Archive for August 2010

Great Castles of Scotland   3 comments

Scotland is steeped in culture, history and heritage, a real appeal for visitors and tourists to our country. Castles are a hugely important part of this heritage and people flock to their ramparts every year.

The only problem is, that we have over 2000 castles spread over the land,  and the difficult choice for many visitors is deciding which ones to visit. Even as a lover of these wonderful great edifices myself; when I’m touring different parts of Scotland there are only so many I can visit before I reach saturation point.

One of the most frequently asked questions we get at the Visitor Centre is about what other Castles or Monuments people should go and visit. It’s an almost impossible question to answer given the scale of choice. Many foreign visitors may have a maximum of two weeks to explore as much of Scotland as they can manage, and the usual circuit that people follow is no great secret. So what should they visit?
Well I recently stumbled across a really useful video called “Scotland-The Great Castles” which in my opinion gives a good starting point if any of you are coming to Scotland and having difficulty deciding what to visit.  It covers:-

  • Eilean Donan Castle
  • Stirling Castle
  • Urquhart Castle
  • Dunotter Castle
  • Balmoral Castle
  • Blair Castle
  • Glamis Castle
  • Edinburgh Castle

Now I do also believe that there are other Historic Monuments and sites that are worthy of inclusion in this list, but I didn’t make the video, and we’re all entitled to our opinion, but what others would you add yourselves?

Anyway, enjoy the video by clicking here

Posted August 28, 2010 by eileandonan in Historical

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Why the Highlands?   1 comment

On a morning like this, when the sun is splitting the sky, the Scottish Highlands really do present themselves in their full majestic glory. The purple heather is glowing in full bloom on the hills, the sea is glistening and the quality of light just brings the entire place to life. Millions of tourists and visitors are currently enjoying the opportunity to see our country at its’ absolute best and it struck me that there are still just as many people in the UK who have absolutely no idea of some of the riches that are right here on their own doorstep.

Personally speaking, I don’t actually like the word “Staycations” ; the newly-created current buzz-word that is being used by all corners of the media for people who have elected to holiday at home during these times of economic difficulties, rather than go abroad. The word itself does cover the topic neatly but I’ve just never like it.

There is no doubt whatsoever that here at Eilean Donan we have witnessed hugely increased numbers of visitors from the UK over the last two years and it has truly astonished me the reaction of people who have visited the Highlands for the very first time and have clearly been just blown away by it all. It’s quite clear that many of those people know more about the Meditteranean Region than they do about their own country!

So why the Highlands? What makes it so special for those of us that do know it? Is there one thing that encapsulates it or is it a combination of lots of different factors? We all have different views on why it pulls on the heart-strings and I’d be interested to hear your own personal views.

Three years ago we celebrated “Highland 2007” the year of Highland Culture, and I’ve always thought that the wonderful promotional video that accompanied the event captured at least some of the essence of life in the highlands. I stumbled across it recently, and thought that there might be a few of you out there who hadn’t seen it, so here it is.

Posted August 26, 2010 by eileandonan in Miscellaneous

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The Best Laid Plans……..   4 comments

On a fairly regular basis I am asked about the building plans of the castle during the reconstruction period between 1912 and 1932. Last week I received an e-mail from Iain Anderson from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) asking for the same thing.

Unfortunately we can find little or no trace of the original building plans that Lt. Col John MacRae-Gilstrap and his Clerk of Works Farquhar MacRae used during the re-building process. I have a strong suspicion that no-one has ever made a conserted effort to track them down, so this winter I’m going to do my Sherlock Holmes impersonation and try and locate them. There are some clues I can follow up, and it would be amazing to finally locate them!

About 4 years ago however I did have a bit of luck when I uncovered, by sheer accident, 6 beautiful watercolours of plans that had been used in the design discussions. They had been rolled up,  forgotten about and had lain gathering dust for nearly 90 years since their conception back in 1918. Considering their neglect they were all in remarkably good condition, and as such I had some conservation work done on them and had them framed. They are now displayed in the Billeting Room of the castle and are currently the only record of plans that have been found to date.

Given how frequently we are asked for copies of them, I took some photographs this morning, in situ, so I could share them with yourselves and RCAHMS.  The photography is a little crude, but at this juncture I’m very reluctant to use any flash in the process, and the lighting conditions in the Billeting Room are not great. I’ll re-do the photography come the winter when I start my search in earnest, but for the time-being they’ll give you a little taster.

Basement Level

The Ground Floor

The First Floor

The two bedroom levels

South-east and South-west elevations

North-west & North-east elevations

Posted August 25, 2010 by eileandonan in Historical

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New style….   5 comments

Hi folks, just a quick request for some input. I’ve just changed the style of the blog in an effort to hopefully make it a little easier to navigate around. I’m not sure if I like the new format but I do think it’s more user-friendly. Any feedback gratefully received. Should I keep it or change it back?

Thanks for any comments.

Posted August 19, 2010 by eileandonan in Miscellaneous

A 3 week study……   4 comments

For the last three weeks internationally acclaimed artists Evgeny & Lydia Baranov have based themselves in Dornie with the sole purpose of capturing the castle from a variety of different angles. Last night I had the opportunity to have a world-exclusive preview of the 19 different canvasses they have somehow managed to create in remarkably short time.

Husband & wife team Evgeny & Lydia were previously completely unaware of Eilean Donan until by pure chance, they spotted it in the movie “Elizabeth – The Golden Age”. Evgeny suggested that perhaps they should paint it at some point, so when Lydia started considering a holiday location to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, Eilean Donan was top of their list. (It also satisfied Lydia’s main proviso that wherever they went it shouldn’t be too hot! Big tick there then!)

The artists have a somewhat unique approach to their work in so much that they both work on each canvas at exactly the same time, working in close tandem with each other. I asked them about the potential for creative conflict, and although they acknowledged that on occaission, they do disagree, (much like every married couple), 20 years of practise has helped them to manage any differences of opinion.

Their work has quite a following with collectors including our Royal Family, the Russian Patriarchy and Clint Eastwood who owns some 22 pieces. This is the first time that they have attempted to paint so many pieces of one subject, and it is abundantly clear that Eilean Donan has left its mark on them. Lydia especially is  not looking forward to leaving, and it is their full intention to return at some point in the winter months to try and capture the essence of the different seasons. Their first love, is to paint portraits, and have therefore requested whether the could paint Mrs MacRae who they met last week.

I took some photos of some of the canvasses last night so I could share them with you today. Please note that due to the vagries of internal lighting and some dodgey photography skills, they are not an absolute true reflection of the quality of the work or true colours, but should hopefully be good enough to give at least some impression of these wonderful artists. We look forward to welcoming them back.

For more information on the artists and their work please click here to go to their website.

Posted August 17, 2010 by eileandonan in Miscellaneous

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The Lady of the House……   2 comments

A few weeks ago, I told you a little about one of the most important women of Eilean Donan’s history, Isabella. I thought it was also important to bring you right up to date, with a short profile of the much-loved current Lady of the house,  Mrs Marigold MacRae.

As head of the Clan MacRae in Scotland, Marigold is well known to many of you, and has travelled extensively through the USA, Canada, Australia & New Zealand to meet distant MacRae bretheren. As matriach of the Clan, as well as her family, her boundless energy is well-reknowned and during the last 25 years or so she has overseen one of the most important and active periods of change at Eilean Donan.

For most of us, the concept of sharing the family home with millions of people would be a difficult one to grasp, however Marigold loves the fact that so many people come to Eilean Donan. She is often to be found in the castle chatting away to visitors, indeed last week on the busiest day in our entire history, Marigold was happily in the midst of it all, welcoming visitors to the Banqueting Hall.  She passionately believes in ensuring affordable access to the castle for all, which is why admission prices to Eilean Donan have always been and will continue to be, some of the cheapest in the whole country, and why you won’t find locked gates accessing the island after opening hours.

Similar to Isabella, she has always been actively involved in Charity work and has spent many years doing voluntary work at local hospitals.

With five daughters, 20 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren, her family life is a full one, but she makes time for all.

In short, this remarkable woman has continued the legacy that Isabella started and I hope that you all get the chance to meet her some day.

Mrs Marigold MacRae

Posted August 16, 2010 by eileandonan in Miscellaneous

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The Sky’s the limit…..   3 comments

Have you ever looked at a painting and thought that the artist has taken just a little too much artistic license or been a bit heavy with the colours. Frequently, I see skies that look so dramatic in these paintings that you think,  “that’s just too over the top! No natural sky ever looks like that.”

Well, last night Mother Nature taught me a very salutory lesson, not to take her for granted, and that just sometimes, these over exhuberant artists actually DO get it right.

The sky was in absolute chaos as the sun went down over the castle last night, especially looking down Loch Alsh towards the Cuillins. The variety of different clouds was quite amazing and we were treated to a half hour light show that just took the breath away.

Here’s a little taste of Mother Natures power to astound……….

Posted August 10, 2010 by eileandonan in Miscellaneous

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