Tioram Castle

Tioram Castle, Moidart, Highlands

~ History ~

1164 ~ Following the death of the Norse Warlord Somerled, ruler of the Scottish Isles, at the Battle of Renfrew against the Scots, his vast kingdonw is broken upon between his sons. The lands of Moidart are granted to Ruaidhri ego (Rory). His brothers Dougall and Donald also enherit vast swathes of lands as chieftans to their own clans.

1300's ~ Christina MacRuari and her stronghold at Eilean Tioram is confirmed as returned to her from temporary Campbell ownership by King Robert the Bruce.

1346 ~ John MacDonald, Lord of the isles, obtains Tioram through marriage. The marriage only lasts four years. His wife Amy having returned to live at Tioram whilst John marries Margaret Stewart, daughter of King Robert II.  Amy sets about rebuilding the stronghold of Tioram.

1373 ~ Upon Amy's death the castle passes to Ranald, son of Amy & John, Lord of the Isles. This is confirmed in a charter by King Robert II when Ranold is announced as 1st cheif of Clan Ranald.

1411 ~ Allan, 2nd chief of Clan Ranald, takes part in the bloody Battle of Harlow. The feud concerns Donald, Lord of the Isles, who having fought for control of Ross, in northern Scotland, now plans to strike south east into Moray towards Aberdeen, along with 10,000 of his clansmen. 

Forewarned of Donald’s advance, Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar hastily assembles a force from the local clans including the Irvings, Lesleys, Lovels, Maules, Morays and Stirlings. Mar’s force numbers only around 1,500 men, including a substantial numbers of well-equipped mounted knights.

Holding his knights as cavalry reserve, Mar organises his spearmen into battle formation to face the advancing islanders near the town of Inverurie.

The islanders launch charge after charge against the close packed ranks of Mar’s spearmen but fail to break their ranks. Meanwhile Mar leads his cavalry into the main body of Donald’s army, where the islanders thrust their dirks into the soft underbellies of the horses, stabbing the knights as they fall.

By nightfall the dead litter the field. Exhausted, Mar and the survivors of his army rest and wait for the battle to resume the following morning. With the dawn they find that Donald has already left the field, retreating back to the Isles.

1505 ~ Allan, 4th chief of Clan Ranald, following his imprisonment of the chief of Clan MacKintosh and many of his men in Tioram Castle, is later himself imprisoned and then executed by King James IV.

1509 ~ Allan's son Ranald Bane meets a similar fate when he is hanged in Perth.

1520 ~ Dougal, son of Ronald Bane and next cheif is assinated by his own people due to his untold cruelty and brutality.

1532 ~ King James V confirms the title having already passed to Dougal's uncle Alexander as 7th chief, rather than his natural heirs.

1542 ~ Due to Alexander's support for the clan's continued conflict against the crown, he is imprisoned but upon the death of the King, he manages to escape to return to his clan & reclaim his forfeited estates.

1544 ~ A bloody skirmish between Frasers and Clan Ranald over the forfeiture and recovery of the estates see's hundreds left dead, almost everyone involved is killed on both sides.

1554 ~ Tioram Castle is attacked by forces of Sir George Gordan the Earl of Huntly, and Sir Archibald Campbell the Earl of Argyll. Campbell attacks from the sea whilst Gordan by land, though his troops struggle across the mountainous terrain. John Ranald defends his castle and when Campbell ships start bombing the walls of the castle he manages to capture artillary intended for the siege of the castle and so on seeing this the Campbell's fleet withdraw.

1584 ~ John Ranald dies in his bed in Tioram castle after a life fighting against attacks from the Crown and the clans used against them. He had reigned for fifty three years.

1593 ~ John's son Allan becmes the 10th chief Cla Ranald. His reign lasts only for one year when he is killed by a band of Macleods on a cattle raiding expedition in South Uist where John was living withhis brother, Donald.

1595 ~ Donald, 11th chief of the clan continues the fierce fued with the Macleods of Mull. He however joins forces with their kin the Macleods of Harris and Donald Gorm of Sleat. Each chief leads a force of 500 clansmen and set sail for for Ireland to come to the aid of Hugh Raudh O'Donnell in his resistance against an invasion by English forces.

As Donald's fleet sail down the Sound of Mull they land for the night on a small isolated island, into a trap laid by the Macleods of Mull. Donald, along with his three uncles and close men of arms are captured and imprisoned.

1598 ~ Donald and his rival chief Lachlan Mor Macleod of Mull are reconciled. Donald is released.

1608 ~ King James VI in an attempt to bring the fueding clan chiefs to heel, sends Lord Ochiltree with Bishop Knox to hold a court at Aros on Mull. Once the chief's are aboard a ship anchored below the castle they are seized by the King's men and made prisoners.

Donald is released from Blackness Castle ten months later by the Crown,  upon taking an oath of loyalty to the King with harsh conditions laid upon the clan. Tioram and the lands of Moidart are reconfirmed as belonging to Donald and his clan.

1617 ~ In recognition for Donald's loyalty in maintaining the 'Kings Peace' to the Crown, he is knighted.

He dies the following year, leaving a young son as his heir.

1627 ~ John, 12th chief is involved in a long period of piracy on the Irish Sea that is to last for a further eight years, bringing him into conflict with the Crown and neighbouring clans.

1644 ~ During the English Civil War, John and his son Donald fight for James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose, for King Charles I. This brings Clan Ranald, along with other Highland clans in direct confrontation with the powerful Campbells.

1645 ~ The Campbell's 3,000 Argyll forces are routed by Montrose's 1,500 men that include Clan Ranald and many other Highland clans.

1647 ~ John loses Tioram and his lands to the clans old enemy , the Campbells, led by Sir Archibald Campbell.

1651 ~ John again loses control of the castle whilst Cromwell's troops occupy it after a siege.

1660 ~ John see's the return of the Monachy under King Charles II. He dies ten years later in South Uist, where his grandfather was also buried.

1668 ~ Donald Ranald, 13th chief of the clan, undertakes to reconstruct Tioram Castle, he writes "I'm doing what I can to fix my old house in Castle Tyrholme." He later writes "the task is much scares me." With time Donald becomes notorious for his cruelty and wild behaviour. His main occupation involves hanging out of the tower at Tioram Castle shooting every living creature that appears in the area.

A further story written many years later tells of Donald accusing a woman and two men of stealing silver from him. Despite having no evidence to support his claim he hangs the two men high upon a hill just south of Tioram and ties the woman to a rock so as she is drowned upon the incoming tide.

After the death of Donald, Castle Tioram ceases to function as the headquarters of the clan. He is also buried in South Uist.

1692 ~ Allan, 14th chief of the clan, decides to move to the island of Benbecula in the safety of the Outer Hebrides.

Because of his Jacobite sympathies, Tioram is occupied by Hanoverian Troops.

1715 ~ Clan chief Allan of Clan Ranald, orders the castle to be burnt.

The Government troops have already reported the castle is already in runious state. Defended by just 14 Government soldiers the castle is attacked and burnt.

He is killed at the Battle of Sheriffmuir which ends the Jacobite cause.

The castle is never re-occupied.


3 miles from Acharacle


B Road off A861


Near PH36 4JX

Tioram Castle stands on an island in Loch Moidart, high on a rock which makes the castle stand well clear of the water. It occupies the entire summit on which it stands. Buildings including a great tower were erected inside, and are now ruined. The enclosure walls reach 30 feet high and are 8 feet thick in places.

Standing on a tidal island, Castle Tioram was the main stronghold of the MacDonalds of Clan Ranald.

The road to this gorgeous castle takes you through some beautiful scenary but nothing really prepares you for that 'wow' factor when you arrive and look out across the loch at the castle. Framed by the mountains in the background, steep woodlands behind you and the shallow waters of the loch laping against the beach infront of you, the setting is simply stunning.

Ensure you time  your arrival for low tide if possible as the causeway reveals itself so as you can walk across to the island and explore the castle and breathtaking scenary. You will find few better settings to explore than at Tioram.

Scroll down to see the fantastic scenery...