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Caisteal Maol

Caisteal Maol occupies one of the most strategically important positions on the island, with commanding views of the approaches to the narrows that separate Skye from the mainland.

History of Moal Castle

900's - Castle Moal is built by Norwegian forces who utilise the sheltered waters around the Isle of Skye as safe harbours for their warships as they vied for control of Western Scotland. Findanus, chief of the powerful Clan Mackinnon of Mull, marries a Norwegian bride bringing the castle into his families' hands. It significantly enhances his power for the site commands the strait of Kyle Akin between the Isle of Skye and mainland Scotland. The straight is the main route used by the Norwegian seafaring warriors who were frequently in battle with The Scottish Crown.

1263 - The Battle of Largs in this year proves to be an indecisive engagement between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland. Hakon Hakonarson, King of Norway attempts to reassert Norwegian sovereignty over the western seaboard of Scotland against King Alexander II. Following failed attempts to purchase the islands from the Norwegian king, the Scots launch military operations. Hakon responds to the Scottish aggression by leading a massive fleet from Norway, which reached the Hebrides in the summer of 1263. By the end of September, Hakon's fleet occupied the Firth of Clyde, and when negotiations between the kingdoms brake down, he brings the bulk of his fleet to anchor off The Cumbraes. On the night of 30 September, during a bout of particularly stormy weather, several Norwegian vessels are driven aground on the Ayrshire coast, near the present-day town of Largs. On 2 October, while the Norwegians were salvaging their vessels, the main Scottish army arrive on the scene. Composed of infantry and cavalry, the Scottish force are commanded by Alexander of Dundonald, Steward of Scotland. The Norwegians are gathered in two groups: the larger main force on the beach and a small contingent atop a nearby mound. The advance of the Scots threaten to divide the Norwegian forces, so the contingent upon the mound ran to rejoin their comrades on the beach below. Seeing them running from the mound, the Norwegians on the beach believe they are retreating, and flee back towards the ships. Fierce fighting takes place on the beach, and the Scots take up a position on the mound formerly held by the Norwegians. Late in the day, after several hours of skirmishing, the Norwegians are able to recapture the mound. The Scots withdraw from the scene and the Norwegians are able to reboard their ships. They return the next morning to collect their dead. The weather is deteriorating, and Hakon's demoralised forces turn for home. Hakon's campaign had failed to maintain Norwegian overlordship of the seaboard, and his native magnates, left to fend for themselves, are soon forced to submit to the Scots. (more in the History section)

Castle today

You can see the castle when you cross the Kyle bridge with a short drive to the village where there is limited parking near the castle. A short walk round the edge of the loch takes you to the castle itself, but be aware the loch is tidal, so you will need to keep a close eye to avoid being marooned!

Text by Fred Vincent