The MacDonalds of Sleat are the descendants of Hugh, the third son of Alexander, 3rd Lord of the Isles. Hugh had ability and power and sat on the Council of the Isles.
After the Lordship had been forfeited in the 1400s because of attempts to reclaim the MacDonald mainland possessions, Hugh obtained a charter to retain his own lands. His son John inherited these.
An artist’s impression of what the former seat Dunscaith Castle on Skye may have looked like
John had five sons, each to a different woman, and these MacDonalds threw the clan into a period of destructive evil. One, Black Archibald, grandson of Torquil of Lewis, is described as having a soul as dark as his complexion. With two of his half-brothers he conspired to murder the eldest half-brother whom he had strangled.
He invited another brother, Donald Hearach, to dinner to see his newly-built gallery. During the meal he stabbed Donald in the back. In the violent reprisals Black Archibald seemed the only brother to survive, till Donald and Ranald Grumach, his nephews, murdered him. Donald became Clan Chief in 1518.
In 1608 after almost a century of feuding, including MacDonald battles with the MacKenzies and the MacLeans in attempts to reclaim lost property of the house of Sleat, all the relevant chiefs were called to meet Lord Ochiltree, the King’s representative, to discuss the royal intentions for the governing of the Isles.
The chiefs did not agree with the King’s plans and found themselves in prison. Donald was incarcerated in Blackness Castle. His release was granted when he at last submitted to the King. He died in 1616 and Sir Donald MacLeod, his nephew, succeeded him and became the first Baronet of Sleat.
Because Sir Alexander MacDonald took no part in the 1745 rising the Sleat possessions remained secure.