Strome Castle was one of many fortifications owned by the powerful MacDonalds and later became the seat of their kinsmen, Clan MacDonell. The fortification was built no later than the fifteenth century and remained occupied until 1602 when it was seized and destroyed by Kenneth Mackenzie. Thereafter the MacDonells relocated their family seat to Invergarry.
Strome Castle overlooks the sheltered waters of Loch Carron. Although today it seems to be in a remote location, in the pre-industrial age the fastest and most effective means of travelling around the region was by boat. Accordingly Strome was well placed to interact with the nearby settlements on the Isle of Skye and beyond in the Inner and Outer Hebrides. The earliest surviving record relating to the structure dates from 1472 when it was owned by John MacDonald, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles but the castle was probably in existence long before this date.
The castle was built upon a rocky outcrop projecting into Loch Carron. It was a strong defensive position but the sheltered waters below also provided a safe harbour for the ships that would have served the site. The structure itself consisted of a rectangular Hall House whilst a tower dominated the eastern end of the castle.
James IV crushed the power of the Lords of the Isles in 1493 and campaigns against the MacDonalds continued for the remainder of his reign. As part of this suppression, Strome Castle was attacked in 1503 by Alexander Gordon, Earl of Huntly. However, after James IV was killed at the Battle of Flodden (1513), relations between the MacDonalds and the Government eventually thawed. In a Royal Charter dated 9 March 1539, James V formally granted Strome and Loch Carron to the MacDonells, descendants of John of Islay, Lord of the Isles. The clan also received parts of Loch Alsh, Glengarry, Loch Broom and Morar. Whilst this Charter was merely confirming on them lands they already held, it was a clear demonstration of their acceptance by the Scottish regime.
Strome Castle was besieged in 1602 by Kenneth Mackenzie, chief of the Clan Mackenzie. Local legend suggests that a woman within the castle, whilst filling water casks in the dark cellars, accidentally poured water into the gunpowder which left the garrison little choice but to surrender. The Mackenzies then blew up the castle and, although the site was recovered by the MacDonells, they opted not to rebuild it. Whilst Strome had been ideally located when the regional power was held by the MacDonalds, whose land was stretched along the Western seaboard, the MacDonells were now loyal servants of the Scottish Crown. Accordingly they sought a more central location and built Invergarry Castle as their new family seat. This was located at the eastern extremity of their territory within the Great Glen and provided easy access to the important Royal borough at Inverness. By contrast Strome Castle was now in a political backwater and was never re-occupied. The castle ruins were gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1939.
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Castle Strome is in ruinous condition but the layout of the Hall House can be clearly appreciated. The site is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is accessible at any reasonable time.
Strome Castle. The castle was constructed on top of a rocky outcrop over looking Loch Carron.
Mound. The large grass covered mound marks the site of the tower.
Hall House. The castle's main structure was a stone built hall.
Beach. The castle overlooked a beach which would have been ideal for the small craft that served the facility.
Loch Carron. The loch gave the castle direct access to the sea enabling the castle's ships to interact regularly and easily with other facilities along the Western seaboard.
Clan MacDonell. The clan owned territory from Loch Alsh in the west to the Great Glen in the west. The original clan seat was at Strome Castle which was in proximity to the lands of their kinsmen, Clan MacDonald. However, by the seventeenth century they were loyal servants of the Stewart (Stuart) Kings and, after Strome Castle was destroyed in 1602, they built Invergarry Castle (right) to serve as a new family seat. The new castle was located on Loch Oich and was centrally placed with easy access to the important Royal borough at Inverness. Thereafter the clan became known as MacDonell of Glengarry.
Strome Castle is found on an unnamed road running south-west from Lochcarron village. The turning off the A896 is sign-posted. On-road car parking is possible in vicinity of the castle ruins with the best option shown below.
Car Parking Option