Castle Tioram

March 21, 2020
Castle Tioram

Castle Tioram

is an abandoned 13th Century Castle whose ruins are perched on a promontory that sits on the inner section of Loch Moidart.

I was lucky when I visited Tioram as it was not on my itinerary en-route to Kilhoan, on impulse I decided to pay it a visit on the way past as it is only a small detour and through luck rather than judgement the sun was shining and the tide was out allowing me to walk over the causeway.

The location is stunning with exceptional views of Loch Moidart and the surrounding Highland landscape that provides a peaceful and breathtaking panorama. The castle itself is closed, however, the walk around the fortification is memorable. Don’t get too close as there is a danger of falling masonry.

Castle Tioram

Although Castle Tioram is now a ruin

the castle commands an isolated location with Loch Moidart as a backdrop and is an impressive sight as you approach. When visiting try and get your timing right as the waters are tidal, at low-tide you can walk out to the fortification and it’s an interesting and scenic walk around the building. The interior is unsafe due to crumbling masonry.

The castle is perched on the tidal island Eilean Tioram in Loch Moidart

Due to the foreshores shallow gradient

the location was perfect for small ships and it’s believed that the area was in occupation many centuries prior to the castle being built. In the mid 12th century the land was controlled by the Norse under Somerled, Lord of Argyll.

On Somerled’s death in 1164 the area was passed to his son Reginald and later to the grandson Donald whose descendants became the MacDonalds of Clanranald.

Castle Tioram the ancient fortress of the MacDonalds.

Like most of Scotland’s highland fortifications

the history of ownership is chequered it’s not known who actually built the castle, however, it is known that it was modified by Amy MacRuari, wife of John, 7th Lord of the Isles who later divorced her to marry Margaret, daughter of King Robert II.

In 1373 King Robert II granted the lands to Ranald the son of Amy MacRuari and consequently the branch of the MacDonalds, Clan Ranald came through her and became the seat of the MacDonalds of Clan Ranald.

Castle Tioram sometimes home to Amy who was the founder of the Macdonalds of Clanranald.

The Lords of the Isles held much power and influence in the western Highlands and the 15th and 16th centuries saw many power struggles with the monarchs of the Scottish Crown in attempts to break this power and influence. Now called the Macdonalds of Clanranald they fought numerous campaigns against Royal forces.

Castle Tioram lies at the entrance to Loch Moidart on the west coast of Ross-shire

During the Jacobite Rising of 1715

the castle was torched so that Hanovarien forces could not use it, and the chief of Clan Ranald was killed at the battle of Sheriffmuir and the castle was never reoccupied.

The property must have been in a decent state of repair as Lady Grange one of Scotlands intriguing ancestors, who was imprisoned in St Kilda for a number of years in the 1730s. The dates vary depending on whose tales you refer to, however, it is almost definite that when she left St Kilda she stayed at Castle Tiorem, wintered in Assynt, stayed a while in Harris, and arrived at the Vaternish Peninsula on Skye in 1742.

The tales tell us the Clan Ranald had a set of magical bagpipes and when played would ensure the clan victorious in battle. The castle is also noted to have a spirit in the shape of frog that had the power to raise storms at sea and also becalm the torrents.

If you would like to learn more about the castle visit the Moidart Local History Group website where you can read all about it’s history and the Clanranalds.

How to Castle Tioram.

From Fort William take the A830 heading towards Mallaig this takes you through Banavie which is well worth a stop as it provides great views to Ben Nevis together with scenic viewpoints and Neptunes Staircase a historic series of canal locks.

After Banavie you travel alongside Loch Eil to Kinlockeil after which you reach Glenfinnan with its amazing monument dedicated to Bonnie Prince Charles and the viaduct made famous through the Harry Potter film.

Carry on (the scenery is amazing) the A830 untill you reach Lochailort then turn left onto the A861 this takes you along the banks of Loch Ailort through the tiny communities of Kinlochmoidart, Ardmolich and Dalnabreac.

Before you reach the Shiel Bridge you turn right towards Doirlinn, it’s a single track road and ends at a car park close to the castle.

If you fancy a cuppa and a bite to eat carry on to Acharcle where there is a shop, cafe and restaurant in the Loch Shiel Hotel.

By Allan

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