So near, Yett….   1 comment

There are certain items within the castle that most visitors barely give a second glance to. One of those items, and certainly one of the oldest in the entire castle, is the castle “Yett” which now hangs in the Banqueting Hall.

A yett is a gate or grille of latticed iron bars used for defensive purposes in castles and tower houses, and are predominantly found only in Scotland. Earliest references to yetts date from around the 14th century and a royal warrant was required before one could be installed in any abode.  They were used as a cheaper alternative to the portcullis since it was simpler in concept, less cumbersome and more practical. They had the obvious advantage of being fireproof and were almost impossible to dismantle due to their “through and through” construction, and presented a formidable barrier to unwelcome guests, whilst still retaining the facility to fire arrows or muskets through the gaps at any invading party.

The sole entrance to the medieval castle of Eilean Donan was through a gap in the Great Well bastion, where the Yett would have originally hung. When James I came to the throne in 1603 one of  his first acts was to order the removal and destruction of all yetts across the land, symbolically beating them into ploughshares. Not being the easiest of things to dispose of, our yett was thrown into the well where it lay undisturbed until its discovery in 1893 when the well was dredged by Sir Kenneth Matheson. He later presented it to Lt Col John MacRae-Gilstrap who had it hung in the external entrance to the new Banqueting Hall.

Today there are only a few remaining examples of yetts across the country, and it always amuses me that so many people pass ours without so much as a 2nd glance. This wonderful piece of history is over 600 years old, and is a testament to the craftsmen and blacksmiths of the time.

Next time you visit, just have a wee look.


Posted September 9, 2010 by eileandonan in Historical

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One response to “So near, Yett….

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  1. yeah i remember the first time my gran showed me it along with t he story of it being thrown down the well! and yep I forget its there and seem to remember once i have left! lol

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