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Duntulm Castle

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Duntulm Castle
Trotternish, Skye, Scotland
OSGB grid reference NG408742
Duntulm Castle, looking out over Tulm Island and the hills of Harris in the distance
Duntulm Castle is located in Scotland
Duntulm Castle
Duntulm Castle
Coordinates57°41′01″N 6°20′56″W / 57.6835°N 6.3489°W / 57.6835; -6.3489
Site information
Controlled byMacDonalds of Sleat
Site history
Built14th-17th centuries
In useUntil c.1732

Duntulm Castle stands ruined on the north coast of Trotternish, on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, near the hamlet of Duntulm. During the 17th century it was the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacDonald of Sleat. It is a scheduled monument.[1]


It is believed that, in prehistoric times, a broch or dun, known as Dun David, or Dun Dhaibhidh stood here. However, no archaeological evidence has been found for this predecessor.[2]

The castle was built in the 14th and 15th centuries, when the area was subject to feuds between the rival MacLeod and Macdonald clans. The defences were improved in the 16th century, and by the early 17th century the MacDonalds had finally gained the upper hand in the area. In 1618 the Privy Council and Sir Donald MacDonald of Sleat, "Donald Gorm Og", the 9th chief, signed a charter, requiring him to repair Duntulm.[2] This was done, and a second tower was added. Around 1650, the castle's importance peaked, when further improvements were made, and a rectangular structure or house was built within the wall. Around 1732 the castle was abandoned, when Sir Alexander MacDonald built a new residence, Monkstadt House, 5 miles (8.0 km) to the south, robbing much of the castle's stone as building material.[2]

The castle[edit]

The main structure of the castle is about 25 by 9 metres (82 by 30 ft), and stands on a basalt promontory above the sea. It is further defended by a ditch along the landward side. It comprises the vaults of a tower, which once stood to four storeys, surrounded by an irregular curtain wall. The later house measures around 10 by 5 metres (33 by 16 ft). The only entrance was via a narrow cleft in the sea cliff. The ruins of the castle are now in a very poor condition, with major falls of masonry as recently as 1990.[2]


According to one local legend, the castle was abandoned after the infant son of the chieftain who dwelt there at the time, in the charge of a nursemaid, fell from a window and was dashed on the rocks below. As a punishment, the nursemaid was set adrift on the North Atlantic in a small boat.[3]


  1. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Duntulm Castle (SM5307)". Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d "Duntulm Castle, Site Number NG47SW 1". CANMORE. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  3. ^ O. Swire, Skye. The island and its legends. Third Edition Maclean Press 1999. ISBN 1-84158-479-7.page 50-57.