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Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Best Scottish Tours Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye, Scotland. The rock at Dunvegan has been defended for at least 2000 years. By the 13th century, towards the end of the Viking period, the rock had passed to the MacRailts, and Leod, chief of Clan MacLeod, married the MacRailt heiress. Leod's descendants have lived continuously in the castle for more than 700years.

The oldest part of the castle is the outer wall, built 10 ft high around the top of the rock. The only entrance to the castle at that time was by 22 narrow steps up to the Sea Gate on the seaward side. Inside there are more steps that lead up past the well to the Guncourt. Around 1350 a huge keep was built into the northern end of the wall, and a four storey tower was added in about 1475 to give a private chamber for the chief, with a bedchamber above reached by a spiral staircase. Despite much alteration elsewhere, the Fairy Tower, as it is named, still retains most of its original features.

In the early 17th century Ruairidh Mor MacLeod travelled to London to see James VI and was knighted. He brought back an oak sideboard that is still used in the castle. The room that he placed it in was a large hall more than 50 ft long, which was constructed of timbers salvaged when the keep was gutted. Here the chief dined in splendour with his whole clan. In the mid 17th century a fine balustrade with mock cannons was added to the wall head where the chiefs pipers played.

General Norman MacLeod, 23rd chief, having made his fortune in India, restored the ruinous keep. Large windows were excavated through the thick walls and a drawing room in the Regency style was created with bedchambers above. A narrow outside stair had been built on the landward side in the mid 18th century, but it was not until 1810 that a grand entrance with wide stair was added in the awkward gap between keep and hall. Then, in the 1840s, the castle was completely remodelled. The pitched slate roofs were removed and tall castellations added with pepperpot towers on each corner. The castle can now be reached by way of a bridge. Inside, the castle's greatest treasure is the Fairy Flag, which brought victory in battle to the MacLeods. Also displayed are the Dunvegan Cup, an early Irish drinking cup, and Sir Ruairidh Mor's Horn, both mounted with silver. On the walls are some fine portraits, including pairs of Ramsays, Zoffanys and Raeburns.

The Mediaeval Castles of Skye and Lochalsh. The castles of Hebridean myth and story are brought to life in a scholarly yet easy-to-read text. Roger Miket explores the history and architecture of the settings associated with blood-curdling dramas such as the murderous goings-on at Dun Sgaith or the far-fetched yarns of Saucy Mary and Cu Chulainn. Many of the castles are shown in reconstruction and all the architectural descriptions are fully illustrated making them clear to both expert and amateur historians. Together with the earlier broachs and duns, the castles are the principal material survivals of the great pageant of Hebridean history. The Mediaeval Castles of Skye and Lochalsh.

The Castles of Scotland is the most complete and comprehensive guide available to the nation's wealth of castles. This new edition is the culmination of 10 years' research, and covers more than 2700 castles as well as mansions and historic houses, all alphabetically organised, with detailed maps, visiting information, illustrations, and anecdotes of hauntings and family histories. This is the 'bible of Scottish castles', an absolute must for all castle enthusiasts and anyone interested in Scottish history. The Castles of Scotland.

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