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A Crumbling Stronghold – Duntulm Castle

Duntulm Castle is a beautiful ruin situated on the north coast of Trotternish on the famous Isle of Skye. The castle offers a superb defensive location that is guarded on three of its side by staggering cliffs. Now a scheduled monument, this crumbling stronghold is still an absolutely stunning sight to see.

Though, if you plan to visit, ensure that you exercise caution as it is dangerously ruined.

The history of Duntulm Castle

Once upon a time, Duntulm Castle was a strong, comfortable, and outstanding fortress and residence. Now, very little of it remains on the site. However, it is still such a beautiful ruin that people from all over come to view it in all its glory.

Duntulm Castle has a little-known history, but what we do know is enough to assume that this once grand castle had a significant place in history.

Remains of Duntulm Castle
What remains of Duntulm Castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The early history

It is said that a broch or dun known as Dun David or Dun Dhaibhidh existed on the site in prehistoric times. However, there has been no sufficient archaeological evidence found to confirm this. The current castle was built in the 14th and 15th centuries.

This was done during the time when the area was subject to tumultuous feuds between the two rival clans, the MacLeod’s, and the Macdonald’s.

Changes at the castle

In the 16th century, the defences of the castle were greatly improved. By the time the 17th century came around, the MacDonald’s had finally gained the upper hand in the area. In 1618, the Privy Council and Sir Donald MacDonald of Sleat, the 9th chief, signed a charter, requiring him to repair Duntulm Castle.

Work quickly started and a second tower was added. It was around 1650 that the castle’s importance truly peaked when further improvements were made. It was at this time that a rectangular structure, possibly a house, was built within the large wall.

Duntulm Castle is abandoned

Sometime in 1732, the castle was completely abandoned when Sir Alexander MacDonald built a new residence, Monkstadt House, for himself. The new residence was 5 miles to the south and robbed much of Duntulm Castle’s stone as building material.

View of Duntulm Castle from afar.
The castle is strategically on a cliff. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The current day

After the castle was abandoned, it was able to fall into complete ruins. Reports of major falls of masonry have been reported as recently as 1990. Now, the castle is in extremely poor condition.

It is said to be dangerous so caution should be exercised when visiting.

You may be interested in other Scottish Castles such as Gordon Castle and Loudoun Castle.

An old legend

There is a rather dark old legend surrounding the castle. It is said to be the reason the castle was abandoned. It all began when the infant son of the chieftain who dwelled in the castle at the time was in the care of a nursemaid. It is said that the young boy fell from a window and was killed on the rocks below.

As punishment, the nursemaid was put on a small boat and set adrift on the North Atlantic. After losing his son, the chieftain abandoned the castle.

Scotland, Castle, Ruin, Cliff, Historical, Clouds
The castle was built over the 14th and 15th centuries. Source: Pixabay.

Duntulm Castle Timeline

  • Prehistoric times- A broch or dun known as Dun David or Dun Dhaibhidh exists on the site
  • 14th and 15th century- The current castle is built
  • 16th century- The defences of the castle are greatly improved
  •  17th century- The MacDonald’s finally gain the upper hand in the area
  •  1618- The Privy Council and Sir Donald MacDonald of Sleat, the 9th chief, sign a charter, requiring him to repair Duntulm Castle
  • 1650- The castle’s importance truly peaks when further improvements are made
  • 1732- The castle is completely abandoned when Sir Alexander MacDonald builds a new residence

Duntulm Castle facts

  • The main structure of the castle is about 25 by 9 metres (82 by 30 ft)
  • The castle is defended by three cliffsides and a ditch along the landward side
  • The only entrance to the castle was via a narrow cleft in the sea cliff
  • It is said that a broch or dun known as Dun David or Dun Dhaibhidh existed on the site in prehistoric times
  • Hugh MacDonald, who plotted against the rightful clan chief, was starved to death in the dungeon at Duntulm Castle

Books on Duntulm Castle

  • Schatten über Duntulm Castle by Aileen P. Roberts (2017)
  • The Mediaeval Castles of Skye and Lochalsh by Roger Miket and David Roberts (2007)


Around 40,000 people visit Duntulm Castle each year and the locals are keen to help maintain this beautiful site as a tourist attraction. They soon hope that it is picked up by a local governing body for renovations to make it safer than it is now.

While you won’t find beautiful Duntulm Castle in many tourist brochures around the Isle of Skye. However, you shouldn’t let that turn you away from visiting. It is impossible to imagine a more idyllic and dramatic view in the Isle of Skye than the ruins of Duntulm.

It looks perfectly across The Minch to the Isle of Lewis in the distance. While there isn’t a lot to see on the site and there are no facilities there, the location is stunning. If possible, you can safely make your way down to the shore and view the castle from below. Beware of the steep cliffsides near the castle.

Nearby, you can visit The Storr, Fairy Pools, Eilean Donan, The Fairy Glen, and Neist Point Lighthouse.

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