An iconic Highland castle which has welcomed over half a million visitors this year is celebrating after being given Five Star castle status by the national tourism organisation.
Eilean Donan Castle, situated at Dornie, by Kyle of Lochalsh, received the accolade from VisitScotland under its Quality Assurance scheme. The castle, which is one of the most visited and recognised in the Highlands, attracted 540,000 visitors this year – a rise of 12% on last year. To meet this increased demand, the castle now operates as an all-year-round visitor attraction.
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.”
Eilean Donan is recognised all around the world. 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.
It has featured in many films, including Bonnie Prince Charlie, starring David Niven (1948); The Master of Ballantrae starring Errol Flynn (1953), The New Avengers (1976); Highlander (1986); Loch Ness (1996) and James Bond – The World is Not Enough (1999).
Developed over the last four decades in partnership with the tourism industry and informed by visitor research, VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance schemes are world-leading. QA stars alongside online reviews give visitors a balance of objective and subjective views to assist in their decision making and expectations.