Thursday, 18 June 2009
Everybody likes a good castle, right? So here's one of Scotland's finest, Eilean Donan.
The castle is named after the 6th century Irish saint, Bishop Donan who came to Scotland with his Irish brood in 580 AD. The first fortified structure was built in the early 13th century to protect the lands of Kintail against the raping and pillaging Vikings ( note how I got the rape and pillage in early).
Over the centuries, the castle has expanded and contracted in size to suit its various needs. It was at its largest in medieval times with towers and a curtain wall which encompassed the entire island. During the 17th and 18th centuries it played a role in the Jacobite risings which ultimately ended in the castles destruction. It was garrisoned by 46 Spanish soldiers in 1719 (Spain supported the cause of the Jacobites) and it was during this period that it was attacked by three heavily armed English (wouldn't you know it) frigates.
Unable to break down the castles defences by bombardment ( the walls of the castle were 14 feet thick, not sure what that is in ells)the English landed and overwhelmed the Spanish troops. Upon the discovery of 343 barrels of gunpowder in the castle, they used it to blow the place up. The English had no respect for a nice castle.
The ruins lay for nearly 200 years until It was rescued by Lt. Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap (no relation to Jim Gilstrap of Swing Your Daddy fame). He dedicated 20 years of his life to restoring the castle to its former glory.
I tried and tried to find a suitably gory story about Eilean Donan, but in vain. I toyed with the idea of making something really horrible up, but had to think of my street cred as a serious historian.....
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