A visit to the northwest of Skye is only complete with a visit to Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. This is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.
There’s something for all the family and a great place to spend the whole day. On your return, you can relax in our lounge with a glass or two of something refreshing or share photos and experiences over dinner in our restaurant.
Dunvegan Castle and Gardens are just a short drive, approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) from The Dunvegan or a pleasant 20 – 30 minute walk if the weather is good. There is a large car park opposite the main castle gates, but this can get busy at peak times. If you have your dog with you, please don’t leave them in the car as they can get quite hot even on an overcast day. Dogs on leads are allowed in the castle gardens and woodland walks but not in the castle itself.
Built on a rocky outcrop overlooking Loch Dunvegan, the castle was originally designed as a Highland fortress to keep people out. Nowadays you can explore the twists and turns of history and clan legends within its walls. You can choose from a guided tour or enjoy the castle at your own pace with the help of their guidebook.
There is also a wealth of information in the public rooms provided in a variety of languages.
If you’re visiting with children, they will enjoy the challenge of hunting for the ancient keys hidden throughout the castle. It’s not uncommon for one or two adults to get quite competitive over it!
The castle contains many beautiful paintings and important heirlooms. Among them are the legendary Faerie Flag and Sir Rory Mor’s ceremonial drinking horn. There is also Bonnie Prince Charlie’s waistcoat, a Jacobite ‘Amen’ glass and a lock of the Prince’s hair.
The MacLeod Estate also has close historical links with St Kilda and there is a small exhibition of photographs and St Kilda artefacts in the castle.
The 5 acres of formal gardens are in stark contrast to the weather-beaten moorland surrounding the estate. It’s a real hidden oasis for a diverse range of plants, wooded glades, pools fed by waterfalls and streams running down to the sea.
On a sunny day, the shaded tranquillity of the Water Garden with its ornate bridges, islands and dappled light falling on shimmering pools is the ideal place to start your adventure. Find a bench and sit and listen to the sound of water all around you.
Next is the Round Garden, more formal by design, with traditional symmetry and ilex crenata edged parterre beds as a centrepiece, all overlooked by a majestic Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana). A place for everything, and everything in its place…
Further on, the Walled Garden was once the castle’s vegetable garden. It’s now an eclectic mix of plants and flowers that complement the more structured features within its walls. A lily pond, larch pagoda, glass house and garden museum all create individual ‘rooms’ of intrigue and areas of quiet contemplation.
The contrast of formal and informal, structured and naturalistic planting throughout the gardens takes you on a journey that will inspire and delight garden enthusiasts and horticulturalists alike.
If you’ve visited Claigan Coral Beach you may well have seen some of the seals in Loch Dunvegan already. But a boat trip from Dunvegan Castle will get you much closer. Great for all the family, the 25-minute boat trip will take you right into the centre of the common seal colony. If you’re lucky you may also get a glimpse of a nesting heron or a white-tailed eagle (sea eagle), the largest bird of prey in the UK.
You may not realise that Dunvegan Castle and Gardens actually sit at the heart of the 42,000 acre MacLeod Estate on the Isle of Skye. The estate stretches from Loch Dunvegan in the north to the world-famous mountain range The Cuillin in the south and includes the spectacular Fairy Pools located in Glenbrittle, near the village of Carbost.