An overview……   3 comments

We welcome over 320,000 visitors a year to Eilean Donan, making us one of the busiest visitor attractions in the Scottish Highlands. In 2009, these visitors originated from 114 different countries which often presents us with more than a few communication challenges! (We Scots aren’t renowned for our language skills but over the years we’ve managed to hone a variety of different ways to help people get by, although food translations aren’t always easy! Try explaining what Venison is to someone from Outer Mongolia!?)

These 320,000 people are looked after by just 50 staff at the height of the season, in August, encompassing Ticket Office, Castle Guides, Coffee Shop and Gift Shop. Our youngest member of staff is just 16, and our oldest 81!  Thousands of people comment on how warm a welcome they receive when they visit, and I guess that’s down to the fact that the team is more like a large extended family; in fact we’re often referred to as  “The Castle Family”.  Over the next few months, I’ll try and give you a flavour of some of the differing personalities within this family!

We’re all employed by “The Conchra Charitable Trust” ; a non-profit-making organisation which was established back in the 1980’s by the MacRae family, the owners of Eilean Donan. This is the same family that were responsible for the reconstruction of the castle back in the 1920’s after the castle had been left in ruins after it’s destruction in 1719. The primary role of the Trust is to conserve, preserve and restore the castle for the nation and for future generations of visitors. The Trustees also feel very strongly about ensuring affordable access for all, and it is this policy that keeps our admission prices as some of the lowest in the country when viewed against other comparable establishments.

The head of the family, as well as Clan MacRae, is Mrs Marigold MacRae and although she doesn’t live permanently in Eilean Donan, she is frequently to be found chatting to visitors milling around the castle. For those of you that know the area well, a wee note of interest is that Mrs MacRae’s 5 daughters were fondly referred to locally as  “The Five Sisters of Kintail” as children.

The name Eilean Donan itself has two disputed meanings. The word “Eilean” is Gaelic for “Island” which is accepted. The word Donan is thought to originate from the fact that Bishop Donan was the first person to settle on the island when he set up a monastic cell back in 620AD. However “Donan” is also Gaelic for “small brown dog” or otter, and the island and surrounding coastline has a very healthy population of otters. So, Eilean Donan “Island of Donan” or “Island of Otters” ? You decide which one you like best, but sit on a quiet rock early in the morning or early evening and there’s a good chance you’ll spot one of them…….


Posted June 24, 2010 by eileandonan in Miscellaneous

3 responses to “An overview……

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  1. Love this shot of the otter! You are doing a brilliant job!

    Leanne Robinson
  2. Please tell me: what months are the midges at their worst?

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