Finlaggan was the home of the MacDonald chiefs for almost four hundred years, from the 12th to the 16th century. From Finlaggan, the Lords of the Isles ruled the Western part of Scotland from Kintyre to Lewis. They gained control from their Norse overlords, adopted their maritime skills and improved on them. And from Finlaggan they met the kings from Scotland, England and France on equal terms.
Earliest Mention of Finlaggan
The earliest mention in written history dates back as far as the 14th century, concerning reroofing of the chapel on Eilean Mor. The first descriptive account of the Lordship was written by Dean Munro about 1550. Some relics of Finlaggan’s occupation remain. A few carved graveslabs help to substantiate the traditional opinion that the wives and children of the Lords were buried on Eilean Mor, while the Lords themselves were interred in Iona.
One of the better preserved stones, the warrior effigy, probably dates from a period later than the occupation by the Lords of the Isles. It is thought to be a 16th century stone. The inscription on it could still be read clearly last century, but this is no longer possible. All the stones have suffered from being badly positioned and exposed to the elements. The Finlaggan Trust had them placed under a shelter on Eilean Mor.
Islands in the Loch
From archeological and historical evidence it is clear that the islands in Loch Finlaggan have been used by men for a very long time. Eilean na Comhairle (the council island) and another small island, Eilean Mhuireill, are crannogs (man made islets) dating from prehistoric times. Eilean na Comhairle, which is linked to Eilean Mor by a stone causeway, was where the Lords of the Isles held meetings of the Council of the Isles. Recent excavations have shown that a stronghold had been built on it in the Iron Age.
Finlaggan has a visitor centre which is opened usually on weekdays from spring to autumn. Finlaggan is located outside Ballygrant on the road to Port Askaig over a single track road. Visiting Finlaggan and reading more about its history is highly recommended as it played an important part in local and Scottish history.
For detailed opening hours, more information and photos visit the Finlaggan Trust website