Finlaggan is a tourist hotspot on Eilean Mor, just a thirty-minute drive across Islay from the Islay Cottages. It’s a site steeped in history and stories and worth visiting. If you’re looking for something to do when visiting the Isle of Islay, you’ll definitely want to head to Finlaggan.
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What’s at Finlaggan
Finlaggan is a historical site that features two small islands within Loch Finlaggan, just a short distance away from Ballygrant. The islands used to be home to Finlaggan Castle and chapel. Now you can see the ruins of the castle and some other incredibly intriguing archaeological finds.
Visitors can reach the islands by means of a causeway bridge that attaches them to the land. Just before the bridge, there is a cottage that has been converted into a delightful visitor’s centre. Perfect for those who want to know all that there is to know about Finlaggan and what happened to it.Book Now
Why is Finlaggan so important?
Finlaggan was once the seat of the Lord of the Isles or King of the Isles, a title that belonged to Scottish nobility. The title was first given to Somerled in the 12th century. It was then handed down to his descendants, Norse-Gaelic rulers of the Isle of Man and Argyll.
The Lords of the Isles were powerful. They had incredible sea power with fleets of galleys, and were fiercely independent for a very long time. They ruled over Argyll, Arran, Bute, Islay, the Isle of Man, Hebrides, Knoydart, Ardnamurchan, and even the Kintyre peninsula. In their heyday, they were easily one of the most powerful lords out there. And Finlaggan was the seat they ruled from.
It was also the home of Clan Donald, one of the largest Scottish clans to have existed.The three islands are split. Eilean Mor (the Great isle), and Eilean na Comhairle (Isle of the Council), and then Eiliean Mor Castle. The two former islands used to function as the administrative centre of the isles between the 13th and 15th centuries. The third island was home to the castle.
What happened to the castle?
Finlaggan Castle, the once-fortified house on Eilean Mor, was built in the 13th century. There was a community and life on the isle far before this, though, as far back as the 7th century. Now a ruin, it gives visitors a wonderful insight into what life might have been like for the Lords and the community around them.
Evidence has been found that a castle was built on the island in 1138. It was built by Somerled, the very first Lord of The Isles. Likely to have been made out of timber, it was built on the remains of an Iron Age construction. And was used as a principal court and meeting place.
Less is known about the castle. But it is thought that the construction had masonry walls and was demolished in the 15th or 16th century.
The Visitor Centre
The Visitor Centre has been praised by many, and rightfully so. The Finlaggan Trust maintains the entire historical site and they have done a wonderful job with the Finlaggan Visitor Centre. Once a mere cottage, the building is bursting at the seams with knowledge and information. There are tonnes of information boards, artefacts, diagrams, and explanations. Everything you could possibly want in order to truly understand what Finlaggan is and why it’s such an impressive site.
When you’re done…