The Isle of Raasay, the name of which derives from the Norse word for 'Red Deer', is one of the Inner Hebridean Islands and is located to the east of Skye. Originally owned by the MacSweens, it was acquired by the MacLeod clan in 1518. Their territory included the Isles of Lewis and Harris, a significant portion of the Isle of Skye and various land along the mainland north-west coast. Raasay was centrally located around these territories and, as movement by boat was the fastest and most effective means of travelling around the region, it enabled them to improve links between their own land and increase their influence over the neighbouring clans. Soon after acquiring the island, Brochel Castle was built on the north-east side allegedly by Calum, first Chief of the MacLeod clan. A traditional tale suggests the building of the castle was funded by a kinsman of Calum who had accidentally killed the eldest son of the Laird of Craignish. Seeking revenge, the Laird offered gold for information on the incident only for the killer himself to give a humble account of the event. Highland honour demanded he should be given the gold but the killer was unwilling to keep it himself and instead handed it over to his chief who use it to fund construction of the castle.
Brochel Castle was built on top of a volcanic plug in excess of 15 metres high which was located on the eastern side of the island. The structure took the form of a courtyard castle surrounded by a barmkin (curtain wall) and with four towers of various heights in each corner. All had different functions with south-west tower hosting the kitchen whilst the south-east and north-west towers seemingly were used for accommodation. The north-east tower, which was the largest and originally rose to corbelled battlements, now only exists as footings but perhaps hosted the hall. The entrance was via a steep passage along the rock face with a sheer drop to the side.
The castle ceased to be occupied by 1671 and was allowed to drift into ruin. A drawing by Daniell in 1818 suggests it was structurally complete at this time but in the subsequent decades the castle succumbed to erosion and much of the masonry has now collapsed. MacLeod ownership of the Isle ended in 1843 by which stage life on the island was changing forever as vast swathes of the population were cleared to make space for sheep grazing - in 1803 the island had over 900 residents but now it numbers just 200.
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Brochel Castle is structurally unstable and therefore there is no access to the castle itself. However the ruins can be viewed from the adjacent high ground and the base of the structure can also be explored.
Brochel Castle. The castle was constructed upon a volcanic plug.
Clan MacLeod. Raasay was acquired by the MacLeod's in the sixteenth century. They also controlled the Isles of Lewis and Harris, a significant portion of the Isle of Skye and also had mainland territories along the north-west coast of Scotland.
Danger! Given the interesting single track road to the castle, it is disappointing that the ruins are not accessible. However, they are clearly unstable and the advice of the Highland Council shown above is common-sense.
Isle of Raasay. Raasay is located between the Isle of Skye and mainland Scotland. The island once had a population of almost 1,000 people but now is home to just a few hundred.
Brochel Castle was built by the MacLeod Clan as a stronghold to dominate the Isle of Raasay and also to provide easy access to their territories within the Sound and beyond. Situated upon a volcanic plug, this impressive structure was occupied for around 150 years and then was allowed to drift into ruin. Today the remains are unstable and there is no public access.
Brochel Castle is found on the Isle of Raasay which is served by a ferry from Sconser on Skye which has regular sailings (but not on Sundays). The ferry takes you to Clachan and then it is an 8 mile drive along a single track road (with passing places) to Brochel. The castle/route is not sign-posted but there is only one road on the island that goes that far north and the castle is just off the road! There is a large lay-by in the vicinity and then visitors can walk down the grass bank to the castle site.
Castle Car Park