A iconic Scottish castle has been bestowed with an incredible accolade after being given Five Star castle status by VisitScotland.
Eilean Donan Castle has welcomed over half a million visitors this year, and was given the honour by the national tourism organisation under its Quality Assurance scheme.
Located at Dornie, by Kyle of Lochalsh, the castle is one of the most visited and recognised in the Highlands. Its 540,000 visitors this year marks a rise of 12 per cent on last year. To meet this increased demand, the castle now operates as an all-year-round visitor attraction.
The castle has been seen in film and TV over the years, including Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948), was the home to a group of Nazis trying to revive Hitler in The New Avengers (1976) – and also featured in the show’s titles (below), and was MI6’s emergency headquarters in Piece Brosnan’s third outing as James Bond, The World is Not Enough (1999).
Although first inhabited around the sixth century, the first fortified castle was built in the mid-13th century and stood guard over the lands of Kintail. Since then, at least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built as the feudal history of Scotland unfolded through the centuries.
Chris Taylor, regional partnerships director at VisitScotland, said: ‘Castle tourism is very important to Scotland and I would like to congratulate the staff at Eilean Donan Castle on this marvellous achievement. I’d also like to congratulate them on winning best Heritage Tourism Experience at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards recently.
‘Five-star status shows visitors that they can expect a fantastic and enjoyable experience, while learning all about the history of this beautiful building and it seems fitting that they have achieved this accolade in 2017, Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.
‘It is evident that continual investment is being made in the castle and visitor centre to ensure that they deliver an excellent visitor experience. David and his team are committed to staff training and take pride that collectively the staff can converse with visitors in eight different languages.
‘Quality Assurance is about more than just the stars on the door – it’s about the entire visitor experience and driving improvement in that experience throughout the country.’
David Win, general manager at Eilean Donan Castle said: ‘The entire team at Eilean Donan are truly delighted to learn of the acquisition of our fifth star in the VisitScotland Quality Assurance scheme. This award represents the culmination of many years of sustained commitment and investment to providing the very best visitor experience and services.
‘The fact that this comes at such a buoyant time for Scottish tourism is also hugely satisfying. In the last five years we have increased our own annual visitor numbers to the site by over 200,000; placing significant pressures on our 65 employees. I’d like to thank each and every one of them for their incredible contribution in achieving our goals and aspirations.
‘With significant investment already in the pipeline for further improvements to our visitor services, we look forward to cementing our place alongside the very best that Scottish tourism has to offer.’
Eilean Donan is situated on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, and surrounded by majestic scenery, it is little wonder that the castle is now one of the most visited and important attractions in the Highlands. Owned by the Conchra Charitable Trust, the castle has its own visitor centre and employs 65 staff in its peak season.