Coastal Castles of Clan Donald exhibition opens at the Museum of the Isles

Press release issued 13 August 2020

A new exhibition at the Museum of the Isles, Armadale Castle, explores the fascinating history of Clan Donald castles on Scotland’s Western seaboard. The exhibition has been specially produced to mark Scotland’s 2020 Year of Coasts and Waters.

Romantic and steeped in history, Scotland’s castles are iconic – and nothing captures the imagination more than a castle standing guard over the sea. As Lords of the Isles in medieval times, Clan Donald chiefs commanded the sea routes that were vital to maintaining power over wild and inaccessible lands. Their castles from this time are touchstones to a remarkable period in Scotland’s history.

The exhibition uses prints, drawings and maps from the museum archive, as well as photography and film, to trace the evolution of clan castles from 10th century fortification to 19th century manor house.  Featured castles include the ancient Lordship seat of Finlaggan on Islay; Castle Sween in Argyll, Scotland’s earliest stone castle; the evocative tower house of Ormacleit on South Uist; and Castle Camus (Knock Castle) on Skye – site of bloody inter-clan rivalry and evocative legend. The exhibition also reveals characters and stories associated with the castles such the Warrior Queen Scathach of Dunscaith, and castle-builder Amie MacRuari.

Exhibition visitors can also explore the permanent galleries of the Museum of the Isles. The museum traces the history of the Highlands & Islands through the story of Clan Donald, Scotland’s largest and most powerful clan. Its fine collections include Viking, Jacobite and crofting artefacts, and it is Skye’s only museum to be accredited by Museums Galleries Scotland.

The museum is part of a 5 star visitor attraction in Sleat, South Skye. Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum of the Isles also includes colourful historic gardens and a castle ruin, former seat of the Macdonalds of Sleat. Also now open is the Armadale Bar & Bistro, run by Z’s Amazing Kitchens.

‘Coastal Castles of Clan Donald’ is sponsored by Torabhaig Distillery, the south Skye distillery based next to one of the featured castles, Castle Camus.

Sue Geale, Museum Manager said: “We are delighted to mark the re-opening of the museum with the launch of this exhibition. We have thoroughly enjoyed researching the stories behind these castles and unearthing material from our museum stores to illustrate them. I’d like to thank everyone involved including colleagues, volunteers, historical advisor Dr Dòmhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart from  Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, designers CGS, and sponsors Torabhaig Distillery, for making the exhibition possible.”

Anne O’Lone, Visitor Centre Manager at Torabhaig Distillery said:  “We are very pleased to support this exhibition being held at our neighbouring and highly acclaimed visitor attraction. Celebrating local culture and heritage is important to us here at Torabhaig, where we are producing a heavily peated, Island style Single Malt Scotch Whisky in our beautifully restored old farm steading which overlooks the picturesque ruins of Castle Camus.  We would encourage visitors to Sleat on the Isle of Skye to make a point of exploring this excellent exhibition and to come and visit us here at the distillery.”

The museum and exhibition are open Thursday – Sunday until the end of November. Armadale Castle Gardens are open daily in August and then Thursday – Sunday until end November.  Tickets can be purchased at the entrance.  Visitors are advised to check the Armadale Castle website before visiting to familiarise themselves with Covid-19 precautions and opening times.