During my two week trip to Scotland, I visited thirteen castles. I’d be hard-pressed to say which was my favorite, although I can narrow it down to Tioram, Finlairig, Linlithgow, Urquhart, and Eileen Donan. If I absolutely had to, I could probably narrow it down to Tioram and Finlairig.
This week’s (or month’s, depending on my schedule) picture in the sidebar is Castle Tioram, pronounced Cheerum, and Gaelic for dry. Yes, this is Castle Dry, surrounded by water. It’s named after the tidal island, Eileen Tioram, on which it sits in Loch Moidart in the western Highlands of Scotland, the former stronghold of the MacDonalds. Winston Churchill called it one of the most beautiful places he knew. It was once important, not for beauty, but because it guarded important waterways.
Tioram sits on the lands of the great Somerled of the 12th Century. On his death, his territory was divided among his sons, with the Moidart section becoming part of the Garmoran lands, and eventually being inherited by Christina MacRuari, one of Bruce’s supporters, in the 14th Century. It is mentioned in a charter by Christina, which rewards an Arthur Campbell for the service of a 20 oar galley. However, the Garmoran lands, including Tioram, were also later given by Christina to her half brother Ruari. Tradition says that Christina’s niece, Amy, built Tioram, though many sources say it is more likely she upgraded an existing structure.
Tioram seems to have housed a fascinating cast of Clanranalds over the years, until it was burned in 1715 on the orders of the last chief of the direct line, when he joined the Jacobite Rising. His intention was to keep it from being used by the Hanoverians. It has been an unoccupied ruin since that time. Currently, the entrance is barred, due to the danger of falling masonry.
Pictures of the interior of Tioram were one of my first inspirations for the image of a man waking up in a foreign time, surrounded by ruins when he’d gone to sleep in a complete castle, so it was high on my list of must-sees as I planned my trip to Scotland. Unlike Urqhart or Linlithgow, there is no visitors’ center, no placards, nothing but the castle sitting alone on its rocky outpost. I don’t think I was aware, on the drive to it, that access is completely blocked by the incoming tide during part of the day. However, luck was with me, and I reached the castle at exactly the right time, when the tide was out and the sandbar was exposed so I could walk across. (The sandbar can be clearly seen in the picture.) The castle itself sits high on a grassy hill. It was a cool day, but wonderful to be able to climb all around, look into the entrance, and look out along the water routes the castle guards.
As just a sidenote, I would like to mention that The World of the Blue Bells Trilogy now has nearly 700 subscribers! Thank you to all who have subscribed.