Caisteal Maol, Isle of Skye
~ History ~
900's - Castle Moal is built by Norwegian forces who utilise the sheltered waters around the Isle of Skye as safe harbours for their warships as they vied for control of Western Scotland. Findanus, chief of the powerful Clan Mackinnon of Mull, marries a Norwegian bride bringing the castle into his families' hands. It significantly enhances his power for the site commands the strait of Kyle Akin between the Isle of Skye and mainland Scotland.
The straight is the main route used by the Norwegian seafaring warriors who were frequently in battle with The Scottish Crown.
Legend states that a Norwegian Princess ‘Saucy Mary’ married to a MacKinnon chief, builds Castle Maol where she raised herself an income from ruthlessly levied tolls on all non native ships sailing through the Kyle. Her remains are reputed to be buried under the previous castle that predates the current structure.
1263 - The Battle of Largs in this year proves to be an indecisive engagement between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland. Hakon Hakonarson, King of Norway attempts to reassert Norwegian sovereignty over the western seaboard of Scotland against King Alexander II. Following failed attempts to purchase the islands from the Norwegian king, the Scots launch military operations. Hakon responds to the Scottish aggression by leading a massive fleet from Norway, which reached the Hebrides in the summer of 1263. By the end of September, Hakon's fleet occupied the Firth of Clyde, and when negotiations between the kingdoms brake down, he brings the bulk of his fleet to anchor off The Cumbraes.
On the night of 30 September, during a bout of particularly stormy weather, several Norwegian vessels are driven aground on the Ayrshire coast, near the present-day town of Largs. On 2 October, while the Norwegians were salvaging their vessels, the main Scottish army arrive on the scene. Composed of infantry and cavalry, the Scottish force are commanded by Alexander of Dundonald, Steward of Scotland.
The Norwegians are gathered in two groups: the larger main force on the beach and a small contingent atop a nearby mound. The advance of the Scots threaten to divide the Norwegian forces, so the contingent upon the mound ran to rejoin their comrades on the beach below. Seeing them running from the mound, the Norwegians on the beach believe they are retreating, and flee back towards the ships.
Fierce fighting takes place on the beach, and the Scots take up a position on the mound formerly held by the Norwegians. Late in the day, after several hours of skirmishing, the Norwegians are able to recapture the mound.
The Scots withdraw from the scene and the Norwegians are able to reboard their ships. They return the next morning to collect their dead.
The weather is deteriorating, and Hakon's demoralised forces turn for home. Hakon's campaign had failed to maintain Norwegian overlordship of the seaboard, and his native magnates, left to fend for themselves, are soon forced to submit to the Scots.
1266 - Three years after the battle, with the conclusion of the Treaty of Perth, Magnus Hakonarson, King of Norway cedes Scotland's western seaboard to Alexander III, and thus the centuries-old territorial dispute between the consolidating kingdoms was at last settled.
Until their defeat by King Alexander III at The Battle Largs, shattering Norwegian hopes of retaining a foothold in the Hebrides. Sovereignty of the Hebrides then passed to the Scottish Crown.
1314 - The Mackinnons remain in ownership of the castle throughout the subsequent centuries and their land holdings on the Isle of Skye were enhanced by gifts of territory from a grateful Robert I after his victory at the Battle of Bannockburn.
1490's - The Mackinnon's rebuild the castle in a three-storey rectangular Tower House style.
1513 - A meeting of Clan chiefs is held at the castle resulting in an agreement to support Donald MacDonald as Lord of the Isles.
The attempt later founders, requiring Royal Pardon for all involved.
Numerous battles and uprisings continue down the centuries into which the MacKinnon’s are drawn through their allegiance with the MacDonald’s and the Lordship of the Isles.
1601 - John Og the youngest brother of the 26th MacKinnon chief is killed in battle between the MacDonald’s and Macleod’s, and his son Neill is the last MacKinnon to live in the castle.
The castle is abandoned in favour of more comfortable lodgings after the death of Neill Mackinnon. The site continues to be a key source of revenue for the clan as they are granted an exclusive licence to run a ferry across strait of Kyle Akin in the early seventeenth century. Following its abandonment Castle Moal is allowed to drift into ruin.
1715 - 150 Mackinnon's fight with their liege lords the Macdonald's of Sleat against the Crown. Because of this the chief of the clan is forfeited.
1727 - The Mackinnon's are pardoned by the Crown for their loyal support to the Macdonald cause.
1745 - In the rebellion against the Crown, the Mackinnon chief, then old and infirm, joins the forces of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) with a battalion of 200 men. Following the defeat of the Jacobite's at the Battle of Culloden, Charles Edward Stuart flees to the west coast of Scotland in order to escape to France after the Stuart cause is lost. The Mackinnon's aid the prince, with the chief concealing him in a cave, and the chief’s wife bringing the prince refreshments of cold meat and wine.
The Mackinnon chief is later captured by Government troops and spends a year in confinement before being put on trial, with his life at stake, in Tilbury Fort. Mackinnon is eventually spared his life and pardoned because of his advanced age, and upon leaving the court room the Attorney General asks him
“If King George were in your power, as you have been in his, what would you do?”, with Mackinnon replying,
“I would do to him, as he has this day done to me; I would send him back to his own country”.
1765 - Because of the chief’s support of the Jacobite rebellion they lose Strathardle and forever held landless in their ancient clan lands.
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Caisteal Maol occupies one of the most strategically important positions on the island, with commanding views of the approaches to the narrows that separate Skye from the mainland.
You can see the castle when you cross the Kyle bridge with a short drive to the village where there is limited parking near the castle. A short walk round the edge of the loch takes you to the castle itself, but be aware the loch is tidal, so you will need to keep a close eye to avoid being marooned!