Our first stop on our trip to the Isle of Skye was Armadale Castle and Gardens, once the home of Clan Donald. It was pretty foggy when we arrived and most of us in America think this is exactly how Great Britain looks all the time.
The Clan Donald established itself on Skye in the 15th century, occupying 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 also began to stay at Armadale. From the 1700s onwards, the mansion-house at Armadale was used as a dower house (a large home occupied by the widow of a late owner or chief) and then rented out to others.
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.
Around 1790, a new mansion-house was built at Armadale and this, combined with the start of the plantings you see around the gardens today, became a real demonstration of the wealth and lifestyle of the landed aristocracy.
In 1815, the mansion-house was extended to form Armadale Castle, designed by the renowned architect James Gillespie Graham. In 1855, fire destroyed much of the original house, which was replaced by the current central section (designed by David Bryce). In 1925, the MacDonald family moved to a smaller house leaving the castle to the wind and rain.