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Duntulm Castle

Located in a beautiful spot on the northern tip of the lovely island of Skye, Duntulm Castle stands on a cliff-girt headland, looking out over the Little Minch to the Outer Hebrides. Unfortunately, little survives of the castle, once the fine stronghold of the MacDonalds, which welcomed James V, sadly allowed to go to utter ruin. The family moved to Monkstadt from here about 1730, reputedly because of the many ghosts at Duntulm. They later built Armadale in Sleat, to the south of the island, where the Clan Donald Centre is now located, although the mansion is ruinous after a fire.

    There was a stronghold at Duntulm from early times, and it was taken by Vikings and called Dun David. When this part of Scotland finally came under the control of the kings of Scots in the 13th century, a medieval fortress was built here. The territory was fought over by the MacLeods, from their own stronghold of Dunvegan, and MacDonalds of Sleat, the latter finally gaining the ascendancy.

 

At the turn of the 17th century, Hugh MacDonald, cousin to the then chief, Donald Gorm Mor (himself not an especially nice fellow), plotted to gain the lands. Donald Gorm had no heirs, and Hugh planned to invite the chief to his own fortress, Caisteal Uisdean, some miles south of Duntulm, and there murder him. Unfortunately for him, he mixed up letters sent to the chief and to the proposed assassin. Hugh then fled to North Uist, where he was besieged at Dun an Sticar, to the north of that island. Hugh was captured, and imprisoned in a vault at Duntulm. He was given salted beef and no water, and is reported to have died insane and raving from thirst and dehydration. When the vault was finally opened, his skeleton still grasped an empty jug in its parched jaws. His bones were kept as a warning to others in a local church, and his ghostly groans have reputedly been heard here since.

    The boisterous ghost of the chief, Donald Gorm Mor, riotously partying with spectral companions, has also been recorded in many tales, and in some is given as the reason the MacDonalds left Duntulm.

    Another apparition was said to be that of Margaret, a sister of MacLeod of Dunvegan, and Donald’s wife. She had lost an eye in an accident, so her husband threw her out, sending her back to Dunvegan on a one-eyed horse with a one-eyed servant and one-eyed dog. Her weeping ghost is said to haunt the castle. 

    A nursemaid is said to have dropped a baby out of one of the windows, onto the rocks far below. Her terrified screams are said to be heard sometimes as the poor woman was cruelly slain in revenge.

 

© Martin Coventry 2018

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© Martin Coventry