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Recording Your Heritage Online

Event ID 567185

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Recording Your Heritage Online


Castle Tioram, 13th century, continuously modified according to fashion until abandonment in the 18th century One of the great Gàidhealtachd strongholds, formerly the administrative centre of Garmoran and the seat of the Clanranalds. Strategically sited on a rocky outcrop in the throat of Loch Moidart, the castle overlooks Eilean Shona and the Shiel estuary in a landscape of superb Picturesque appeal enhanced by 19th century planting. Typical of its genre, it is enclosed by a great curtain wall of probably 13th century date, the round-angled, battered walls of which surround the highest part of the tidal isle. To judge from an odd crenellation, this has been heightened at a later date. The enclosure is entered through a simple, landward-facing gate, topped by a small machicolation reached by a continuous wall-walk (two other postern gates are blocked up). On the east is a small, simple tower, said to have been built in about 1350 by Amy MacRuari, mother of Ranald, the progenitor of the Clanranalds. This was raised in height in the 16th century. Sometime in the early 17th century, the building along the south side, possibly the original feasting hall, was converted into a "main house" of spacious apartments above cellars. This may date from around 1616, when Clanranald, along with other chiefs, entered into an agreement with James VI's government to build "civile and comelie houses for thair duellingis" and "make policie and planting about them". The south range was further remodelled, perhaps c.1668, when Donald, the 13th chief, wrote "I am doing what I can to repaire my old house of Castle Tyrholme" but "I am very scarce of deiles [deals] to it". Its south west section acquired large window openings and a projecting gabled stair tower on the courtyard elevation, and an extra storey embellished with corbelled bartizans and castellations for display; it used the old wall-walk as a promenade overlooking the sea. In the corner between the old tower house and the later south range was the kitchen. All these buildings would have been harled. Foundations of other structures, probably service buildings, line the curtain wall. Stirring and impossibly romantic, the ruin of Tioram stands as a potent symbol of the power struggles and political differences that have fuelled emotions since the Middle Ages. Today it has become the cause célèbre of a new brand of warfare - that waged between the opposing factions of the conservation lobby. The debate centres round the owner Lex Brown's thwarted application to restore and reinhabit the castle; widely supported plans by A.R.P. Lorimer & Assocs were rejected in 2002, after a notorious public enquiry.

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press

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