Cinematic Scotland’s Brave Tour: Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

As Disney Pixar’s Brave comes to cinemas around the world, we take a trip to some of the Scottish locations that inspired the filmmakers.

“We went to Eilean Donan Castle…and suddenly the story artists are thinking, Okay – we can have a scene here! We can have a scene on this castle wall and a scene on the battlements. We really started to get a concrete sense of the stage these characters could be on.” Mark Andrews, Brave co-director, discusses locations in The Art of Brave

Located on the West Coast of Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle has a long history that can be traced back to the 13th Century, although the current building only stretches back to 1930s. It’s thought that the castle’s name is derived from the Irish Saint, Bishop Donan, who visited Scotland around 580AD.

Eilean Donan was the final major stop on my tour of what could be dubbed “Brave Scotland”, a location that offers yet more inspiration to the film’s makers after Urquhart Castle and Dun Carloway Broch.

Watch Eilean Donan Castle on YouTube

With its many rooms and stairwells, the castle was perfect for Brave’s designers, who used the interiors while they designed DunBroch from the ground up.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

Approaching Eilean Donan

Approaching Eilean Donan

On crossing the footbridge and entering the castle, the first area to welcome the visitor is an exhibition recalling Eilean Donan’s history, with various models, drawings, photos and artefacts gathered together.

Part of the Eilean Donan exhibition

Part of the Eilean Donan exhibition

The tour soon takes the visitor up to the impressive Banqueting Hall, sadly one in which photos aren’t allowed, as is the case with much of the interior. You’ll have to take my word for the fact that the hall is full of family treasures owned by the Clan MacRae, including a selection of Windsor chairs, a lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s hair, the Raasay Punch Bowl (which Doctor Johnson drank from in 1773) and a table thought to belong to one of Nelson’s ships.

In addition, the grand table at the centre of the hall is likely to be the basis of the one in Brave which Merida and her family can be found sitting at during the film.

Stepping outside of the castle, to the rear of the building, revealed a series of towers and turrets looking out onto the water behind.

Around Eilean Donan Castle

Around Eilean Donan Castle

At the rear of Eilean Donan Castle

At the rear of Eilean Donan Castle

Looking out from Eilean Donan Castle

Looking out from Eilean Donan Castle

Leaving Eilean Donan Castle

Leaving Eilean Donan Castle

View from Eilean Donan

View from Eilean Donan

My walk around Eilean Donan took me through bedrooms, hallways and the kitchens, every room holding secrets and stories from the past that the modern day visitor can only dream of. The owners are opening up as much of the building to tourists as they can, meaning if you haven’t been for a few years there’s a good chance you’ll see something new, including the recently restored well.

Comparing the interior with that of Brave, it was easy to imagine myself walking through the same corridors as Merida does in DunBroch, albeit a slightly smaller version.

Eilean Donan was the most complete building of the three I visited on the tour and offered a compact view of DunBroch’s many constituent parts, though it’s probably fair to say that visiting any of Scotland’s castles will give fans of Brave some feeling for the “real” DunBroch.

This tour may have taken in some of the locations that Brave’s makers admit they visited, but there are dozens more out there that are equally as impressive and that can be found either on guided tours like the one I took or by car, bus and train.

I’m glad I had the chance to visit some of Brave Scotland having enjoyed the film, I’m just glad I didn’t see any giant bears along the way…

Visit the Brave Tour section for more on the trip.

Visiting Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle is situated near the village of Dornie, with easy access by car and by bus. For full details visit the castle website.

Visiting the Isle of Lewis

The trip I took to the Isle of Lewis was with Rabbie’s Small Tours Groups, the five-day Escape to the Edge Tour, staying two nights in Stornoway, capital of the Western Isles with a night in Ullapool and Portree before and after.

Adult Prices: £275 – £295
Discount Prices: £255 – £275
Departing: Tuesdays (May to September)

Full details can be found on Rabbie’s Small Tour Group website.

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