Castle Tioram Part 2: Inspiration for Highlander Unbroken

Two weeks ago, I wrote part 1 of the post about Castle Tioram. If you missed it, you can click here to read it. Today I want to continue with more info about the castle.

My friends and I spent a few hours out in one of the most remote areas of Scotland, on the west coast. I don't know how many hours we explored and took thousands of photos (among the 3 of us) because time ceased to exist for me. I wore no watch and I didn't pay attention to the time on my phone. I love how wild and untamed the area around the castle is. The heather was in full bloom (early September) and it was a clear, warm day. This was the highlight of the trip for me and a dream come true. I'd been looking forward to visiting this castle for a long time, especially since it's the inspiration for the setting of Highlander Unbroken and My Captive Highlander. Below are more photos I took while walking around the castle and climbing over the piles of rocks and boulders. Good hiking shoes were a necessity.

As mentioned in my previous post, Ranald was the first chieftain of Clan Macdonald of Clanranald. He was granted the "Castle of Elantyrim" (Eilean Tioram) and this was confirmed by Robert II in 1373.

In 1411, Alan, the 4th chief of Clanranald, fought in the Battle of Harlaw in which Lord of the Isles and his Highland army defeated the forces of the Scottish Crown. Alan was known to have imprisoned other Highland chiefs in his dungeon. In 1509, Alan was captured, imprisoned and executed by James I. The 5th chief, his son Raonuil Ban, had much the same history and was hanged in 1513 by the king. Dugald was the 6th chief. His own clansmen murdered him and the chieftainship taken over by his uncle Alexander. The 8th chief was John of Moidart, the natural son of Alexander. Although there were more legitimate heirs, John was chosen by the clan to lead them. He obtained a charter to the lands around Tioram in 1532. Unfortunately this charter was revoked in 1540 when John went against the king and supported the Lordship of the Isles instead. James V imprisoned him and granted the charter to one of the legitimate heirs, Ranald Galda (the stranger) who had been raised by his mother's clan, the Frasers. Clanranald rejected Ranald Galda as chief and nicknamed him "Ranald of the hens" because he had (inferior) chicken served at his inaugural feast instead of ox.

View from the beach below the castle.

 After James V died in 1542, John of Moidart was released from prison and headed back to Moidart where the clan reinstated him as chief, rejecting Ranald Galda. In 1544, when the Frasers tried to reinstate Ranald Galda as chief of Clanranald, a horrible battle ensued at Loch Lochy. Ranald and Lord Lovat were killed during the battle and John was the victor.

 This small stone building sits near the beach. Since it doesn't appear on early site maps, it is believed to have been built in the late 1800s and was probably either a bathing house or a smoke house.

John led the clan with without much of note over the next few years, although he was still rebellious to the crown. In 1554, Marie de Guise, the Regent, decided she wanted the Moidart area brought more under the control of the crown. She commissioned the Earl of Huntly to carry out her orders. But when Huntly reached the area around Fort Augustus, he decided an overland advance through the Highlands would be impossible because of the rough, nearly impassible terrain. Instead, the Duke of Argyll brought his warships up along the coast to bombard the castle with cannons and other artillery from the shore. John of Moidart, the chief of Clanranald at the time, had gone overland to meet Huntly's army, but once news of Argyll's attack reached him, he raced home and was victorious over the shore battery. He sent the Duke of Argyll packing. One of these cannonballs was found in the castle wall hundreds of years later. John retained possession of the castle and lands until his death at the castle in 1584.

The Clanranalds backed the Royalists during the Civil War of the 1600s and retained Castle Tioram but under the overlordship of the Dukes of Argyll.

The castle was expanded in the 1680s. They added another story to the tower house and a new range of buildings were built along the south west wall. It was not used very much however because Allan of Moidart, the 14th chief, moved out of the castle to a less remote location.

 In 1715, during the Jacobite Uprising, the castle was occupied by government troops and reported to be in bad condition. Allan of Moidart recaptured the castle and set fire to it so it couldn't be used by the government. He was killed shortly thereafter at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. In the 1745 uprising, Clanranald again sided with the (losing) Jacobites, but still managed to retain ownership of the castle for the next hundred plus years.

The castle and island were sold in 1905. It passed through several owners until being purchased by James Wiseman MacDonald in 1926. It changed owners again, several times and was put on the market in 1996 for 100,000 GBP. But then the castle was purchased in 1997 by Anta Estates Ltd. For 300,000 GBP. 

What followed turned out to be a dispute between the owners and the Scottish Ministers because the building is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The owners wanted to turn it into a private dwelling but also a tourist center which would require access roads being built onto the island, electricity, plumbing, etc. which would likely destroy much of the history and beauty of the site. The narrow, one track roads leading into the area are not large enough to handle much tourism traffic. So the two sides are in a standoff in which neither can act while the building further crumbles. This to me is very sad. Even the pigeons which live in the castle cause the masonry to fall, and the vines and plants growing in the walls further pry the stones apart and loosen them. If only the building could be repaired and preserved in its current state, which would require a lot of work and millions. I've visited several ruined castles which have been preserved, such as Kilchurn or Dunnottar. They are obviously still ruins, but the masonry has been stabilized, the plants removed, and there are no dangers from falling stones or further decay. And it's possible to safely go inside them. I hope this castle can be preserved soon because it's one of Scotland's most amazing treasures.

Highlander Unbroken is receiving some fantastic reviews!

5 stars "Highlander Unbroken by Vonda Sinclair is one of the best Highlander Historical Romances of this year! Truly a masterpiece and a book that you will want to add to your collection! Vonda Sinclair's writing is pure genius, she writes with such passion and vigor. Her characters are each unique and spirited! She uses such vivid descriptions throughout her book that makes the reader truly feel as if they are there in Scotland; tasting the food, smelling the beautiful heather, walking the castle halls and marching with the highlanders into battle! I absolutely fell in love with this book and highly recommend this to anyone! I give this a high 5 stars and if I could, I’d give it 100 stars!" Teatime and Books Reviews

5 stars "Vonda Sinclair is a great writer, I am excited to receive each new story and read it as soon as I have it. When I read the stories I become part of the story and experience each moment with the other characters. Her descriptions of her characters reactions to each situation make me feel them. I can see the scenery as though I was there. Neacal and Anna are believable and I felt their pain and terror as they worked to reach the goal of freedom from the bonds of their past and present trials. She is a genuine story teller and holds you under spell till the last page of her books. I fully recommend her books to anyone to read." Susan F.
((Thank you!!))

Torture has driven Neacal MacDonald to the brink of madness. 
As the new chief of the MacDonald clan, Neacal will do whatever it takes to honor his late father and to help his clan thrive. But whispers of his madness abound and many in his clan turn traitor, wanting MacDonald of Sleat to lead them instead. Conflict ignites between the bitter rivals when Sleat garners the help of the man who tortured Neacal in the past. 

Can one woman's song pull him back and begin to heal his soul? 
Everything has been ripped from Anna Douglas except her angelic voice and the will to survive. When she meets Neacal, she recognizes something familiar in him—stark loneliness and pain. His past could be even more tragic and tarnished than hers. No one must learn her true identity or about the brutish man declaring she is his wife, for he will stop at nothing to reclaim her. Though Neacal vowed to never trust a woman again, he cannot resist the secrets in Anna's eyes or her spellbinding song, which threatens to break down the icy walls surrounding his tormented heart. 

A fun excerpt:
When she arrived at the top of the steps in his corridor, Neacal stood waiting, tall and dark, leaning against the stone wall. His great wolfhound sat by his leg, wagging his tail in greeting.
Neacal's long, midnight hair was combed smooth and still damp. His blue eyes glinted with a bit of morose wickedness. Good heavens, he was breathtakingly handsome in the light of early morn. Surely he must have been a devastating rogue before his capture, one who stole the hearts of all the lasses from many miles around. He had a profound seductive air about him, though now 'twas overshadowed by a cloud of dark intensity. This made him even more appealing to her.
"A good morn to you, Anna," Neacal murmured in a husky, intimate voice, for her ears only, making her imagine things she should not. Things like… waking up beside him.
"Good morn, Neacal." She curtsied.
His expression lightened and she thought he might smile—hoped he would. Instead, he turned and proceeded down a short narrow corridor, an offshoot of the main one, then opened a small, almost hidden door. "Stay, Dunn," he told his dog, before squeezing his broad shoulders through the doorway. Once inside, he held out his hand to her.
She took it, the heat of his roughened palm making her tingle, and stepped inside the confined dark space. "Heavens. Is this a closet?"
"Shh," he hissed softly against her ear, his warm breath teasing her skin and giving her delightful shivers. Goodness! He really shouldn't do that, for it inspired all sorts of unladylike urges. Finding herself suddenly short of breath, she inhaled his luscious, clean male scent combined with that of a spicy soap. Her thoughts took flight and she no longer cared why they were in this small room. She only wanted to press her nose against his throat and breathe him in.
He drew her toward a square opening where light and the murmur of several conversations filtered up. What was this? Where were they?
Holding her breath, she eased forward and found herself staring down at the tables of the great hall, filled with many people eating their first meal of the day.
Of course, this was a laird's lug, or laird's ear. She had heard of these little eavesdropping chambers but had never been into one. Neither of the castles she'd lived in had them. How unnerving to imagine someone spying on her below, without her knowledge, but 'twas also true that lairds had to be extra careful about conspiracies and clan politics.
Neacal stood just behind her, not quite touching, but the presence and heat of him were palpable. His delicious scent surrounded her, sending her woman's instincts into overload.
"Do you see them?" he whispered, his warm breath fanning the hair by her ear again.
She shivered as a more intense heat and awareness washed over her. It took all of her strength not to turn and melt into him. More than anything, she craved looking into his eyes… or pressing herself against him, but she had more important things to do. She forced her attention downward, into the great hall. She scanned the many clansmen and finally found the co-conspirators sitting at the far end of a table near the entry, their heads bent together once again.
She pointed at them. "There," she breathed.
Neacal moved his head forward, beside hers, to peer through the opening. With his tall height, he loomed over her in the cramped space.
"The ones sitting at the end of that table," she whispered. "It appears they are plotting even now. The chubby, ginger-haired one has on a green doublet and the slim, brown-headed man is wearing a blue doublet." She glanced aside at him.
Neacal narrowed his eyes, observing the men with a sharp glare. "Roy and Parlan."

She was so close to Neacal she heard his teeth grate together. Of a certainty, she would never want to make an enemy of Neacal MacDonald. He would be a deadly foe. But with more than one—perhaps several—in his clan against him, his life could be in danger.
Highlander Unbroken is available at:


Anonymous said...

Love this page Vonda really interesting. I must read highlander unbroken again as it is such a great read. You must have loved wondering round this castle xxxxx Brenda.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Yes, it was wonderful, Brenda! Thanks for checking out our blog! I'm so glad you're enjoying Highlander Unbroken! :) Thank you and hugs!!

Brenda B Taylor said...

Love the pretty castle photos and history of Tioram Castle. Thanks for sharing.

Carly Carson said...

There certainly is plenty of scope for stories in that history!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thank you so much, Brenda and Carly! Glad you enjoyed it. The castle has an interesting history.