Castle & Gardens

Caisteal & Gàrraidhean

Armadale Castle was once the seat of the Macdonalds of Sleat, part of the mighty Clan Donald. Now a romantic ruin, the castle sits in a dramatic position overlooking the Sound of Sleat and surrounded by 40 acres of magnificent woodland gardens.

The sheltered aspect and with the mild climate created by the Gulf Stream sea current make the Gardens a floral paradise. Magnificent trees, many over 100 years old, tower above carpets of bluebells, orchids and wildflowers in spring and summer. Ponds, herbaceous borders and terrace walks provide a tranquil place to sit or stroll, with walks through dappled woodland linking these sunny havens.

Castle

The Castle ruins date from the early and mid-19th century. Adjoining the ruin is part of the original late 18th-century mansion house, now used for offices and conferences.

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. 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 ruined Castle is currently unstable so is fenced off for your safety. Visitors can still enjoy magnificent views framed by the romantic ruin. We are working on plans to stabilise the structure to enable full access.

Gardens

Armadale’s magnificent gardens are testament to the care and attention given by estate staff to restore them to glory, creating the haven of scent and colour you experience today.

Parts of the garden date back to the 1790s, when the original mansion house was built. Substantial remodelling took place in the 1820s when the area in front of the new Castle building was levelled to enhance the fine views across to the mainland. The Gothic bridge, a Historic Environment Scotland designated monument, was built in 1825. The woodland gardens include many remarkable specimen trees, mostly planted in the 1870s. More recently developed areas such as the ponds, herbaceous borders and terrace walks provide a tranquil place to sit or stroll.

Among the many plants from around the world that thrive here you will find the vibrant flowers of the ‘Chilean Fire Bush’ (Embothrium), the white stems of the Himalayan Birch which dazzle in winter sunlight, and the cheerful giant daisy flowers of the Celmesias from New Zealand.

Dotted throughout the grounds are a number of interesting sculptures. These include ‘2 Rising Lines II’ by contemporary Scottish artist Julie Brook, which uses Torrin marble to respond to its woodland site; ‘Teko the Swimming Otter’ by Laurence Broderick; and ‘The Homecoming’, a much-loved pair of bronze Skye Terriers to honour the island’s famous breed of dog.

History

A number of famous historical figures have visited Armadale over the years. Flora Macdonald, famed throughout the world for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie to flee Scotland after the Jacobites’ defeat at Culloden, was married here on 6 November 1750. Samuel Johnson and James Boswell visited in 1773.

The Castle, Gardens and wider estate were purchased by the Clan Donald Lands Trust in the 1970s so that everyone could enjoy this wonderful resource. Find out more about Clan Donald Lands Trust.