Visiting Eilean Donan Castle: What You Need to Know

Eilean Donan Castle is possibly Scotland‘s most famous castle. You have seen many photos of it before, standing proudly against a stunning backdrop.

In summer, the castle is fringed with lush greenery, whereas in winter it sits among snow-carpeted mountains. Both sights are equally magical – more so in real life than in photos.  

Visiting Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Perched on an island where three great lochs meet, Eilean Donan Castle has served as a watchtower and army barracks throughout Scotland’s turbulent past. It is now a popular wedding venue and one of the most photographed castles in Britain.  

If you’re visiting Eilean Donan Castle, here are some things you need to know.    

Visiting Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Getting to Eilean Donan Castle 

If you’re planning to visit Eilean Donan Castle, you need to spend at least two days in the Scottish Highlands. I don’t really recommend visiting the castle on a day trip from Edinburgh or Glasgow. The journey is long (about 7 hours by train and 5 hours by car) so in truth, it’s not really worth travelling that far north just to see the castle.

If you want to do a bit of exploring in the Highlands, particularly on the Isle of Skye, you should definitely rent a car. Some of the most beautiful and remote areas cannot be accessed by bus.  

There are buses that stop at the castle, although they’re not very frequent. You can get a bus to the castle from certain towns or villages in the vicinity, such as Kyle of Lochalsh, but make sure to check the bus times to avoid getting stranded.      

Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Exploring the castle

Eilean Donan Castle was opened to the public by John Macrae in 1955, and it remains owned by the Macrae family, who also formed the Conchra Trust to care for the castle. The rooms within the castle are packed with information on the history of the site, including an extensive collection of items that once belonged to the different occupants of the castle.  

Take your time exploring the castle and its grounds. You’ll need at least an hour if the place is crowded, so it’s best to make sure you get there early if you’re travelling by bus.  

There are other things you can do once you’ve finished touring the castle. If you’re feeling peckish, the coffee shop in the visitor centre has a lovely selection of pastries and cakes. You can also walk along the loch to take beautiful photos of the castle from different angles.      

Dornie | Eilean Donan Castle
Colourful houses in Dornie. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Places to visit near Eilean Donan Castle 

If you have more than an hour to kill before the next bus arrives, you can explore the old fishing village of Dornie on the other side of the road. Quaint, colourful cottages skirt the shore of Loch Long. Despite having a population of around 360 inhabitants, Dornie houses two pubs, a hotel and a few guesthouses.  

You can also combine your trip to Eilean Donan with a hike through Balmacara Woodlands, Kyle of Lochalsh or Kyleakin, all of which are just a short drive away.      

Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Where to stay  

It would be nice to spend a night in the area to get to see the castle lit up and reflected in the waters of Loch Duich.

There are plenty of accommodation options in Dornie and guesthouses in Kyle of Lochalsh, but I recommend booking accommodation well in advance if you’re visiting between June and September.  

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Daniela Frendo

Daniela Frendo

Hi! I'm a Maltese blogger based in Scotland. I created Grumpy Camel to help travellers connect with places through culture, history and cuisine.

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