Tioram Castle: One of The Scottish Highland's Great Beauties
Updated: Jun 16
Location: Click for Map
Fee: Free to enter
Did you know there are over 4,000 castles in Scotland? Four thousand!! If I just wanted to be a castle nerd in Scotland, I would have a photography and exploration trip covered every weekend for the rest of my life! There are many well known and well documented castles in Scotland like Eileen Donan Castle (which was in the movie Skyfall), the great Dunottar Castle, Urquhart Castle, and oh yes the mighty Kilchurn Castle that basically every tour group and first time tourister goes. And friends, I’m not knocking those castles!! Go to them! I have! But good luck trying to get a photo of any of those without people in it! Lucky for you, you have me! And I’m here to tell you there is a new awesome castle in town that needs some serious attention! (I tease!)
Tioram Castle (pronounced CHEE-rum) is arguably one of the most beautiful and romantic ruins I have ever seen. I would even be so bold to say it’s in my top three castles that I have visited EVER!
It is fairly easy to find (click HERE for directions). The one lane road to the castle ends at a small carpark and from there it is a short walk on the beach to the Castle. At low tide you can walk onto the island to get a closer view of the castle. But please, please be aware of all the signs that warn of the instability of the castle! It’s old people! And it’s Scotland! It’s rainy and slippery and wet! When I went, I didn’t actually go onto the island because it was raining and high tide. However, I didn’t not feel like I was missing out AT ALL! The view from the beach across from the island made my little photographer’s heart quite happy.
Okay, now for the good stuff!!! What happened at this darn castle and who lived there!?!
Castle History – The Three Ladies Tioram
It’s always amazing for me to fathom in my 2020 brain that people actually inhabited the very spot of Tioram Castle since THE IRON AGE!!! Just for a wee history lesson: that’s 1200-600 B.C. Yep, you read that right, B.C. The location of Castle Tioram was an important and defensive location since at least 600 BC! The Castle you see today would have been started to be built around 1200 AD. The outside remained pretty much the same way you see it now, during the next 400 years it was altered and expanded several times, but the alterations were mostly made to the interior sections. So what you see is what it looked like at least 600 years ago.
This castle has many, many stories associated to it with women! A rare thing which I always love pointing out! In 1200, Christina of the Isles or MacRuari, inherited the land that Tiora Castle stands on. Christina is cool for so many reasons. Number one, it appears she did actually have two brothers, but there were considered illegitimate, so she ended up inheriting the land. Number two, she was an ally of Robert the Bruce (cue the movie Braveheart) at an extremely important time in his quest to gain the throne of Scotland. It appears she gave money, ships and men to his cause! Fun Fact: I am actually a descendant of Robert the Bruce - hence all the exclamation points while talking about him.
The Castle then passed down to ANOTHER female, Christina’s niece, Amy. It is Amy who either built the castle as how you see it OR she improved on a previous building in the 1300s. But it wasn’t all roses and pretty castles for Amy. She married a man named John of the Isles, who later claimed all the lands she inherited. He also decided, after having three children together, that he wanted to divorce her so he could marry the daughter of the then heir to the throne, Robert II of Scotland. He managed to get a dispensation from the Pope to divorce Amy. What did Amy get in return? Some of her lands and, you guessed it, Castle Tioram.
There is a saying “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” And boy oh boy does this ring true in Lady Grange’s case. It seems she knew her husband’s weakness and found a way to hit him where she thought it would really hurt. James was a Jacobite sympathizer during a time when that could REALLY get you in trouble. Lady Grange intercepted letters that she said proved that he was plotting against the Hanoverian government. Apparently, there is even historical references of her waving these letters in the street and swearing outside their house on the high street of Edinburgh, Niddry’s Wynd.
James, at this point, plotted a kidnapping. She was becoming a liability and it seems that the letters she had implicated him and others so much so that action was taken. At the age of 50 plus, Lady Grange was beaten, abducted from the city in a sedan chair and then imprisoned for 13 years at various locations, one of which was rumored to be TIORAM CASTLE. THIRTEEN YEARS! She was kidnapped and imprisoned for 13 years!!! She was never rescued, though a half-hearted attempt was made years later after some smuggled letters written while she was in captivity ended up getting back to Edinburgh. Her children never did anything about the kidnapping, her husband even held a funeral for her soon after she was abducted. Lord Grange not only got away with it, he was even elected into parliament two years later. Bonkers! She ended up dying in captivity.
By the time Lady Grange was said to have been at Tioram Castle it would have already have been burned by the Hanovarian government so that the Jacobites would not be able to use it as a strong hold. After this burning the castle was never reoccupied.
In 1996 the castle was put for sale on the market for 100,000 pounds and ended up being purchased for 300,000 pounds by a private owner in 1997. The owners want to make it a private residence and a legal and planning permission battle has been going back and forth for the last 23 years with Historic Scotland.