Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye

~ History ~

1260's ~ Leod, descendant of the Norse Kings of the Isle of Man, who in turn is descended from the Norse King Harold Hardrada,  gains possession of much of Skye, including the Cuillins, Harris and Lewis. Dunvegan is acquired by marriage to the MacRailt heiress and becomes the principle seat of the Clan where the Castle is built.

Leod has two sons, Tormod McLeod who inherits Dunvegan and Harris, and Torquil McLeod who inherits Lewes.

1263 ~ The Battle of Largs between Norse and Scots results in an unexpected defeat for the powerful Norse King Haakan and victory for the young King Alexander III. The established Scottish clans fill the power vacume created within the lands previously held or controlled by Norse lords.

1300's ~ The MacLeods of Harris acquired Glenelg on the mainland at the strategic crossing point to Skye. Malcolm MacLeod, 3rdChief of Harris, builds the keep at Dunvegan.

The MacLeods of the Lewes acquire Gairloch and Assynt on the mainland and the Isle of Raasay.

Both MacLeod Clans support the MacDonald Lord of the Isle despite lands being lost to the MacDonalds.

1493 ~ Following King James ofScotland forfeiting the Lordship of the Isle, to bring the semi-independant clas to heel, the MacLeods and MacDonalds begin feuding.

1570's ~ Sir Rory Mor MacLeod, 15th Chief of Dunvegan, fights in Ireland against the English. He rebuilds a great hall at Dunvegan.

Sir Rory brings to an end the feud with the MacDonalds of Sleat.

At the same time, family feuding between the MacLeods of Lewis with the  MacKenzies of Kintail, who, with their usual guile and force, also acquired Assynt and Gairloch on the mainland. The line of the Chiefs of the MacLeods of the Lewes did out and remained represented only by the MacLeods of Raasay, opposite Skye.

1651 ~ In the Civil War, the MacLeods of Harris support King Charles and lose 1,000 men at the battle of Worcester.

1745 ~ During the Jacobite Rising, though Bonnie Prince Charlie had some hopes that the MacLeods would join him, the chief instead raises 700 men to fight for King George and the Hanovarian cause.

At the skirmish at Inverurie, though the chief behaved gallantly, his men ran back to Elgin. The Chief's piper, Malcolm MacCrimmon is made prisoner.

1746 ~  Norman MacLeod, accompanying Lord Loudoun and his troops, are routed at Moy, south of Inverness, where the Prince had been staying. Donald MacCrimmon, the Harris piper, is killed.

The MacLeods of Raasay, however, joined Bonnie Prince Charlie and fight at the battle of Culloden. After the battle, Raasay House is burned and the island ravaged from end to end.

1772 ~ Norman MacLeod of MacLeod, 22nd Chief, dies at St Andrews, leaving huge debts. He is succeeded by his grandson, Norman MacLeod of MacLeod, 23rd Chief.

1776 ~ Norman MacLeod who had by this time became a soldier within the Black Watch, he is captured entering Boston Harbour. He is later posted to India where he becames a major general. He amasses a fortune but spend much of it attempting to get elected to Parliament and in restoring the keep at Dunvegan Castle.




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Dunvegan Castle is one of the longest lived in castle anywhere in Scotland and is steeped in history of the Isles.

Set within beautiful scenary it is easy to see why this site was chosen to build such an important stronghold.

We were somewhat disappointed visiting this castle that has been understandly commercialised with focus on the house, rather than the ancient castle upon which it has been built, that can just about be seen where the castle meets the loch.