Brochel Castle

Brochel Castle, Isle of Raasay

~ Legends ~

A MacLeod of Raasay was out hunting with his Gille-Mor or henchman. After a fruitless day they returned to their boat only to discover that a favourite hunting dog was missing. Neither chief or his Gille-Mor could find the dog. They returned the following morning to continue the search, again there was still no sign. Having given up on their search they were sailing back across the loch when they imagined they could hear a dog barking in the neighbourhood of Loch Sligachan. They sailed in that direction and found a large birlinn anchored there, with the missing dog on board. The Gille-Mor lept aboard to retrieve the dog but was set upon by the crew who attempted to throw him back over the side. They had sorely miscalculated the Gille-Mor's strength, for soon it was they who went overboard. Seeing the turn things were taking, a youth on board grabbed the dog and tried to get below decks, however he was seized by the Gille-Mor and flung aside. The dog was retrieved and on return it was revealed that the birlinn belonged to the Laird of Craignish and that the youth on board, his son, had been mortally injured.

Some time after, at a great gathering of chiefs at Dunvegan Castle, MacLeod of Raasay was talking to the Laird of Craignish who pulled a purse of gold from his pocket and promosed it to anyone who would tell him who had killed his son. MacLeod's Gille-Mor, who was in attendance on his chielf, asked him if he really meant it. On receiving assurance he held out his hand for the gold which he put in his sporan. 'I am sorry to say it was I, but it was his own fault and an accident, for which I am grieved.' He waited to see what would happen, but nothing did. He then bowed and left the room followed by his chief who felt it prudent to leave quickly. Some days later the Gille-Mor came to his chief and pressed the gold on him, saying he neither had need for it, nor would his conscience allow his to keep it. His chief MacGillichaluim took the gold and used it to build Brochel Castle.

The last chief who resided at Brochel was Iain Garbh (Mighty John) who succeeded his father Alexenader in 1648. He was greatly venerated by his tenants, and with his death in 1671 succession passed to his cousin Alexander who became the 8th chief in 1692.


Isle of Raasay


Single track road north of Ferry


North-east end of Raasay

Brochel Castle is impressively perched on a crag high above the eastern shore just below the northern tip of Raasay. The ruined remains appear almost twisted into the rock in its construction. This fortified three storey tower-house was built by the MacLeod clan in the 1510's and occupied until the late 17th century.

The Island of Raasay, together with its small surrounding islands, formed part of the possessions of the MacLeods of Lewis. Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries these islands became the refuge of thieves and pirates. At the turn of the 16th century, Calum MacLeod, the 9th Chief of Lewis bestowed the lands of Raasay on his younger son, Calum Garbh. Thereafter known as MacGillichaluim, Calum become the first Chief of Raasay MacLeods albeit 'the weakest and least powerful of all the island Lairds'.