Scottish myths 9

The Castle of Dreams

For Scottish myths 8,  I posted a picture of the Eiland Donan Castle of Loch Duich. It's one of the most picturesque and most photographed castles in Scotland, and seems to represent everything that is Scottish and beautiful. It's history is a legend in itself that certainly deserves retelling.

From high windows of the castle one can view the three famous sea lochs of Scotland- Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh. The castle is situated almost at the point where they converge.
As a result of the Jacobite rising of 1715, the MacRaes were using the castle to lodge infantry sent up from Spain in a bid to help defend the Catholic cause of the Old Pretender. In 1719 the Eiland Donan was under siege, and as the MacRaes refused to surrender, the castle was pounded by cannon fire from three English frigates (the Enterprise, Flamborough and Worcester).
After having graced Loch Duich since the 14th century, the Eilean Donan was sadly reduced to ruin. The MacRaes managed to escape into the hills but most of the Spanish troops were captured.

What little was left of the castle remained so for over two hundred years.
It was the grandfather of Mrs. MacRae's deceased husband who decided to take on its restoration, in spite of the enormous, personal cost it was bound to entail.

Mrs. Marigold MacRae, President of the Clan MacRae Society and one of the Trustees who maintains the castle for the public and posterity, is persuaded that originally, the Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae Gilstrap (the restorer) never in fact had any firm intention of doing much more than tidying up the ruin itself. It was all largely due to 'this wonderful man', a certain Farquar MacRae, an excellent stone mason, that the Colonel eventually decided to go to the full extent of completely restoring the castle.

When Marigold MacRae's grandfather-in-law returned from his First World War duties, he discovered that Farquar MacRae had done a lot more than 'tidy things up'. In fact he had already started to rebuild the whole castle.
Farquar MacRae spoke of a dream he had, and this dream was so vividly real that he saw every detail of the Eiland Donan Castle as it was originally. The dream made such a remarkable impression on him, that the stone mason apparently felt that he had somehow been chosen to accomplish the complete restoration of the Eiland Donan Castle, as though it was his bound duty.

Fortunately, for all concerned, the Lieutenant Colonel MacRae Gilstrap had married a very wealthy lady. Even more fortunate, Ella Gilstrap, his generous wife, was just as keen about the project as the Colonel and the inspired stone mason. The restoration took more than twelve years to accomplish.

But, according to Marigold MacRae, an extraordinary consequence followed the completion of the restoration, (a consequence which merits that this be also included as a 'Scottish myth'). The original plans for the castle were later discovered in the old archives of Edinburgh Castle. They correspond exactly with the dream Farquar had, which naturally determined the equally exact restoration. This is why the Eilean Donan Castle is also known as The Castle of Dreams.

Of course there were always the few who condemned the courageous and extravagant initiative of the MacRaes. The few who would have upheld that the old ruins should have been 'preserved' as such, to be ultimately, fully reclaimed by nature herself. But they would certainly be a mean minority. In fact it's a great pity that this initiative of complete restoration is so unique and wonderful, for there are other beautiful ruins in Scotland that might merit the same devoted care. But then such a liberal idea might be regarded even more as a myth. 

 Scottish myths 10
Scottish myths 8
Images and retelling © Mirino. Source- from the Scots Heritage Magazine. 
With grateful thanks. November, 2011

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