Armadale Castle Gardens & Museum Visitor Guide

By Craig Neil
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Table of Contents


Summary

Armadale Castle on the Isle of Skye is one of the island’s most-visited tourist attractions. The estate is the former clan stronghold of the MacDonalds of Sleat but is now managed by a charity that promotes the history of Clan Donald.

Visitors can explore extensive grounds that feature an arboretum, landscaped gardens, woodland walks and a children’s play park, as well as the castle ruins and a fascinating museum.

Address:Armadale,
Sleat,
Isle of Skye,
IV45 8RS
Opening Hours:Museum, Gardens and gift shop open Wednesday – Sunday to end October, 9.30 – 5.
Last Museum entrance 4.30, site closes 5.30.
Bothy Blend outdoor cafe open Wednesday – Sunday, 9.30 – 4.
Admission Price:Adult: £12.00
Concessions: £9.00 (60 and over, students with a student card, disabled people)
Child under 5: Free
Child 5-15: £7.00
Family: £25 (2 adults, up to 4 children aged 5-15)
Disabled carer: Free
Parking:Free on-site parking
Contact:01471 844305
office@armadalecastle.com
Facilities:Museum, gardens, cafe, gift shop, toilets

The highlights

1: The grounds at Armadale are lovely and in my opinion rival the equally magnificent Brodick Castle gardens on Arran.

The entire estate is vast at over 20,000 acres and it’s possible to go on a great walk around it during a visit.

There are a number of paths that offer an hour or two of countryside walks and once you reach the hillside sections you’ll be rewarded with superb views of Mallaig and the Knoydart Peninsula.

2: The museum is a very enjoyable addition to this attraction. It’s set in a corner of the estate behind the castle ruins and it’s much bigger inside than you might expect.

A self-guided tour of the museum allows visitors to learn the history of Skye and Clan MacDonald through a series of informative displays and curated exhibits.

3: The bistro at the entrance is excellent. I wouldn’t normally include a café as a highlight, but the one at Armadale Castle has friendly staff, delicious food, and is set in a restored 19th-century stables.

Armadale Castle

Visiting tips

1: Take your time exploring the grounds as they’re the focal point of a visit to Armadale Castle. The ‘castle’ is completely in ruin and is inaccessible to the public, so other than snapping a few photos you’ll spend no more than a few minutes looking at it.

The grounds are enormous though, and the spiders-web of footpaths that thread their way around the estate deserves to be explored in their entirety.

2: If you’ve got children with you, you pretty much have to take them to the play park near the entrance.

The park has lots of wooden swings and things to jump and climb in and there’s a lovely viewpoint at the far end where parents can stand and take in the stunning views of the mainland.

3: Make sure you get a map of the estate from the ticket office. Although the trails are signposted, it would be easy to miss out on them if you don’t know where they start.

There’s a red trail that takes visitors along the shore of the Sound of Sleat for 1.5 miles and a blue trail behind it that heads off into Armadale Hill for 1.7 miles.

You can get your bearings beforehand by visiting the Armadale Castle website and downloading a pdf map.


Overview

The Sleat Peninsula on the Isle of Skye is easily missed by first-time tourists, mainly because day-trippers tend to make a beeline straight to the centre of the island.

Attractions like The Storr and the Fairy Pools are certainly worth visiting, but the fact is, that’s exactly what everyone else is doing.

Meanwhile, the southwest of the island is just as scenic and has almost as many places to visit, the highlight of which has to be Armadale Castle and Gardens.

The Armadale estate covers a mightily impressive 20,000 acres and during a visit you’ll be able to explore landscaped gardens, woodland trails, a fascinating museum and the castle ruins, as well as an exceptional bistro and a children’s play park.

Armadale Castle

The gardens and the museum are the main events though, as the castle is really just the ruins of a stately home that’s sadly closed to the public.

Behind Armadale Castle lie further landscaped gardens, ponds, an arboretum, and the award-winning Museum of the Isles.

The museum is surprisingly big and has plenty of exhibits that will interest all ages, including children’s trails where they can discover the story of the Highlands and islands and six interconnecting galleries that examine Skye’s culture and history.

In total, you can expect to spend around an hour in the museum, an hour in the gardens and woodland surrounding the castle, and another one to two hours on the walking trails.

There’s also a children’s play park, a bistro set in a restored stable and a gift shop, meaning a visit to Armadale Castle and Gardens will keep most families occupied for a good chunk of the day.

If you’d like to look around the estate, scroll down to the virtual tour and photo slideshow further down this page, or keep reading for more information about what it’s like to visit this attraction.

Armadale Castle

Tourist information

Getting to Armadale Castle and Gardens is easy, especially if you’re visiting Skye via the ferry from Mallaig. The ferry port at Armadale is less than a mile from the castle entrance so you’ll be able to get there in around 15 minutes on foot or 2-3 minutes by car.

Alternatively, from the Skye bridge it’s a 30-minute drive to Armadale via the A87 and A851.

When you arrive you’ll find a car park at the entrance next to the stables bistro as well as a bus stop on the A851 which is ideal for exploring the area by public transport for anyone staying in the estate’s self-catering lodges.

Heading into the gardens you’ll pass the ticket office and gift shop, after which you’re free to wander around the estate at your leisure – though no doubt you’ll head straight to the castle first.

The paths in this area of the estate are wide and comprised of well-maintained tarmac so all abilities will be able to get around them, including wheelchair users and parents pushing buggies.

Armadale Castle

The path leading to the play park spurs off in the direction of the shore, while the castle is straight ahead on Lord MacDonald’s Drive.

Sadly, the ruins are barricaded so you can’t do much more than walk around the buildings but at least you’ll have spectacular views from the manicured lawn at the front.

At the rear of the castle is another grass area which is surrounded by trees and a beautiful flower border, along with three attractive ponds to the west.

Walking a little further to the north you’ll find the museum which is free to enter, so if you need the toilet I recommended heading inside as there aren’t any others in the estate apart from the bistro at the entrance.

The museum has an exceptional collection of exhibits that tell the story of the Lords of the Isles as well as the story of Clan Donald and there are informative displays that explain historic moments in Skye’s history, including the Jacobite uprisings and the Highland clearances.

The collection features numerous weapons, portraits and everyday objects used by the working men and women of Skye, along with lots of information panels, all of which are very thoughtfully presented. It’s no wonder the museum is an award winner.

Armadale Castle

These areas – the museum, the castle, and the gardens – make up the bulk of the attraction and it would be easy to spend an entire afternoon in that section without venturing further into the estate, though you’d be missing out on some exceptional walking trails.

There are two waymarked footpaths heading up the hill behind Armadale Castle, both of which will take around an hour to complete.

During my visit I walked both routes and I’m happy to report they both offer stunning views along the way.

The red trail sticks to the lower region of the estate heading north along the shoreline before diverting through woodland and up a hill, while the blue trail spurs north through woodland and fields.

Both paths follow a mild incline where there’s a good chance you’ll be rewarded with sightings of red deer and golden eagles. Before heading up there, take my advice and pack binoculars in your bag (see my recommended budget binoculars).

Armadale Castle

All in all, Armadale Castle and Gardens offers a superb day out, whether travelling solo, as a couple, or as a family.

It gets a big thumbs up from me and if you forgive the fact you can’t go inside the castle I guarantee you’ll have a great time.

For an overview of Skye, read: The Complete Guide to The Isle of Skye.


Tourist map of Scotland

Armadale,
Sleat,
Isle of Skye,
IV45 8RS

Filter by

Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

Skye, Sleat – 412 Explorer.

South Skye – 32 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Things to do nearby

Tormore Community Forest. Isle of Skye, IV45 8RU. 6-minute drive. A community-owned and managed forest that offers lovely walks into the hills of Sleat.

A number of footpaths run through the forest which offers visitors superb views of the mainland as well as plentiful wildlife spotting opportunities (sea eagles are a common sight).

Sandy Beach. Aird of Sleat, IV45 8RN. 15-minute drive plus a 30-minute walk. A beautiful golden-sand beach that is sheltered and is a popular location for swimming.

Point of Sleat. Aird of Sleat, IV45 8RN. 1/2 mile south of Sandy beach. This promontory is the furthest southwest point on Skye and is a popular destination for walkers exploring the Sleat Peninsula.

Torabhaig Distillery. Teangue, IV44 8RE. 9-minute drive. Traditional Scotch whisky distillery featuring guided tours, whisky tastings, a gift shop and a café.

Armadale Bay Beach. Armadale, IV45 8RB. 1 mile from Armadale Castle. Small beach near the Armadale ferry jetty. The beach is an ideal departure point for sea kayaks.


Frequently asked questions

What castles are on the Isle of Skye?

Armadale Castle – Former home of Clan MacDonald. The estate features a ruined castle, expansive gardens and woodland, and a museum.
Caisteal Maol – ruined castle near the village of Kyleakin.
Dun Ringill – A ruined hill fort on the Strathaird peninsula that was the stronghold of Clan MacKinnon.
Dunscaith Castle – Ruined castle situated on a coastal promontory in the Parish of Sleat.
Duntulm Castle – Ruined Castle situated on the coast of the Trotternish Peninsula. It was the stronghold of Clan MacDonald of Sleat.
Dunvegan Castle – Large castle that was originally constructed in the 13th century. The castle is located north of Dunvegan where it served as the home of Clan MacLeod.
Knock Castle – A ruined castle that is a former stronghold of Clan MacDonald. The castle is located five miles north of Armadale.

Who owns Armadale Castle?

Armadale castle estate, including the castle ruins, museum, landscaped gardens and 20,000 acres of land, is managed by the Clan Donald Lands Trust.

What happened at Armadale Castle?

Armadale Castle is a ruined fortified manor house that was built in 1790 and extended in 1815. The house was partially destroyed by fire in 1855 and was abandoned by the MacDonald family in 1925, after which it was left to fall into ruin.

Where is Clan Donald from?

Clan Donald, also known as Clan MacDonald, is one of the largest Scottish clans. They had strongholds throughout the Western Isles including Islay, Mull, Jura, Arran and Skye, as well as castles on the mainland.

The clan can trace its roots to the Norse Lords of the Isles and the ruler Somerled, whose descendent Dugall mac Somhairle (died 1175) was a King of the Isles.

The MacDonald dynasty also has bloodlines mixed with the High Kings of Ireland. Recent DNA studies of living clan members proves the lineage has a mix of Norse and Irish descendants.