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Castle Tioram

A substantial ruined castle in the Moidart district of the W Highlands, Castle Tioram (pronounced 'cheerum') was the ancestral home and centre of power of the Macdonalds of Clanranald, Lords of the Isles. It occupies in a spectacular location on a small drying island in the South Channel at the mouth of Loch Moidart, a quarter-mile (0.5 km) north of Dorlin and 2¾ miles (4.5 km) north northwest of Acharacle. Built in the 13th century and the subject of many subsequent modifications, the earliest reference to Tioram in the documentary record dates from 1373, when King Robert II (1316-90) confirmed an earlier charter, granted by John, Lord of the Isles, to his son Ranald. A scheduled ancient monument which has been Category-A listed since 1971, the castle comprises a massive curtain wall surrounding a 14th century keep, together with a lower range to the S which became the main residence from the early 17th century. The massive keep was originally three storeys, but later raised to four storeys with an attic. It features a corbelled-out parapet and a vaulted basement. The curtain wall is 2.4m (8 feet) thick and still reaches 9.1m (30 feet) in height, with a machiolated entrance.

The property was forfeited when Allan, the 14th Chief of Clanranald, joined the Jacobite Court in France in 1692, and abandoned by the clan in favour of the more remote Ormiclate Castle on South Uist. Tioram was occupied by Government forces between 1693 and 1715. In the early days of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, the clan chief ordered it recaptured and destroyed by fire, to deny its use to the government. It was never reoccupied having lost its social and strategic significance, and has remained a roofless shell ever since. Some consolidation of the ruins took place in 1810 and 1880.

Allan, the 22nd Chief of Clanranald sold the property in 1905, ending the connection between Castle Tioram and his clan. Having been owned by an absentee American lawyer through much of the 20th century, the castle was sold in 1997 to Anta Estates, an offshore company owned by a wealthy Ayrshire-born businessman, intent on restoring the castle as a private residence. Despite the support of local people and Highland Council, a long-running saga ensued which became a battle of principles between those wishing to see ruins restored to use and those wanting them to remain as relics of a historical past.

The castle provided a location for the film Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1994).


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