They were used for imprisoning enemies, healing the sick or feasting with friends after a hard day of hunting.
Scotland’s island lochs are rich with their own history and lore. Here we look at 5 islands cradled in some of Scotland’s most beautiful stretches of water and the stories of these often sacred places.
Loch Laggan - Island of Dogs, Eilean n’Cone
The ancient kings of Dunkeld are said to have retired to the larger island on Loch Laggan after hunting to feast on their game. The neighbouring island, Eilan n’Cone, or the Island of Dogs, is where their hounds were confined.
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In 1934, the loch was lowered and various items found on the larger island, including fragments of clay vessels, a wooden dish and pieces of sewn leather shoes and possibly cloth fragments.
Some believe a clay-built castle may have stood on the island where remains of a clinker-built boat, now preserved in the National Museum of Antiquities, were also discovered. It was dated to between 700 and 1500 A.D.
Loch Maree - Isle Maree, Eilean Maree
There is perhaps no other loch as steeped in folklore as Loch Maree with its 65 islands rich in stories of witches, Vikings and money trees.
Eilean Maree is said to have been a sacred site for Druids with the th e8th Century St Maelrhuba later taking a hermitage here.
His healing well said to have the power to cure lunacy. Patients would take water before being bound, thrown from a boat and towed around the island three times in a clockwise direction.
The Black Flag legend of Isle Maree relates to its inhabitants Prince Olaf and his bride, who tricked her husband in to believing she was dead to test his love for her. Both died as a result are reportedly buried here.
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Loch Lomond, Eilean Vow
Robert Bruce is said to have taken refuge in what is now Rob Roy’s Cave, just North of Inversnaid on the banks of Loch Lomond, and planted many of the yew trees on Eilean Vow and neighbouring Inchlonaig, to provide a supply of bows for his soldiers.
A castle was built on Vow by Andrew Macfarlane in 1577 with John, 15th Chief of Clan McFarlane, constructing almshouses here in the 17th Century.
Vow became the seat of the clan after Inveruglas Isle, at the north end of the loch, was burned by forces loyal to Cromwell.
Loch Shiel, Finnan Island, Eilean Fhianain
Among one of the most beautiful stretches of water in Scotland lies Finnan Island (Eilean Fhianain) where the ancient ruins of a chapel and a clutch of medieval tombstones can be found.
The chapel is believed to have been built around 1500 to replace a wooden structure by Allan MacRuari, 4th Chief of Clanranald who evoked “all the dread and terror of all the neighbouring clans.”
Abandoned in the 17th Century, the island still harbours many clues to its past. A stone altar slab still remains - as well as a seamless bronze bell from possibly the 10th Century.
A 15th Century gravestone depicts a sword and foliage scrolls.
Loch Katrine, Factor’s Island, Eiliean Dharag
During his long-running dispute with the Duke of Montrose, Rob Roy once imprisoned his factor, Graham of Killeran, on Eilean Dharag for five or six days. It later became known as Factor’s Island.
He was held with a ransom of 3,400 Merks placed on his head as Rob Roy sought to settle money owed to him by the Duke following the burning of his property.
A stone wall was added to protect the island when the water level in Loch Katrine was raised in connection with its use as a water supply for Glasgow, which it has been since 1859.