MHG4028 - Castle Tioram - Cur Doirlinn, Moidart


A 13th century castle with later keep tower and domestic additions including high tower at Cur Doirlinn, Moidart.

Type and Period (1)

  • CASTLE (Early Medieval to 19th Century - 561 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

Castle Tioram (NR) (In ruins).
OS 6"map, Argyllshire, 2nd ed., (1901)

The castle was scheduled in 1920.

The castle on Eilean Tioram is first mentioned in a charter of 1372. It was garrisoned by the government in the E 18th century and burned down in 1715. It consists of a massive pentagonal curtain wall. Occupying the whole summit of the rock, within which is a range of stone buildings of which the earliest is the keep, 16th century; the South range was added about 1600 followed by later additions and modifications (Simpson 1954). Before 1928 the remains of a 5th c bronze hanging-bowl were recovered from a kitchen-midden at Tioram. It is 6 1/2" in diameter and spun from a single piece of bronze. Now in the West Highland Museum (Kilbride-Jones 1937).
W D Simpson 1954 <1>; M E M Donaldson 1923 <2>; H E Kilbride-Jones 1937 <3>.

Castle Tioram, as described and planned by Simpson. About 8.0m NW of the gable of the castle is a cleft in the rock which has almost certainly been used as a midden for the castle, otherwise no further information regarding the find spot of the hanging bowl which is still in the West Highland Museum.
Visited by OS (R L) 3 June 1970.

The hanging-bowl dates within the 5th to 8th centuries but is late, perhaps 7th century.
Information from R B K Stevenson, Keeper, NMAS.

The castle is 13th century and later.
J G Dunbar 1966. <4>

Reference from Architecture Catalogue

Situated in Moydart, or Moidart, a district on the mainland in the S.W. extremity of Inverness-shire, and on the margin of the indent or bay of the sea called Loch Moidart. Groome's Gazetteer of Scotland, 1901, refers to the 'ruined castle' there.
In a report dated at Edinburgh October 3rd, 1748, made by David Watson, Engineer, on the state of the Castles of Tyrrim, Duart, and Island Stalker (Shuna), and contained among a series of Drawings of the board of Ordnance (Reference MSS. 1645-1652) held in Volume or Case No. 1648 by the National Library of Scotland, he refers to Castle Tyrrim, as at that time, thus:-
"Castle Tyrrim is an old ruinous Building belonging to the Clanronald family, it stands on a Rocky Peninsula, that joins Moydart by a narrow neck of Sand.
In the Rebellion 1715, a detachment of the King's Troops was sent to Castle Tyrrim, which detachment was surprised and made prisoners by the Rebells who burnt the Castle.
If this Castle was repaired it might accommodate a party of 50 men, the repairs would cost at least 800?; the Walls of the Building being quite insufficient, from the burning and Tryings of the Weather".
In the National Library of Scotland is a series of Military Maps and Drawings (many are coloured) of the Board of Ordnance, relating to the works executed in the 18th Century (Reference MSS. 1645-1652), and in Volume or Case 1648 is contained the report quoted above so far as relating to Castle Tyrrim, and the following Drawings:-
No.Z.3/25.-Plann of Castle Tyrholme in Moidart, to scale one Inch to every 10 Feet; with Profile, or view. Indicated as Surveyed and deliver'd by Lewis Petit. There is no date, but there is a copy dated 1741.
Z.3/28.-Plan, to scale of 40 Feet to an Inch, and a View of Castle Tyrim in Muydart; and, on the same sheet, Plan to scale of 60 Feet to an Inch, and 2 Veiws of Castle Duirt in the Island of Mull. The Plan is dated 1748. Thre is also a copy. (This Drawing is also entered under Castle Duart).
In the Index Volume of the series quoted, numbered 1652, it is stated that Castle Tioram (Tyrim in Moidart or Muydart) is a scheduled monument: it was put into a state of repair at the instance of the owner,
Mr Wiseman Madconald of Los Angeles, U.S.A., by the A.M. Department,

Macgibbon and Ross, in "The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Architecture of Scotland", give the name as the Castle of Ellan-Tirrim. They give an Historical Note, with a Plan and a pen and ink sketch. <5>

The castle was listed at category A in 1971.

See Reports 849-861. Report Library. (Reports 4 & 5 missing).
J Aitken : 20/05/02.

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

Site Visit 21/2/2000 to view area of collapse in wall.

LOC Local Plan, Feb. 1991: P55/5.2.26. Visitor Facilities. The Council will consider provision of improved parking, interpretation and walks at this site.
J Aitken : 05/06/01.

Castle Tioram was photographed by S Salem during a visit to the surrounding area in November 2013. <11>

The castle was reviewed by Historic Environment Scotland in 2019 as part of their on-going Dual Designations Project. The site was not visited but after desk-based assessment it was recommended that the building be de-listed but remain a scheduled monument. This change in designation came into effect on 12/12/2019. <12>

There are three copper alloy annular brooches from Castle Tioram on display at West Highland Museum. <13>

See also:
NM67SE0105 - Bowl, hanging

Sources/Archives (13)



Grid reference Centred NM 6621 7242 (300m by 300m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NM67SE
Geographical Area LOCHABER

Finds (1)

  • ANNULAR BROOCH (Medieval to 19th Century - 1058 AD to 1900 AD)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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