MacKinnon Gazetteer Key

0. In the Irish Annals of A.D. 645, Lochene MacFingon, who is described as King of the Picts, died in that year.

1. Dunadd

Dunadd Fort

View of Dunadd Fort

The Clan MacKinnon can claim to be one of the Siol Alpin. Along with the Macgregors, Macquaries, Grants, Macaulays, and MacFies, they trace their ancestry to King Alpin MacEochaid, 28th King of the Dalriadic Scots. While very little is known of Alpin, the first of his two indisputable accomplishments was to have fathered Kenneth MacAlpin, the 29th king and the one who unified the Dalriadic and Pictish thrones to create Scotland in the mid 9th century A.D; the second was to lend his name to the Royal House of Scotland that ruled for 200 years until year 1034. Kenneth MacAlpin ascended to the throne of Dalriada about year 841 and then to the unified throne two years later at Scone.

It may be debatable if Dunadd was the sole capital of Dalriada at the time of King Alpin in the mid 9th century A. D. There can be little doubt, however, that it was one of the key strongholds of the Dalriadic Scots. The evidence for it being a capital is primarily from tradition and circumstantial evidence. There is strong archaeological substantiation of ancient fortifications and early medieval metalwork relics. The foot and boar marks near the summit are among the more notable remains; their role in the king-making ceremonies was echoed later during the enthronements of the Lord of the Isles.


Julia MacKinnon, age 4, sits behind the stones with the footprint, boar, and basin. July 2003.

The modern day approach to Dunadd is deceptively easy. One simply drives up to the base of it. It lies in the southern area of the Kilmartin region. Kilmartin is an underrated grouping of 150 or so monuments that span 5000 years ranging from contemporaries of Stonehenge in England to the 19th century. From below, the assent to the summit does not look at all challenging. However, through the twist and turns, over rocks and through gaps, all the while climbing up, it is easy to imagine your difficulties if your visit was unwelcome.

The mid summer day weather we visited was, well, very Scottish. Our crack team of climbers ranged in age from three to seventy years and all the while, we were covered with intermittent drizzle. It was easy to understand the difficulties that assailants of times past would have had and why this location was selected as a strategic stronghold. The view from the top was commanding of the area around.



View of the River Add from the summit

Many argue that Kenneth was not enthroned at Dunadd but rather at Scone. The historical record leaves little dispute of the latter. However, Kenneth was king for at least a year before assuming sovereignty over the Picts and their Scone seat. Hence, it would be safe to believe that he first went through the ritual atop Dunadd.

In any case, the story of Kenneth MacAlpin is not directly relevant to the MacKinnon chronicle as they descend from Kenneth's brother, Prince Gregor.


Artist's reconstruction of the defenses of Dunadd


"Stronghold of Dalriada - kingdom of the Scots"

by Historic Scotland

Dunadd is one of the most famous historic sites in Scotland. By tradition, it was the capital of the early Scottish kingdom of Dalriada, founded by Fergus Mor in about AD 500, and the probable site where their kings were inaugurated.

It was a complex fortification, defended by four lines of walling on different levels. These structures appear to have been built between about AD 500 and 1000. Objects found in excavations show that the site was particularly important around AD 500. It was a centre of fine metalworking.

The main approach is up a rocky defile to the lowest terrace, which has a well-defined wall. Near the north end is a solidly built wall. Above this level, the walls are more ruinous. The most remarkable feature is a series of carvings on a rock slab near the summit. There is a figure of a boar, the outline of a footprint, a rock-cut basin and several lines from an inscription in an unknown language. The basin and footprint may have been used in the inauguration of the kings of Dalriada.




2. Galloway

Alpin was slain here in a. d. 841 by Brudus, King of the Picts.

3. Iona

The MacKinnons were closely associated with the sacred island from the time of Saint Columba, in the 6th century, A. D. The last abbot of Iona was John MacKinnon, who died A. D. 1500.

4. Dunakin Castle

Dunakin Castle view from  Kyleakin(Gaelic "An Caisteal Moal"): Findanus, great grandson of Alpin, brought Dunakin castle into the clan circa A. D. 900 by marrying a Norse princess nicknamed Saucy Mary. A ruin now remains. From Dunakin to the Scottish mainland, Findanus and his enterprising wife ran a chain and charged a toll to all passing ships. The placard at the base of the castle relates the following history:

The Bare Castle

During the later middle ages, the castle was known as "Dunakin." As with the place-name Kyle-akin, this echoes a vestigial memory of the Norwegian king, HaakonDunakin window with  joist-holes, who sailed through the narrows with his fleet in 1263 to defeat at the hands of Alexander III at the battle of Largs. Following desertion and gradual collapse, the castle assumed its present name.

Tradition relates that the castle was built by a Norwegian princess known as "Saucy Mary," wife of a MacKinnon chief [Findanus]. Her income was said to derive from the tolls levied on ships sailing through the narrows. Only ships of her native land were exempt, and to ensure all other paid their dues, a massive stout chain was stretched across the Kyle. At her death, her remains were interred beneath a cairn on nearby Beinn na Caillaich so that the winds from her native land might Dunakin view from belowpass over her final resting place.

The present castle is a simple rectangular tower of three stories, with garret space in a roof projecting above the crenellated wall-head. The basement level containing the kitchen and storage area remains filled with debris and unexplored. Over the centuries, rubble collapse has built up against the outside walls concealing the fact that the visitor now enters at the first floor level. Here would have stood the doorway into the castle, opening main hall with its dining tables and large fireplace to welcome visitors. A well-preserved window in the south wall appears to have its counterpart in the wall opposite. Stairs, perhaps in the thickness of the walls, led to the private suite of rooms above, the floor level indicated by a line of joist-holes. Here too is evidence of at least one further window below the battlement.

This castle was built as a MacKinnon stronghold, its architecture indicating a date for construction sometime in the latter 15th century or earlier 16th centuries. Historical documentation supports the dating for upon the death of James IV at Flodden Field in 1513, a meeting of the rebellious chiefs was held at 'Dunakin' when it was resolved to resolved to raise Sir Donald MacDonald to the dignity of Lord of the Isles. During restoration, radiocarbon examination at a joist-end recovered from the second floor level independently confirmed the high probability of a date for construction sometime between 1490 and 1513.

The last occupant of the castle was Neill, a nephew of the 26th chief [Lachlan] of the clan MacKinnon. His father, Iain Og, was killed in the final conflict between the MacLeods and MacDonalds fought at Coire na Creiche in the Cullin in 1601. Here at the castle under the care of his aunt Jane, the young Neill spent his early years.


Dunakin Exterior Recreation

Dunakin Interior Reconstruction Schematic


Taking some liberties, I have placed an artist's drawing of Dunakin and placed it upon the hill where the ruins now rest. It is not known exactly how the castle appeared during its prime; however, this should give you a good idea of approximately what it looked like.

The placard at the base of Dunakin Castle shows this interior reconstruction. The text reads:

After four centuries of abandonment and neglect, the surviving castle fragments were taken into care by Skye & Lochalsh District Council and, in partnership with Historic Scotland, preserving for a future generation.



5. Tombermory

The predominant lands of the clan until the time of Bruce. The lands were brought into the clan by Findanus.

6. Arran

The Arran MacKinnons gave shelter to Bruce preceding the battle of Bannockburn.

7. Bannockburn

June 23 and 24, 1314: The MacKinnons fought in support of Bruce to help secure the throne of Scotland against Edward II of England.

8. Skye Strathaird

For their support, the MacKinnons were awarded the Strathaird estate in Skye by Bruce. This remained the principle clan lands until the forfeiture in the 18th century. This Ordinance Survey map show some of the key sites in Strathaird associated with the MacKinnons.

  • Dun Ringill: the seat of the MacKinnon Chiefs from the time of the Strathaird award.
  • Kilmarie (or Kilmaree): adjacent to Dun Ringill, a MacKinnon graveyard lies near the shore.
  • Cill Chriosd: the parish church was long overseen by the MacKinnon rectors.
  • Coire-Chatachan: the 18th century seat of the MacKinnons visited by Boswell and Johnson

Skye Strathaird Ordinance Survey Map

8.1 Coire-Chatachan

Even before I knew the meaning of the Gaelic, I just liked the sound of Coire-Chatachan. Learning the translation, "the corry of the cat lairs," helped me appreciate it even more. Boswell and Johnson, during their famous journey through Isles in 1773, were hosted here by the MacKinnon of MacKinnon. The guests were warmly received and impressed by their host's command of English, Gaelic, and Latin. There were also impressed by MacKinnon's fine library even if it made the space more cramp for hosts and guests. Located a few miles outside of Broadford, the ruins are easily accessible and now play host to sheep.

An excerpt from "In the Footsteps of Boswell and Johnson" provides these details:

September 6th-8th and 26-28th; Chief of the MacKinnons of Strath ['Corrie']

'How all the people were lodged I do know not. By putting a number of men in one room and a number of women in another, thus separating the men from their wives, a good deal was done' (Boswell, 'Journal ...')

Enjoyable though their stay was, the two-storey house (11.5m x 5.75m) was cramped accommodation for at least eleven people. On their first night, Johnson was honoured with was an upstairs room to himself; the other held three beds to sleep Boswell, Donald, MacLeod, and Dr. Donald Macdonald, Rev Macpherson and Corrie's young son. The Chief, Lachlan, and his wife, Anne, shared a room with both their daughters (Miss Mackinnon and Mrs. Macpherson), and niece (Miss Mackinnon). Joseph Ritter probably slept in the parlour.

Around 1790, the Mackinnons abandoned the house for Corry Lodge at Broadford, and today, its runs are incorporated into a sheep fank.


8.2 Cill Chriosd

Along the road from Broadford to Elgol is the pleasant graveyard and ruined parish church of Strath, Cill Chriosd (or Christ Church). The MacKinnons were rectors of this church here since the 17th century. With its back against the old MacKinnon estate of Coire-Chatachan, the graveyard is filled with many a Mackinnon headstone, interred there up to recent times.


A sign in the interior has a recreation of how the church building likely appeared. The text reads:

The Church of Cill Chriosd

Originally, the parish church of Strath was at Ashaig, traditionally founded by St. Maol Ruadh in the 7th century, AD. Sometime during the later middle ages, a new parish church was built here at Cill Chriosd (Christ's Church). The earliest historical reference tells us that in 1505 one Kenneth Adamson succeeded John MacGillivray as chaplain, only to be replaced, firstly by Sir John Johnson, and then in 1508 by John Ranaldson. The small stone carving of a boar, found during restoration, probably dates from around this time.

In 1627, the church received its first Protestant minister, Neil Mackinnon. On his appointment on June the 19thm he, 'gave his grate and solemn oath that he shall truelie according to his knowledge, give up to the Clerk of Councell the names of all the Papists he knew within the Isles'. Neil's mean spirit and greed were proverbial. While allowing his workmen two meals a day when working, he only supplied one meal on the Sunday when they were resting. One Sunday, as two hungry workmen sat on a knoll outside the church where he was preaching, they waited until the minister was leaving with his friends then set-to working with the foot-plough. Thereafter Neil made sure they received two meals every day.

In 1840, Cill Chriosd was itself superseded as parish church by a new building in Broadford.

Burial place of the Mackinnons of Strath

'An Srath Fhionnghain gheal,
'S an Grinne beus gun smal'

'The white strath of MacKinnon,
One of the most attractive qualities without blemish.'

Strath has been the home and heartland of the MacKinnons of Skye since the early 14th century, with the clan also holding estates in Mull, Arran, and Tiree. The family seat was within a refurbished prehistoric dun at Dun Ringill, by Strathaird, until the later 15th century when it removed to Caisteal Maol at Kyleakin. In the early years of the 17th century, the chief's family returned to live at Kilmarie, close by their original home. The clan placed itself under the banner of the MacDonalds of Sleat, and showed no hesitation in rallying to Prince Charles Edward Stuart's cause and aiding his escape from Hanoverian troops when a fugitive on Skye.

In 1765, the family estate was sold to the MacDonalds of Sleat, and thereafter the clan ceased to be a potent force in the island.

I had more time than originally planned at Cill Chriosd. If you learn one thing from reading this, it should be this: do not ever put regular fuel into a diesel engine. It is a good way to find yourself stranded. With a car full of family, I had filled the tank up with unleaded petrol in Broadford and headed towards Elgol - oblivious to it only being a matter of time before the diesel engine would run no more. After stopping at Cill Chriosd, we were unable to restart the car. Fortunately for us, across the road from the church lived the local police constable. He and his wife came to our aid and provided a lift for the family into Broadford while I awaited the tow truck. However, the weather was warm a sunny which gave more time to wander the ruins (no Misty Isle this day). A few hours later, we were back on the road again.

8.3 Kilmarie

Outside of a family reunion, you will not find more MacKinnons in any one area as you will in the beautiful little graveyard of Kilmarie. The Church of Kilmarie (or Kilmaree) was parish church to the MacKinnons since ancient times. Stand in the yard, throw a rock up in the air and it will land on a MacKinnon tomb from another or modern times. I optimistically try to apply my limited command of Gaelic to decipher the meaning of the name "Kil Marie". Kil means church or cell and Marie must mean Mary (as in St. Mary). Therefore, we have St. Mary's Church. Or so I thought. Marie (Maree) stumbled into English from the Gaelic Saint Maolrubha. The riddle is solved.

Its proximity to Dunringill, a mile or so away along the coast, illustrates why it was important to the MacKinnons, and continues to be to this day. To get to Kilmarie, follow the directions to Dunringill.

8.4, 9: Dunringill Castle: The clan seat from the time of the Strathaird award

Dunringill stands with its back to the sea as it has for more than 1000 years.

Dun Ringill
Lyrics by Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull

Clear light on a slick palm as I mis-deal the day
Slip the night from a shaved pack make a marked card play
Call twilight hours down from a heaven home high above the highest bidder for the good Lord's throne
In the wee hours I'll meet you down by Dun Ringill ---
oh, and we'll watch the old gods play by Dun Ringill

We'll wait in stone circles `til the force comes through ---
lines joint in faint discord and the stormwatch brews
a concert of kings as the white sea snaps
at the heels of a soft prayer whispered
In the wee hours I'll meet you
down by Dun Ringill ---
oh, and I'll take you quickly
by Dun Ringill

This is not a grand ruin, but for reasons that are hard to explain, this castle and its location are among the more intriguing in Skye. Though I am a Mackinnon, I am not alone in saying this. It is oft featured in guidebooks, in descriptions of the history of this part of Skye, and not to mention a famous rock song by Jethro Tull. Perhaps it is due to its location above the sea; possibly it is because it just has enough remaining to show that something substantial was there and leaves the rest to the imagination; or perhaps its due to its remoteness while not being difficult to get to. Whatever the reason, a visit to Dun Ringill is a highlight on any tour of Skye.

Ringill descends from the Gaelic meaning "point of the ravine." Look at a map of the area and you will see why that name was applied there. Hence, with Dunringill, we have the fort at the point of the ravine. In the ninth century, the MacKinnons refortified this iron-age fortress and it remained the clan seat for at least three centuries.

Apart from its location, what is remarkable about this dun is the doorway, which is largely intact. It is also easy to make out the castle grounds by following the stone wall. There were no roads in Skye apart from dirt trails until the 19th century; so that only civilized way to get here was over the sea. On each side of the keep are inclines down to the waterfront, which in times past must have been full of bustle.

On the sunny July day we were there, the wind was strong making me think what it must have been like during the winter 600 years ago with the sea winds piercing the cracks in the castle walls. We were alone but were greeted by the nettles; these small weeds cause an irritating rash when they come in contact with the skin. I recommend long pants and socks as protection.

Dun Ringill door interior with Casey MacKinnon

Three year old Casey Daniel MacKinnon stands in the doorway of Dunringill.

Dun Ringill with Julia, Bryan, and Casey MacKinnon

Julia, Bryan, and Casey MacKinnon stand among the doorway of Dunringill.

Dun Ringill with fence outline

The blue line marks the path of the stone wall that still encloses the Dunringill compound. The dun is the stone mound on the right.


How to get to Dunringill castle

While not very difficult to get to, I do recommend that you obtain a good map. The Ordnance Survey map for South Skye has all the detail you need to get to Dunringill. Unfortunately, the tourist information center in Portree was not very helpful; they had no specific knowledge of Dunringill and when I asked directions, they merely looked at the map and told me the information I could easily determine by myself.

To reach Dunringill, take route B8083 out of Broadford towards Elgol. The drive is not fast going but goes through very interesting countryside. The way the road weaves along the shoreline between the highlands and ocean, it is easy to imagine a time when there were no roads in Skye and most travel was over the sea. I wonder if even now it may be faster to go by boat. Not too far before reaching Elgol, you will reach Kilmarie. Turn left off the road towards Kilmarie graveyard along the coast. Park you car at the graveyard. You are now in Ringill. If you have time, you may search the area for the various duns, cairns, and maybe even a Stone Circle. Nevertheless, our destination is the singular Dun of Ringill. Looking around from the car park, you will notice a small stream with a footbridge. This marks the beginning of the walk. Cross the footbridge and follow the path with the shore to your right. As you round the point after about a mile or so, you will find Dunringill.

The walk along the shoreline is most enjoyable and I was able to make it with my family including a one year old on my shoulder and a three and five year old on foot.


10, 11, 12, 13: Inverlochy (10), Auldearn (11), Alford (12), Kilsyth (13)

The Campaigns of Montrose, 1644-1645. The MacKinnons fought in support of Montrose’s brilliant campaign for Charles I against the Scottish Covenanters in this series of decisive victories.

14. Philiphaugh

12 September 1645, Montrose was surprised and routed here.

15. Inverkeithing

1651: The MacKinnons were part of the Scottish army that was defeated by Cromwell while fighting for Charles II.

16. Worcester (England)

While in the process of being decisively defeated by Cromwell, Charles II was saved from death by chief Lachlan MacKinnon and was created a knight bannerette on the field of battle.

17. Killercrankie

27 July 1689, In an effort to restore James VII and II to the throne, the MacKinnons help route an army of William and Mary.

18. Sheriffmuir

13 November 1715, The MacKinnons participated in this victorious but indecisive battle to bring James VII and II to the throne.

19. Culloden

16 April 1746: after defeating and keeping the English at bay since the previous year, Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his highland host (including many MacKinnons) were finally and decisively defeated here. There has been much discussion who was at Culloden and among those who fell, where they were buried. The MacKinnon Clan record left this unclear until recently. Research by Major J. F. MacKinnon, as cited in No Quarter Given, reveal that the bulk of the MacKinnon force were not present at Culloden; instead they were stationed north of Inverness. They did rejoin the army after Culloden and were among the last to remain at arms. However, the affect was the same in the end. Like all Highland clans that fought in support of the Prince, they felt the full wrath of the Hanoverians and were largely dispossessed of what lands remained.

The Culloden memorial.

Perhaps the most moving area in Culloden is the graveyard of the clans. Some clans with large losses had their own grave markers while others were just piled into pits and later designated with "Mixed Clans" as above.

The battle line of the Jacobites. There are markers indicating the supposed locations of the highland regiments. However, there is doubt as their accuracy.


20. Prince Charles' Cave (MacKinnon Cave)

If you continue down the road from Dun Ringill to Elgol and hike a little way along the coast, you might be able to find MacKinnon Cave, known since 1746 as Prince Charles' Cave. In this cave, Prince Charles was hidden by the MacKinnons until he could safely escape to the mainland. The story continues how a maid, unknowing of the clandestine guest and seeing Lady MacKinnon bringing food, offered to assist her mistress. The Lady replied, "No my dear, I am bringing this to a wounded fox and you might frighten him."

A question worth asking is whether this cave was ever really ever known as "The MacKinnon Cave." There are caves scattered all along the coast, many in MacKinnon territory. So why would there be a singular cave known as MacKinnon Cave? If we search back through the annals of the clan history, the following story is retold in the Short History of the Clan:

The legend of the boar's head tells how the chief of MacKinnon was hunting wild boar on the shores of Lock Scavaig. He had outdistanced his attendants and sheltered for the night in a cave, where he kindled a file and broiled some venison. He looked up to see a savage wild boar in the entrance to the cave, about to attack him. In his hand, he held a large bone from which he was cutting slices of meat. As the brute charged, he thrust his arm into its throat, holding the jaws wide open with the bone until he had time to kill it with his hunting knife.

It is not too farfetched to think that this is the same cave in which the Prince was concealed and due to its early associations with a MacKinnon chief, it became know as MacKinnon Cave. In any case, that was then and now, it is simply known as the Prince's cave.

These images, compliments of, show the coastline of the cave and the entrance.