle and those within its great strength, was the existente of a fresh water well. With this priceless resource added to thc impregnability of its position, Dunvegan Castle presented a forbidding obstacle to the enemies of the Chiefs of MacLeod.

Today the Castle has a unified design with Victorian dummy pepper-pots and defensive battlements running the whole length of the roof line. This "romantic restoration" was carried out by the 25th Chief between 1840 and 1850 to the plans of Robert Brown of Edinburgh at a total tost of L8,000. Underneath this outer skin however there remains a series of complete buildings, each of a different date ...
LEOD'S ORIGINAL FORT Circa 1200. Close to the Rock itself from the North-west corner to the sea-gate and also at the base of the Fairy Tower, sections of rough stonework indicate the last remains of 13th century fortifications. Leod died about 1280. ln his day a massive curtain wall totally enclosed the Rock, leaving a single access where the sea-gate is now, heavily defended by a Barbican yett (door) and portcullis. The buildings inside would have been of wood, probably thatched. The well dates from before this period. There was almost cenainly an earlier fort an this site, possibly predating Leod by as much as 1,000 years.

THE KEEP (Circa 1340-60)

was commissioned by
Malcolm the 3rd Chief who is said to have been allied in marriage to the Campbells of Lochow, then in high favour with King David II of Scotland. Royal masons are thought to have been employed on the building of the Keep. In the Dungeon and in the basement of this massive structure, where part of the old Kitchen and a service stair are laid bare to the stonework, it can be seen in its original state, as it was when the royal masons had finished their work in the 14th Century. Some time in the early 18th Century, it became roofless and remained so for nearly 100 years, the mighty walls at the mercy of wind and min. The General, 23rd Chief, restored it at the end of the 18th Century, transforming it into an 18th Century Drawing Room with apanments above.

THE FAIRY TOWER (Circa. 1500)

is a typical and beautiful example of a traditional Scottish Castle Tower with a steeply pitched roof set within its battlements. It occupies the Southeast corner of the Rock. Its four floors are connected by a circular mural stair, still in place as far down as the first floor level, visible on your left-hand side as you enter the "Business Room".
Alastair "Crotach" (the 8th Chief) was responsible for this elegant and practical addition. The roof, outer walls and room layout remain exactly as built, but later buildings about on two sides. At various times throughout the centuries for domestic reasons associated with die new buildings, access was pushed through the thick external walls on three levels.

Dunvegan Castle

 The Fairy Tower Roof


was situated on the site of the central block which now houses the Dining Room at first floor level: the East wall rising to the exterior ballustrade (Pipers, Gallery) is original. The engraving published by
Captain Grose (1790) shows a long ridge-roofed building probably conceived as living quarters at a time when the Great Hall in the Keep was becoming too "spartan".


The 18th Chief has left records of Contracts and instructions for the re-building of his Grandfather, Rory Mor's, house. "The Piper's Gallery" (the carved stone ballustrade running to the Fairy Tower) survives as it was in 1664: The South Wing was built between 1684-90 when it is thought to have replaced the family chapel on the site: in height it was lower then than it is today incorporating a ridgeroof, until the alterations of 1790 changed it altogether.


Whether or not some small postern or service door existed on the East wall of the Castle earlier is no longer clear, but the first landward front door was made in 1748.
James Boswell recorded the fact in 1773 when he and Dr Johnson made their celebrated Journey to the Hebrides. As can be seen in sketches of the period, a long flight of steps was required to reach it until the "moat" or ditch had been filled to a sufficient level.

Dunvegan Castle

 Dunvegan Castle in 1772, William Daniell's Sketch


The 23rd Chief, Norman (known as the General, his rank while in India) retumed from a successful career as a soldier with two objectives in mind for his ancestral home. He had been a young man of 18 in 1773, when Dr Johnson had stayed with his mother in the Castle, pronouncing himself favourably impressed with his young host's spirit. Perhaps bearing in his mind that formidable gentleman's observation to his mother upon that occasion, that "uncomfortable though it might be, she should never leave the Rock", that young man now a General and with a second wife and a young family, was determined to transform his mediaeval Castle into a comfortable home. His secondary intention was to enlarge it, in order to provide better barracks and accommodation for the recruits he had raised from amongst his own people to form a Regiment which he had taken first to America and then to India. By this means he had provided the first "opportunity" for any individual MacLeod clansman since 1745, a Fitting commentary an the galvanic and desperate changes wreaked upon the Clan system since that date. His architect, Walter Boak, achieved these ends at a total tost of £3,941 - 11s - 11 d by re-roofing the Keep, breaking out the windows to create the Drawing Room and running the ridge of Rory Mor's House up to the wall of the Keep, forming a doorway in the thickness of it's South side first floor level. He also constructed the tall barrack block to the North, as seen in William Daniell'ssketch. Daniell's engraving of 1819 shows the Castle at its zenith with the twin towers and colonnaded portico, approached by a stone breastwork and ornamental drawbridge added in 1814-15 by the General's son, John Norman, to complete and harmonise the whole structure. The General's approach had been by the stone bridge over the burn, built before his death in 1801. A rough sketch by an unknown hand of about 1795 shows his front door with the steps up to it: this door was set in a small rectangular battlemented extension later incorporated into the Front Hall block.


The Victorians liked a spade, which "looked like a spade and not a shovel": hence the determination to transform these various buildings of different times and epoches into one mass, which could then be identified by the readers of fairytales at least as a Castle. Norman, the 25th Chief, raised the "jamb" (side tower) of the Keep to 130 feet above the ground, extended the front of Rory Mor's building (which now houses the Dining Room) and spliced it to the Keep, so forming space for the Library and connecting stairs. He also rebuilt the North Wing as a Billiard Room with servants quarters below. Except for the porch, the Front Hall remains structurally as it was in 1814. Whatever one's personal opinion of the Victorian reconstruction, it is at least reserved in its use of "baronial extravagances" and has gone a long way towards preserving the whole structure for posterity.

The Castle Tour

THE FRONT HALL (added 1814-15).

The General (23rd Chief) had died before his determined eifert to transform this mediaeval fonress, dedicated to defence and the ans of war into a house fit for the more peaceful Ideals of the Age of Sensibility at the end of the 18th Century, could be realised. This Hall is the continuation by John Norman (24th Chief) whose portrait faces you on the right as you astend the staircase, of his father's work. Elegance and restraint were required, but the architect was faced by a geographical mass - the Rock - whose integrity he had to respect. However sensitively therefore he was able to contrive the approach, the necessary staircase was always going to be steep. But with its spacious open stair, balconies and flat-panelled roof - actually the original painted plaster - the Hall does prepare the visitor for the finely proportioned interiors of the Castle.

Dunvegan Castle


The Bull's Head in the archway at the top of the stairs, with the motto "Hold Fast", was bequeathed to the 28th Chief in the 1950's. The 3/4 length portrait on the left-hand side at the top of the stairs is of Alexander Brodie of Brodie (1697-1754) in the robes of Lord Lyon King of Arms. He was the father of the Mrs MacLeod, hostess to Dr Johnson in 1773, quoted as being recognised "as a heroine to the Clan". The family story is that she herself refused to be painted despite repeated requests, because she said "she was too ill-looking", insisting that she would give the Castle a portrait of her father who loved to be painted. Underneath him and on the opposite side of the staircase are two half-length portraits of the 24th Chief and his wife. He is painted wearing the regalia, which Sir Walter Scott recommended as the sort of thing that any selfrespecting Highland Chief would have wem at some unspecified moment in the past, and should wear again for the Gathering held in Edinburgh in 1822 to honour George IV. Above die portrait of the 24th Chief on the right of the stairs is the portrait of the wife of Norman Magnus (26th Chief) who as the oldest son of the Chief ruined by the potato famine of 1847-51 was unable ever to live at the castle. lt was her grand-daughter (a second cousin once-removed to the present Chief), who was the last baby of the Chief's family to be born in the Castle.


Dunvegan Castle

 Front Hall Diagramm

1. Portrait of a Lady, probably a daughter of Norman (22nd Chief). Labelled George Willison but painted by WILLIAM AIKMAN.

2. Self portrait, WILLIAM AIKMAN (previously labelled "Sir James Pringle, Bt. of Stichil, by George Willison').

Alexander Brodie of Brodie (1697-1754) in the robes of Lord Lyon King of Arms, father-in-law of John, son of the 22nd Chief, JAMES BRODIE.

4. Anne, daughter of John Stephenson of Mersham, Kent, wife of John Norman (24th Chief); she died in 1861.

John Norman (24th Chief, b.1788, d.1835) dressed for the Edinburgh visit and Levee of George IV, 1822. The pistols, brooch, sporran and powder hom in the portrait are displayed in the North Room. Attributed to... JACOBSON.

6. Emily Caroline, daughter of Sir Charles Isham, Bt., wife of Norman Magnus (26th Chief), GUIDO SCHMIDT.

7. Ann, daughter of Norman (22nd Chief) wife of Professor Hill of St Andrews University.

Professor Hill of St Andrews University. RICHARD WAITT.

Archibald, 3rd Duke of ArgyllJOHN MEDINA (the Younger)after Allan Ramsay; original at •
lnverary Castle.

10. Louisa, daugher of
Sir Charles BoughtonRouse, Bt., mother-in-law of Norman (25th Chief). John Hoppner, R.A.

John, Ist Marquess of Atholl(1635-1703), grandfather of Anne Fraser of Lovat, wife of Norman (20th Chief).

John, 2nd Duke of Argyll, SIR JOHN MEDINA (alter AIKMAN)


contains a collection of military relics, family sworcls, some of which can be seen in the portraits. You will also sec the first Colours of what became the
2nd battalion of the Black Watch, raised by the General at the end of the 18th Century This passage is a part of Rory Mor's House, and leacls directly to the Fairy Tower.


Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod, D.B.E. (28th Chief, b.1878, s. 1935, d.1976) Lent by the artist, DENNIS RAMSAY.

Norman (25th Chief), b.1812, s.1835, d.1895.

Canon Roderick MacLeod of MacLeod, third son of 25th Chief, whose only son, lain (the nem male heiz) was killed in 1915.

Lieutenant Norman MacLeod of MacLeod (1781-1800), eldest son of Major-General Norman MacLeod (23rd Chief), who died whenH.M.S. Queen Charlotteexploded and sank with all hands. SIR HENRY RAEBURN.

Captain John MacLeod 4th (King Own Royal) Regiment (Initiallad J.M.) in sword cabinet.

Mrs. M. MacLeod of MacLeod

Norman (25th Chief) as a Regene), buck, attributed to ROBERT PAUL.

THE FAIRY TOWER (Circa.1500).

As you erster the Business Room, you will notice on your left the circular staircase of the Fairy Tower, itself a self-standing building at the South-east corner of the Rock. Like the Keep it would have had slit windows and it was the General's remodelling that opened up the windows in the rooms to let in more light. lt has four floors with one small room on each.

Dunvegan Castle

 The Fairy Tower


lt was here that Dr Johnson and James Boswell were entertained by Mrs MacLeod and her daughters when they arrived at Dunvegan in 1773 with, as Boswell wrote "... a rich carpet, a good table, the tea in civilised order. Dr Johnson became quite joyous". He also records that this was the only room in the Castle where the chimney did nm smoke. In the "Fairy Room" above, which is now the private sitting room of the family, Dr Johnson slept in 1773 and Sir Walter Scott in 1814: both, as they wrote, peacefully lulled by the bum below the window (Sir Rory Mor's Nurse). Above the fireplace hangs a copy of the portrait of Dr Johnson in the National Gallery by Sir Joshua Reynolds. This copy which differs from the original in the fact that the coat has been given cloth buttons, rather than the brass of the original, is the work of
Johann Zoffany. Dr Johnson's portrait is flanked on one side by the letter which he wrote to the Lady MacLeod after his visit, and on the other side by a similar letter from Sir Walter Scott. This room is called the Business Room because the 28th Chief, Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod 1878-1976, used it as such, and it was in this room that she met so many of her clansmen and women from overseas, and the new genesis of Clan MacLeod was bom. Many visiting MacLeods will recall the warmth of her welcome to them in this room.


Dr Samuel Johnson, alter the portrait in the National Gallery by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Dunvegan Castle

 Dr. Samuel Johnson

John Norman (2-ith Chid) in the uniform of the 13th Light Dragoons (1809). WILLIAM MARSHALL. CRAIG.

Mary and Elizabeth Roma MacLeod, daughters of John Norman (24th Chief) ENGLISH SCHOOL.

Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod (28th Chief) as a Young woman.

THE DINING ROOM (1790 and 1840-50)

form the largest suite of rooms in the Castle and are still in frequent use by the family. Ancestral portraits cover 300 years of family history. The massive oak sideboard bears the date 1603 and was brought to Dunvegan by Sir Rory Mor (15th Chief) after his sojourn in London with James I in 1613. We know from the account given by his hostess to Dr Johnson, that Sir Rory Mor had "his beef brought to the table in one basket, his bread in another". lt is therefore extremely unlikely that he used knives and forks, and this sideboard is a piquant illustration of the desire of the Chief to become what might be termed "civilised". lt was during Rory Mor's period that the island Chiefs began to feel the full authority of the National Govemment recently moved to London. His knighthood, which he received from King James I at Greenwich, was undoubtedly given "with strings attached" in exchange for his good behaviour. From this time however, the Castle took on the character more of a gracious mansion house than of a fortress, reflecting the fact that the Clans' constant struggles amongst themselves in this part of the world were beginning to quieten.

Dunvegan Castle

 The Dining Room


Dunvegan Castle

 The Dining Room - Diagram

1A. ANN, daughter of William Martin of Inchfure, Ross-shire (m.1748 d.1803) 2nd wife of Norman (22nd Chief).

1B. Norman (22nd Chief, b.1705, s.1706, d.1772). Pair: ALLAN RAMSAY.

2A. Norman (23rd Chief, b.1754, s.1772, d.1801) in General Officer's uniform.

2B. His 2nd wife, Sarah (m.1784, d.1822), daughter of Nathaniel Stackhouse (Member of Council, Bombay). Pair: SIR HENRY RAEBURN.

3. Janet, daughter of Sir Donald MacDonald, 4th Bart. of Sleat, Ist wife of Norman, 22nd Chief. JAN VAN DER BANCK.

4A. lan Breac (18th Chief, 6.1637, s.1664, d. 1693). GEORGE SCOUGALL.

Dunvegan Castle

 Iain BreacMcLead - 18th Chief

4B. His wife, Florence, daughter of Sir James Mor MacDonald, 2nd Bart. of Sleat. Pair: GEORGE SCOUGALL.

5. John MacLeod of MacLeod
(29th Chief, b.1935, s.I976, d.2007). Presented to John MacLeod in 2002 by the MacLeod Stewardship Foundation. The Dunvegan Foundation of the Clan MacLeod Society U.S.A. The Associate Clan MacLeod Societies JEFF STULTRIENS RP

6. Sir Reginald MacLeod of MacLeod, K.C.B. (27th Chief, b.1847, s.1929, d.1935). GEORGE HARCOURT, R.A

7. Norman Magnus MacLeod of MacLeod. (26th Chief, 1839, s.1895, d.1929). SIR GEORGE REID, P.R.S.A.

Dunvegan Castle

 Norman Magnus MacLeod of MacLeod C.M.G. - 26th Chief

8. Norman MacLeod of MacLeod (25th Chief, b. 1812, s.1835, d.I895). JAMES ARCHER, P.R.S.A.

9. Hon. Louisa Barbara, daughter of 13th Baron St. John Betso, wife of Norman (25th Chief, m. 1837, d.1880). JAMES RANNIE SWINTON.

Dunvegan Castle

 Hon. Louisa Barbra - Wife of the 25th Chief

THE LIBRARY (1790 and 1840-50 )

The Library itself contains many Eine old books of historical and family interest. The most remarkable is the
Dunvegan Armorial, compiled 1582-4 apparently from the Breton Armorial: It was once the property of William Shaw, Master of Worksto King James Vl. lt may be seen later in your tour in the North Room.

Dunvegan Castle

 The Library


Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod, D.B.E. (28th Chief, b.1878, s.1935, d.1976). Presented to Dame Flora in 1952 by clansmen and friends in all parts of the world

Dunvegan Castle

 Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod - 28th Chief

THE DRAWING ROOM (Circa. 1360 and 1790).

This room has all the style and elegance of the period of its recreation in the time of the General (23rd Chief), who had the ancient building reroofed (it had no roof when Dr Johnson had been here 20 years before), and the narrow slit windows opened out. In 1360 this had been the Great Hall of Dunvegan, living quarters for the Chief and his household, and the probable ambiance for the first performances of the MacCrimmons' great piobaireachd. There were no ceilings and correspondingly no rooms above it. The smoke from the two fire-places at either end of the Hall emerged through a hole in the roof, always the same height that the Keep retains today. The people who were not sleeping on the floor of the Great Hall, slept in the thickness of the walls (9' on the landward-side and 4'6" on the seaward side), reached by a stair-case diagonally opposite to the one which, still visible and usable, connected the Hall with the medieval kitchens beneath.

Dunvegan Castle

 The Drawing Room

On his return from service overseas, the General was determined to create for his pretty young wife, Sarah, and their children fresh from the soft life of colonial India, a place to live in cornfon in this cold, and possibly even frightening, highland fastness. The creation of an 18th Century Drawing-Room resonant with the ideas of the Age of Reason, within a medieval Keep resonant with the arts of war, was not achieved without tension, both personal with the architect, and structural in the actual building. Whether because of this tension or despite it, this room is unrivalled as a space in which to listen to Music, a fact recognised during the Silver Chanter Piping Recital in August, and the annual Chamber Music Festival during the last two weeks of July.

On the wall between the seaward-facing windows hangs the Fairy Flag, its frail fabric now protected by glass from those who in the past sought to acquire for themselves a little of its magic by cutting pieces from it. lt is an awesome thought that this time-worn relic may pre-date the Keep by as much as 1,000 years! The collected legends surrounding it may be found later in this Guide Book.

The portrait an the right-hand side of the fireplace is that of the present Chiers mother, the younger daughter of Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod. The Grand piano is a
Bosendorfer of 1910 brought to the Castle by the second wife of the 25th Chief. Her portrait, nursing a harp, hangs by the door leading to the Dungeon. The piano is a beautiful instrument and is particularly used at the Urne of the annual Chamber Music Festival.


Dunvegan Castle

 The Drawing Room - Diagram

1A. Major-General Norman MacLeod of MacLeod (23rd Chief, b.1754, s.1772, d.1801) Painted in India. JOHANN ZOFFANY, R.A.

Dunvegan Castle

 Major-General Norman MacLeod of MacLeod - 23rd Chief

1B. Sarah, his 2nd wife (m.1784 d.1822) daughter of Nathaniel Stackhouse with her eldest daughter. Pair: JOHANN ZOFFANY, R.A.

Dunvegan Castle

 Sarah, 2nd Wife of General Norman MacLead


Dunvegan Castle

 The Fairy Flag

3. Hanna, daughter of Baron von Ettinghausen, (Austria), Countess Latour. 2nd wife of Norman (25th Chief, m.1881). Initialled U.Y.H.

4. Mary and Elizabeth Roma MacLeod, daughters of John Norman (24th Chief).

5. Joan Walter, daughter of Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod; mother of John (29th and present Chief). She married (1927) Captain Robert Wolrige Gordon of Hallhead and Esslemont. GEORGE HARCOURT, R.A.

6. Thought to be Sarah (2nd wife of 23rd Chief); (once a full-length portrait in a long red gown, but cut down in 1865 by Mrs MacLeod) SIR JOHN WATSON GORDON, P.R.S.A.

7. Ottavio Piccolomini(1599-1656), General in the Austrian service in the 30 Years' War.

8. Equestrian portrait of Gustavus Adophus (1594-1632), King of Sweden.


situated within six feet of so civilised a room as the present Drawing Room, is the reality of a complete medieval guardhouse and pit dungeon in original condition. The juxtaposition of two such historical periods comes as such a'surprise, it is almost shocking. The pit is 13 feet deep, the last four feet being cut from the living rock: prisoners were lowered or thrown through the trap in the guardhouse floor and left to die. There was no other access. When it ceased to have relevance as a prison, the pit was half-filled with rubble and floored level with a small postern door in the jamb of the Keep. lt was cleared out again in the present century, although it has not yet again been used as a prison.ln the thickness of the wall between the Dungeon and the present Drawing Room is the staircase from which the food was carried up from the kitchens into the Great Hall of the Castle in medieval times. This was a refinement of torture for the prisoners, who presumably were not given any of the food, but who cenainly must have been able to smell it.

THE NORTH ROOM (1840-50)

has one of the best views from the Castle. At the end of the 18th century a building of several storeys was erected on this site, which was used by the General as the Barracks to house the men he raised to take first to America and then to India, as the 2nd Battalion of the Black Watch. This building can be seen in Daniell's sketch on page 13. The present building dates from the 1840-50 reconstruction as a Victorian Billiard Room the upper storeys being dismantled entirely.

Dunvegan Castle

 The Dunvegan Cup

In this room are currently housed some of the unique treasures of the family. Chief amongst them is the Dunvegan Cup given to Rory Mor by the O'Neills of Ulster in thanks for the services that he rendered during their wars with Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1595.The wooden vessel beneath the elaborate silver decoration is believed to be of alder or bog-oak and is probably dated around 900 A.D. The beautiful rim was added in 1595. Originally it was highly decorated with precious stones, and was almost certainly used as a sacred object.

Dunvegan Castle

 The North Room

Beside it sits the Horn of Rory Mor. lt is a reminder of the times when it was expected that a Chief was the chosen person to lead his people. Amongst Clans everywhere are traditions of tests or proofs of manhood to be undergone. In this case the MacLeod Chief had to be able to drink his enemies under the table on occasion, and therefore it was important to know that he was capable of doing so. This Horn holds one and three quarter bottles of claret, and the tradition was that the Chief when he came of age should drink it at one draft "without setting down or falling down". The present Chief, John MacLeod of MacLeod, believes that he was the first heir who ever actually did it. He achieved the feat in the fast time of 1 minute 57 seconds and is believed to have practised quite. considerably beforehand.

Dunvegan Castle

 The Dunvegan Charter

Of historical importance is the Charter granted to the 8th Chief by King James IV of Scotland, confirming the MacLeod Chief in the possession of his lands. It is of interest in that already seven generations of MacLeod Chiefs had held undisputed dominion over these lands. This charter therefore marks the beginning of the emergence of the Kingdom of Scotland as a political power in this region, in preference to the Lordship of the Isles, now losing its dominante.

Dunvegan Castle

 The Dunvegan Armorial

One of the Library's most remarkable books may be viewed here - the Dunvegan Armorial, compiled 1582-4 apparently from the Breton Armorial. lt was once the property of William Shaw, Master of Works to King James VI, and it is possible that this also was a gift to Rory Mor by that monarch. The other objects associated with this great Chief who died in 1626 are his Gourd and the Silver Six Shilling Piece, given to the 29th Chief on his 21st birthday.


The bagpipes are associated with the MacCrimmons, hereditary pipers to MacLeod for thirteen generations. On a clear day as you stand at the window looking across the loch you can see Borreraig, the area where the Chief gave them a farm and upon which they erected the celebrated Piping College. The finest pipers in Scotland would come to receive tuition from the famous MacCrimmons there. Dunvegan remains a place of great renown in the world of piping. Each year there is a piping recital, in honour of the ancient tradition of the Chanter upon which the Fairy Lady assured the first MacCrimmon that he would play the finest music in the world.

Dunvegan Castle

 The MacCrimmon Pipes

Notice the Casket given to the General (23rd Chief) by the Queen of Cannanore, in Southern India, who is believed to have fallen in love with him to such an extent that she wished to become his wife. When he told her that that would not be possible because he was already married, she is reputed to have replied that that would not matter to her one bit. The Highland accoutrements are those which you will have seen in the ponrait of the 24th Chief in the Front Hall, and which he wore at the behest of Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh for the visit to the Scottish Capital by George IV in 1822, the start of the romantic revival and public interest in the Highlands.

Dunvegan Castle

 The Casket from India - a gilt from the Bibi of Cannanore to General MacLeod


Although the Chief at the time of the '45 did not support Bonnie Prince Charlie, many of his Clan did do so. Visible from this room on the other side of the Loch is Galtrigal, the home of the Prince's pilot,
Donald MacLeod of Galtrigal, the man who brought the Prince "Over the sea to Skye" from Uist during the time when the Prince was a fugitive. At the Urne the Chief was one of the people searching to apprehend the Prince. Flora MacDonald, the Jacobite heroine, was in the boat with the Prince, and equally being hunted by the MacLeod Chief. By one of those quirks of face, some twenty or thirty years later, her daughter had married the Tutor to the young Chief of MacLeod, and was living in the Castle. The mother, on one of her return visits from America where she had emigrated, is believed to have stayed for two or three years in the Castle and left her personal Jacobite relics to her daughter. Thus you will see her Stays, her Pin-Cushion with the names of those who suffered in the '45, a Lock of the Prince's Hair, a list of her children, and a small portrait of herself copied by the wife of the 24th Chief. You will also see the Spectacles of Donald MacLeod of Galtrigal, the Prince's boatman, and the Amen Glass which was given to Donald MacLeod by the Prince, inscribed with the words "To my faithful Palinurus" alluding to the boatman who conducts people across the Styx. The object with a fanciful engraving of the Prince is the tooth of a sperm whale.

Also in the room is a head and shoulders bust of the sister of the 25th Chief, Emily Sarah MacLeod of MacLeod. When he was obliged to leave die Castle, she retired to live in a small cottage in the village of Dunvegan, and spent the rest of her life doing everything she could to alleviate the distress, the difficulties and the poverty of those who had suffered so grievously from the Potato Famine and it's aftermath.

At her feet lies an Elephant Tusk, given to the Castle by the famous hunter of the 19th century,
Arthur Henry Neumann 1870-1922, who wrote his definitive book on elephant hunting at Dunvegan Castle. lt was lent to him for that purpose by his friend, Norman Magnus (26th Chief). They had known each other well in Southern Africa where in his early life Norman Magnus had led a fascinating career. During the Zulu War in South Africa Norman Magnus MacLeod held the Position of civil and political assistant to the officer commanding the Utecht district and Swazi border.

Little is known of the much loved portrait of a Lion, signed and dated 1892 Budapest by
Vastagh Gaza. lt came to Dunvegan through Norman Magnus. His brother, Sir Reginald MacLeod (27th Chief), invariably referred to this picture as representing the "handsomest Chief of them all".

Dunvegan Castle

 The Jacobite Relics


John, son of Norman (22nd Chief, 1725-6, d. 1767 before his Tather). He married Emilia Brodie in 1751. ALLAN RAMSAY.

Dunvegan Castle

 John, son of Norman - 22nd Chief

Study of the head of a lion, obtained by 26th Chief, signed and dated 1892 (Budapest). VASTAGH GEZA.

John MacLeod, 13th Laird of Raasay, dressed for the Edinburgh Visit and Levee of George IV, 1822. He was forced by debts to seil Raasay in 1846 and emigrated to Australia (d. 1860).

Norman (23rd Chief) in Highland Dress. Painted posthumously for his daughter, Mrs Percival, by WILLIAM DOUGLAS (after the Zoffany ponrait, but with some rather incongruous additions).

Norman (23rd Chief) as a young man, in military dress, set in an Indian background. ARTHUR W. DEVIS.

Duncan Forbes of Culloden(1685-1747), Lord President of the Court of Session, friend and adviser of Norman (22nd Chief). JOHN MEDINA (the Younger) after Jeremiah Davison.

Sculpture. Emily Sarah, sister of 25th Chief; (b 1810, d. unm. 1896). She spent all her life at Dunvegan and was the last Gaelic-speaking member of the Chief's family. Sculpted by her niete, MARIAN FERGUSON.


Going down the stairs opposite the Dungeon you will arrive in the Lower Corridor. On the left hand side is the ancient wall of the Keep. Entering the first doorway you will find yourself at one end of the medieval kitchen of the Castle. In the corner to your left the doorway leads to the staircase within the wall, where the food was carried up to the Great Hall above, while the smell of it tantalised the prisoners in the Dungeon. In this room are lodged various curiosities, a fine example of a Pictish Symbol Stone, various quems, a Sundial which is believed to be a representation of Rory Mor's wife although some have it that it was the pillar of a fireplace to which the companion has been lost. In a cabinet you will see the Great Sword of Dunvegan. This belonged to
William Long Sword(7th Chief), who was killed in 1480. When Dr Johnson was here there were another three feet belonging to the blade.


St Kilda group of islands, 40 miles into the open Atlantic beyond the Outer lsles, was for centuries part of the MacLeod Lands. They were only sold in the 1930s after the islanders had been evacuated. The relics preserved at Dunvegan illustrate the extraordinary way of life of its people. You will notice the horsehair rope. No man was allowed to marry until he had woven one of these, so that he could maintain his wife by being able to hunt for the sea-birds living on the great cliffs. This rope had to be able to bear his weight in case he fell from the cliffs during the hunt. The door lock with its removable wooden key and the post-bag are recognisable functions of everyday life today, even if their application by the islanders was somewhat unusual. Mail was thrown into the sea to be washed up eventually either on the shores of Norway or of Scotland, depending upon the currents at the time.

Dunvegan Castle

 The St. Kilda Parliament 1886

Dunvegan Castle

 The School Children, St. Kilda 1886


gives you the opportunity to "feel" the Castle as it really was - a Fortress to keep you out. Nobody could enter the Castle unless they came as friendly visitors. The cunain wall around the Rock was here when Leod arrived some time during the 13th Century. The Freshwater Well added immeasurably to the strength of the Castle. The Sea-Gate led to a complicated system of narrow passages and corridors, where only one person could come at a time, who could easily be destroyed by the guards on the walls above. Today in one corner of the Gun Court is a diagram which gives a description of the building periods of the Castle. The Victorians created the idea of the structure as one mass, but this Castle was an organic structure based upon its security on the Rock. Buildings came up and went down as they were required.

What you see now is what was created in 1840. Your imagination is required to see it as it was, and to feel how people lived here during the last 800 years - indeed before the Urne of our progenitor, Leod 1200-1283 - before the beginnings of recorded Urne as far as this part of the world was concerned. Dunvegan Castle is a silent, but living, witness to the historical changes from the Past to the Present and hopefully to the Future.


Throughout history the MacLeod Chiefs have wanted to improve the quality of life on their
ancestral Rock. The 22nd Chief is on record as having invited his guests to admire his first
plantation of sycamore trees, but it was not until comparatively lately that serious efforts have
been made to create a garden.

lnitially the direction was towards the production of vegetables. The square walled garden so typical of Scottish houses, was created in the first part of the 19th century for that purpose by John Norman, the 24th Chief. lt is believed that his son, Norman the 25th Chief, created the Round Garden, a first attempt to make something different. With its sixteen beds, undulating paths and the arrangement of the gates, it's glance towards the French formal tradition in gardens ensure that something original was achieved. However after the vicissitudes of the
Potato Famine, serious gardening was not an option, and in broad terms the grounds of the Castle became a sort of romantic wilderness.

The difficulties of creating a Garden in such an environment should not be underestimated, as indeed the conversation in 1873 printed on the preceding page, makes perfectly clear that Gardens in Skye and the Highlands of Scotland generally which have succeeded, are a living testament to the vision and the continued and constant effort of their creators. The climactic conditions alone just as much as the lack or quality of the soil, presents serious obstacles to a successful outcome.

When therefore the 29th Chief in 1974 decided that he would attempt a restoration, the initial reaction from his neighbours, kindly meant, was "what on earth are you doing destroying that beautiful wilderness!". In this instance his perseverance continued sufficiently to allow the creation of the Water Garden by David MacLean, later the Head Gardener for the National Trust for Scotland.

Since 1986 the Gardens have been under the direction of Thomas Shephard. He has succeeded in a bravura display of plantsmanship to render the gardens at Dunvegan one of the most interesting horticultural experiences in Scotland, and the accompanying Guide Book to the "Gardens of Dunvegan Castle" describes his approach to the challenge of creating a Garden in the Isle of Skye.

Dunvegan Castle

 The personal "ARMS" of MacLeaod

Dunvegan Castle

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282 Miles