Caisteal Uisdean

Caisteal Uisdean, Isle of Skye

~ History ~

1455 - Uisdean (Hugh) MacDonald leads his clansmen on a piracy expedition to the Norwegian held Orkney Islands. After ravaging Orkney, killing the Earl of Orkney and committing acts of rape and murder, the raiding party laden with their spoils sail to Caithness which is the home of Clan Gunn.

They are entertained for months by the chief, helping themselves to free food, lodgings and any women that take their fancy. An illegitimate child by the chief's daughter Elizabeth is born to Hugh, who he later leaves to return home to his wife Fynvola MacIan.

On his return voyage his men land in Harris, which results in another illegitimate son, Donald Harris, who he too leaves, to be raised by the McLead's.

1460 - Hugh and his clansmen are victorious across a number of campaigns from Orkney to Skye, including the surrender of the Earl of Ross and taking lands and titles of the next thirty years to establish Clan MacDonald of Sleat as one of the largest and most powerful branches of the Clan Donald. He is granted Dunscaith Castle by his father John and before his death builds Castle Uisdean.

1498 - Hugh dies and is succeeded by his eldest son Eoin.

Gilleasbaig Dubh, better known as Black Archie, is by far the worst of the sons. He conspires with two of his half-brothers, Angus Dubh and Angus Collach, to murder his two Donald half-brothers so that he could inherit the lands of their father Hugh MacDonald (Uisdean)

“Black Archie”, with his two bastard brothers, Angus Collach and Angus Dubh sail to the Isle of Skye where, hear that their half-brother Donald Gallach is building two galleys.

They arrive in the night allay any suspicions through chit-chat.  Archibald leans over under one of the galleys and points out a pretend fault in the galley being built.  Donald Gallach, stoops over to see the pfault being pointed out to him is then stabbed repeatedly by Archibald.  Ordering his brothers to lie on that they might be equally guilty,  they obey without question.

Black Archibald had by this time already murdered his other half-brother Donald Harris.

Shortly after the murders of his two half-brothers Donald Gallach and Donald Harris, Black Archibald is forced to flee Uist.  He embarks upon a career in piracy in the southern Hebrides for about three years.

Clann Ùisdein is left in chaos.  During this period in its history, the clan’s story is one of violence and lawlessness.

One of the murderous brothers, Angus Collach, travelling to North Uist with his men, stays at the home of one of his relatives, Donald of Balranald.  He is not home and so Angus tries to rape his wife.  She escapes and alerts her family.  A body of about 60 men march north and surprise Angus.  About 18 of Angus’ men are slain and he is taken prisoner.  He is tied up into a sack and thrown into the sea.

The other murderous Angus, Angus Dubh, is also made prisoner by the same group of men and held captive.  One day he is permitted to run, to see if he could run as well as before his imprisonment.  Angus attempts to flee his captors and he is shot in the leg by an arrow.  The wound is considered incurable and so Angus is put to death.

Upon hearing the death of his two bastard brothers, Black Archie vows revenge.  Soon after his return, he takes his revenge on the slayers of his two brothers and puts many of them to death. 

1515 - The sons of the murdered Donalds sail to North Uist to visit their uncle Black Archibald.  One day, the two half-brothers, Black Archie, and his henchmen, go hunting south of Lochmaddy.  Whilst his henchmen are out of site and the three of them await for the game to appear, in time, Black Archie falls asleep and the two Donald son's kill their uncle to revenge their murdered father's.

Donald, aka “Donald the Grim” after avenging his father’s murder, becomes the next Chief of Sleat. 

Donald "the Grim" son, Donald Gorm (meaning Donald Blue, probably because he had blue eyes) succeedes his father as chief. 

1539- Donald Gorm takes an arrow to the calf of his leg in a battle to defend Eilean Donan Castle.  He pulls the arrow out, expanding his wound which leads to his death. His son and heir Donald Gormeson, is still a minor at the time of his father's death, and so is placed in the care of his grand uncle Seumas, at Knock Castle on Skye.

1580 - The clan estates are behind in their payments to the Bishopric of the Isles and the Iona Abbey — so much so that an Act of Council is passed ordering a summons and the following year Seumas of Knock Castle and his kin are declared rebels, and their lands forfeited for their failure to pay their dues.

Donald's son and heir Donald Gorm Mor is born.

1585 - Donald Gormeson and his retinue sail to visit Macdonald of Dunivaig & the Glens of Antrim, but are forced to take shelter in Jura, which was then divided between Maclean of Duart and the chief of Clann Iain Mhòir. Unluckily for the Donald and the Macdonalds of Sleat, they land on Maclean of Duart's portion of the island. That night they are attacked by a large body of Macleans and 60 of them are slain with Donald only escaping because he had fallen asleep upon his galley. This conflict was only the beginning of a bloody feud between the Macdonalds of Sleat and the Macleans of Duart.

James VI writes to Ruairidh Mòr Macleod of Harris & Dunvegan, requesting him to assist Maclean of Duart against the Donald and the Macdonald's of Sleat, who had done Maclean of Duart much injury and were threatening even more.

Donald Gormeson dies.

1589 - The feud has come to an end.

1590 - Donald Gorm Mor, aged just 10, and his brothers and his granduncle Seumas of Knock castle, receive a remission for all crimes committed against the Macleans of Duart. Donald, Sir Lachlann Mòr Maclean of Duart, and Angus Macdonald of Dunivaig and the Glens of Antrim, Are all induced to go to Edinburgh to consult the king. Upon their arrival they are apprehended and imprisoned, and the king and council imposed heavy fines as a condition of their release. Donald is to promise to give up £4,000 and to pledge his obedience to the Scottish Crown.

1594 - Donald and Ruairidh Mòr Macleod of Harris & Dunvegan each sail for Ulster at the head of combined MacDonald and MacLeod force of 1,000 men strong . Their force is intended to support Aodh Rua Ó Domhnaill who is besieging Enniskillen Castle against the English.

1595 - Another joint expedition is made to support the Irish rebels against the forces of Elizabeth I. Donald raises a fighting force of 4,000 men and sails to Ulster in a fleet of 50 galleys and 70 supply ships. The fleet is however blown off cource and is attacked by 3 English frigates. 13 Macdonald galleys are sunk and another 12 or 13  destroyed or captured.

Not long after returning from Ireland, a feud e arises between Donald  and his ally the chief of Clan Macleod, Ruairidh Mòr.

Donald has married the sister of the Macleod chief, and after some time sent her back to Macleod after she is accidently blinded in an one eye, returned mounted upon one-eyed horse, followed by a one-eyed dog, and accompanied by a one-eyed man. The Macleod chief is outraged and immediately sends clansmen to ravage Donald's territories on Skye. Donald's men then retaliates by attacking Macleod possessions in Harris. The Macleods are outmanoeuvred and slain.

1601 - Castle Eisdean is remodelled by Hugh, nephew of Donald.

Donald, upon seeing his uncle having no heir and so all lands and power would be left to his elder brother, he decides to usurp it.

He secretly contrives to gain over to his cause, as many of the clan as

possible, at the same time pretending to his uncle to be on

the best possible terms with him. Donald has no suspicion of his nephew's plot as he gives permission for the building of Castle Uisdean. 

1603 - Hugh plots his uncles murder.

Soon after Donald's return to his castle of Duntulm, he receives in error a letter from his treacherous nephew, meant for the assasin.

The letter he intended for his uncle, full of

friendly expressions, sent in error to the assasin. Whilst both letters were closed and sealed in his own handwriting, Hugh made the error sending the wrong letters to each. Before Hugh is aware of what he has, Donald despatches a messenger to his kinsman to seize

Hugh, and bring him prisoner to Duntulm Castle.

Without loss of time Donald's kinsman put his liege lord's instructions

into execution. He arrives at Uisdean Castle with a strong retinue of men. Hugh can see that all is not right, and seeing the

impossibility of effecting his escape, has barely time to

dress himself in female attire to avoid capture. His size and masculine appearance in women's clothing soon attract the notice. After a lengthy struggle, and unable any longer to defend himself against the men who surrounded him, he is seized, fastly bound, and carried prisoner.

He was cast and chained into the dungeon of the Duntulm Castle.

He is fed on salted beef, and upon finishing his meal he stretches his hand to grasp a covered pitcher  placed near him, which he assumed  contain water, he found it empty! The coming days see him writhing

in agony with thirst until death put an end to his sufferings.

1610 - Donald Gorm Mor is defeated whilst trying to recapture his lands in Mull from the MacLeans. He is taken captive by the MacLeans after a second attempt but the Crown orders his release and imprison him in Edinburgh, released upon heavy payment to the Crown and promise to keep the peace with the McLeod's.

1616 - Donald Keeps the peace for 6 years but is finally slain whilst trying once again to invade and capture the MacLean lands in Mull.

His nephew Donald succeeds him.






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Caisteal Uisdean, or sometimes known as Hugh's Castle, lays off the road down a narrow track sign-posted Cuidrach. You can park your car at the point in the track where vehicle access is no longer allowed and so continue on foot for a mile or so.

This late 16th castle is situated on the edge of a cliff with stunning views across Loch Snizort and the backdrop of the Cuillin hills.

Whilst the castle itself is now a mere grey stub of the small tower house which was accessed at first floor, now long gone, the views are simply stunning.