If ever there was a strategically placed fortification it is Strome Castle. Built firmly on a rocky promontary about mid-way along Loch Carron it once controlled all waterborn traffic to and from the sheltered agricultural land along the north shore, as well as the ferry across the narrows.
It was built originally in the 1400's as part of the Earldom of Ross who probably still had lands at Applecross. The son of Alexander Earl of Ross, Celestine, gave it to Allen Cameron of Lochiel. The gift was confirmed by charter dated 1495 by King James V. James VI, undertaking a progress around his kingdom during which he asserted his authority over the Highland chiefs, decided to revoke this charter and granted Strome to the MacDonalds of Glengarry. For the next 60 years the MacDonalds held on to it while continually feuding with their neighbours the MacKenzies of Kintail.
Right; Drawing and Plan of how Strome Castle probably looked in the 1500's
In 1602 Kenneth MacKenzie laid siege. He was just about to give up the difficult task of trying to take a castle which is protected by steep rocks to the sea-loch on three sides, when a fortunate (for the MacKenzies) accident happened. A chronicler of the time wrote thus:
"Some silly women went to draw water from the well. On their return they were fearful, and in the poor light they accidentally poured the water into a vat containing gun-powder. When the defenders came to replenish their stock they found this, and cursed the women loudly. A MacKenzie who was prisoner in the castle heard this and managed to escape to his own camp where he informed the Chief. MacKenzie renewed the siege but the MacDonalds now decided to surrender in return for safety of life and baggage. This was readily granted and the MacKenzies blew up the castle"
Even though it is a ruin Strome Castle is very evocative of its history. It's only a short detour along a signposted road from Lochcarron off the A896. Not many tourists visit it. You may find yourself alone looking down the loch out of the delapidated arched window imagining who else looked through when marauding MacKenzies tried to reach the sheltered farmland enclosed by the mountains behind you.
Links to other pages:
Mary Queen of Scots
Queen Mary, Bothwell, (James Hepburn) and Hermitage Castle
Crichton Castle near Edinburgh.
Caerlaverock Castle in South West Scotland.
Strome Castle is between Gairloch to Fort William.