Am Baile/Highland Libraries


adapted from charles macdonald moidart: among the clanranalds (1889)

Location: West Highland Peninsulas
gaelic language and placenames

Castle Tioram and the Silver Trail

For centuries the leading family in Moidart were the Clanranalds, a branch of the MacDonald clan descended from the Lords of the Isles. For much of this time Castle Tioram, on the tidal island of Eilean Tioram (the ‘dry island’), was their traditional base.

There are many local legends about the 13th Chief and his reputed cruelty. His nickname of ‘Black Donald of the Cuckoo’ was earned from his habit of shooting at anything that moved from his castle rampart with the Cuckoo, a favourite gun and the belief he had sold his soul to the devil, hence his haunting by a great black toad, his ‘familiar’ from hell. One story recounts how, without the need for evidence, Donald blamed the theft of a large amount of money on three of the castle’s servants. He had the two men executed on the nearby Tom-a-chrodhaidh (‘hill of hanging’). The third - a woman known as ‘James’s daughter’- was tied by her hair to the seaweed of a rock in the estuary and was left to drown in the rising tide.

To this day there is a rock nearby known as Craig Nighean Sheumais (the Rock of James's Daughter). In the late nineteenth century labourers constructing a path nearby discovered a hoard of silver coins. This find has given its name to the ‘Silver Trail’, a walk near the castle. However, despite the apparent links with the story, the coins date back from the Elizabethan Age, a hundred years before Black Donald’s time.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.