Reaching for the stars on Skye

Press release   •   May 02, 2016 12:04 BST

The oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, based in the west Highlands, has scooped the highest Quality Assurance award from the national tourism organisation.

Built on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Loch Dunvegan, once entirely encircled by the sea, Dunvegan Castle & Gardens, on the Isle of Skye, achieved its Five Star Visitor Attraction status from VisitScotland, in recognition of its exceptional standards.

Over the years, Dunvegan has offered a warm Highland welcome to visitors including Sir Walter Scott, Dr Johnson, Flora MacDonald and Queen Elizabeth II. Today visitors can enjoy tours of the castle and Highland estate steeped in history and clan legend, visit its formal gardens, take a boat trip onto Loch Dunvegan to see the seal colony, charter one of its traditionally built clinker boats for a fishing trip or loch cruise, or stay in one of its holiday cottages.

Many fine oil paintings and clan treasures are on display at Dunvegan - a world class heritage attraction - the most famous of which is the Fairy Flag. Legend has it that this sacred banner has miraculous powers and when unfurled in battle, the clan MacLeod will defeat their enemies.

Developed and improved over the past 25 years, VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance (QA) schemes are world-leading and provide a trusted, independent and impartial source of information for visitors. They allow businesses not just to meet visitor expectations, but exceed them.

QA can open the door to new customers. It is a powerful marketing tool and works well with online review sites in using an independent perspective to measure visitor experience against tried and tested criteria so visitors know exactly what to expect.

Hugh MacLeod, Estate Director, said:

“This Five Star award is wonderful news. It recognises all the hard work and dedication of the MacLeod Estate team and the positive impact of the rolling programme of major capital investment in Dunvegan Castle and the wider estate since 2008.

“These numerous improvements include the restoration of the castle’s roof, windows, collection and numerous interior renovations, landscaping/design work in every area of the castle gardens, a new main gate ticket office, refurbishment of the MacLeod Tables Cafe, Gift, Castle and St Kilda shops and a resurfaced car park and landscaped extension area.

“This award also recognises the legacy of my late father who had the vision to see that in order to hold fast in the modern world, Dunvegan had to adapt from being a medieval fortress designed to keep people out to a place focused on welcoming people in.

“Since those early make or break days in the 1960s, our dedicated team have extended a warm Highland welcome to millions of visitors which has the beneficial ripple effect of underpinning many Skye businesses that rely on the crucial visitor spend that generates.

“This award will underpin the estate’s mission to preserve the heritage of the Macleod Estate by being commercially successful in all we do to enable continuous reinvestment and to develop and share the unique history of Dunvegan Castle & Gardens with our visitors.”

Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland Regional Partnerships Manager, said:

“Dunvegan Castle & Gardens have worked hard to achieve this Five Star status and their achievement can also inspire other local tourism businesses to strive for this success.

Our Quality Assurance scheme helps businesses to reach their full potential and truly shine. The scheme is about more than just the ‘stars’ on the door - it’s about the entire visitor experience, about investing in your business and making it as economically sustainable as it can possibly be.”

For more information, visit

Pictured at VisitScotland expo in Edinburgh recently are (L-R): Jeroen Roskham, Dunvegan Castle custodian; Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland Chief Executive; and Iain Langlands, Financial Director for MacLeod Estate.

Notes to Editors

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  • The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
  • This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
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