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Updated 07/10/2020


Lord of the Isles' Welcome to Armadale Castle

The Lord of the Isles is a title of Scottish nobility with historical roots that go back beyond the Kingdom of Scotland. It emerged from a series of hybrid Viking/Gaelic rulers of the west coast and islands of Scotland in the Middle Ages. Although they were, at times, nominal vassals of the Kings of Norway, Ireland, or Scotland, the island chiefs remained functionally independent for many centuries. Their territory included the Hebrides (Skye and Ross from 1438), Knoydart, Ardnamurchan, and the Kintyre peninsula. At their height they were the greatest landowners and most powerful lords in Britain after the Kings of England and Scotland.

The end of the MacDonald Lords came in 1493 when John MacDonald II had his ancestral homeland, estates, and titles seized by King James IV of Scotland. Since that time, the MacDonald Clan has contested the right of James IV to the Lordship of the Isles and uprisings and rebellions against the Scottish Monarch were common. More recently, the Lordship of the Isles has been held by the Duke of Rothesay, the eldest son and heir apparent of the King of Scotland, a title which, since the creation of the Kingdom of Great Britain, is borne by the Prince of Wales. Thus Prince Charles is the current Lord of the Isles.

Armadale Castle is a ruined country house in Armadale, Skye, former home of the MacDonalds. Clan Donald established itself on Skye in the 15th century. The Clan originally occupied castles at Dunscaith and Knock, both within a few miles of Armadale, and Duntulm Castle at the north end of the island. From the 1650s the Macdonald chiefs began to stay at Armadale, in a house sited further west than the present Castle.

Around 1790 a new mansion house was built, some of which survives as the present-day estate offices.

In 1815 the renowned architect James Gillespie Graham was commissioned to extend the mansion house to form Armadale Castle - a Scottish baronial style mock-castle, intended for show rather than defense. The Castle included lavish interiors with arcaded public halls and a great marble staircase. A fire in 1855 destroyed the Castle’s central section, and David Bryce was commissioned to design a replacement.

In 1925 the Macdonald family moved to a smaller house, leaving the castle to the wind and rain. The Castle was put on the market in 1972 and purchased by the Clan Donald Lands Trust. By this time the west part of the Castle was derelict, and in 1981 the decision was taken to demolish the building while saving as many remnants as possible. The gardens around the castle have been maintained, and are now home to the Clan Donald Centre, which operates the Museum of the Isles.