Borve Castle (Caisteal Raghall),
Benbecula, Outer Hebrides
~ History ~
1344 ~ Amy MacRuairi, the first wife of John, Lord of the Isles, begins the building of a castle on a small islet in a tidal loch on the island of Benbecula.
1715 ~ Following the failed Jacobite rising against the English Hanoverian monarchy to restore a Catholic Stewart King to the Scottish throne, the castle is abandoned.
1746 ~ Following the second failed Jacobite uprising, upon returning to Borve Flora MacDonald agrees to aid the Bonnie Prince Charlie, fugitive since Culloden, with a price of £30,000 on his head.
He is named Betty Burke on MacDonald’s papers and dressed accordingly. Despite such precautions, the Government militia who are patrolling the coast for unusual movements, see the boat conveying the Prince and his party from Benbecula to Skye, and attempt to sink it. They are not successful which allows Flora to take her companions into the custody of Lady MacDonald of Monkstadt, who provides a nearby cottage for their shelter. The following day Flora takes the prince to Portree, whence he sails to Raasay.
The grateful Prince, in parting from his saviour, gifts her his portrait in a gold locket saying the words, “I hope, madam, that we may meet in St James’ yet’. Flora, who never sees the prince again, is later arrested on her return to Benbecula and imprisoned in the Tower of London until the Jacobite amnesty of 1747.
4 miles south of Balivanich
Borve Castle in the 14th century, was the most important castle not only in medieval Benbecula, but possibly in the Outer Hebrides. Today the greatly collapsed ruins stand on flat ground in a private croft, but its surroundings have changed dramatically since it was built.
Originally it probably stood on a small islet in a tidal loch, or on its shore. Since then loch has been infilled with deep wind-blown sand, creating a flat, dry machair. Only the two upper floors of the building are now visible above ground level.
Access to the castle is a short walk from the road where the ruins can be explored with care and due consideration.
Not much is now left of this once important fortress, and it is hard to imagine how it once stood by a loch with galley going to and the bustle of a small community. Today it stands within a featureless field.