|Eilean Donan Castle|
|Saturday, 20 March 2010 12:09|
If you've ever eaten Scottish Shortbread, there is a reasonable chance you'll already be familiar with the image of Eilean Donan castle; as it has adorned nearly as many boxes as the obligatory kilted piper. Often called the most photographed castle in Scotland, Eilean Donan is certainly situated in stunning surroundings. It sits on a small tidal island at the confluence of Lochs Duich, Alsh and Long, and is surrounded by mountains on three sides.
As dramatic as the castle's surroundings are, it's history speaks of equally dramatic events. In 1719, the castle was destroyed by three Royal Navy frigates after it was occupied by Spanish troops attempting to aid a Jacobite uprising. HMS Enterprise, Worcester and Flamborough under the command of one Captain Boyle, laid seige to the castle and defeated the Spaniards after a three day bombardment. On entering the castle, the government troops discovered a magazine of 343 barrels of gunpowder. Such was the difficulty in taking the castle, then defended by only 50 men, the decision was taken to light the magazine, destroying the castle.
The castle lay in ruins for almost 200 years until the island was bought by John Macrea-Gilstrap in 1911. He then spent the next 21 years restoring the castle, finally finishing the work in 1932. Interestingly, there were those at the time that felt that Macrea was spoiling the 'original' appearance of the ruin. I'm sure that few would now argue that thanks to Macrea's work, the castle is now one of the most iconic in Scotland. The shortbread industry certainly seems to agree!
After such recent restoration, it should be obvious that this is no empty shell. Inside, the castle appears more stately home than fortification, and as often happens under such circumstances, photography is forbidden within the castle itself. Though slightly disappointing initially, it's not as if this policy will leave you wanting for photographic opportunity. The exterior of the castle (or more precisely, it's surroundings) will be more than enough to keep you happily shooting away until the last tourist bus has long gone home.
No such restrictions exist beyond the castle walls however. Indeed many excellent viewpoints exist, almost all of which are accessible without paying the minimal entry fee. Ardelve Point is a short walk away, allowing you to include much of the surrounding mountains and lochs. The shoreline near the castle is also a popular spot, and allows you to include the leading lines of Eilean Donan's attractive stone bridge.
Far be it from me to suggest not visiting the castle itself however. You'll have to bag your camera for the duration, but a walk around the castle is interesting in itself, and kept me occupied during the harsher light of the mid afternoon. It also proved a welcome respite when the weather turned unexpectedly dreich!
All the usual equipment comes recommended for a landscape scene, with a reasonably wide angle lens probably top of the list. The contours of the castle probably make a graduated filtered too blunt an instrument to use here, but with careful use you may find some utility in bringing one along with the more standard polarisers. Since the waters are so sheltered here, you're unlikely to find much movement in the water for long exposures, but the castle is lit delightfully in the early evening, so carrying a tripod will still be well rewarded.
To keep the costs down, it's usual for me to camp nearby rather than opt for a local hotel or B&B. A short walk over the bridge into Ardelve leads you to Ardelve Caravan and Camping park, which is easy to find and marked on the Ordnance Survey map of the area. As always, if camping beware of the blood-thirsty Highland Midge which can be relentless in the summer months. A quick search will turn up plenty of options for B&Bs and hotels should you prefer a little more luxury, and a few less ferocious insects.
Suggest a Location
I am on a constant lookout for new and interesting locations. If you know of a potentially photogenic location you'd like to see included in the guide, please let me know.