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Battle of Sligachan

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1395 [unknown]
Location: [unknown]
Surnames/tags: Scotland Scottish_Clans
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Battle of Sligachan, 1395, Skye

The battle of Sligachan on Skye was a Scottish clan battle fought between the MacLeods and the MacDonalds.

Donald MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, seemed bent on increasing his clan lands and recreating the Kingdom of the Isles, by force if necessary. The feud between the two clans, and their associates, was brought about over land. After the ceding of the lands by Norway, in 1265 at the Treaty of Perth, the northern isles, Skye and Lewis included, were, in the main, held as part of the Earldom of Ross. However, in 1335, a charter had been granted of both these islands to John of Islay, afterwards the first Lord of the Isles. In 1344 the grant of Lewis was confirmed but Skye reverted to the Earl of Ross. When Robert Stewart ascended the throne as Robert II, in 1371, the island of Harris, along with the lands of Moidart, Arisaig, Morar, Knoydart, Uist, Barra, Rum and Eigg, were granted to John Macdonald, Lord of the Isles, by Robert II, as part of the arrangement surrounding his daughter's marriage to John MacDonald.

Thus, in 1392, Clan MacLeod held their estates under three feudal superiors. In Glenelg a tenant in capite (to the King) under a charter of 1342; in Harris a vassal of the Lord of the Isles, in Skye a vassal of the Earl of Ross. However Donald, in 1380, likely at the time of his marriage, maintained that he had been given Skye as the marriage portion for his wife, Mary Leslie, daughter to the Countess of Ross.

Donald MacDonald was more aggressive and less politically astute than his father. He made a grant of Harris, the North Isle, and part of Skye to Ranald, second son of John Macdonald and Amy Macruari, ancestors of the Clan Ranald family, the disinherited brothers. Nominally the charter only conveyed the feudal superiority but in reality it was intended to convey the actual possession of the land, and the real object of the attacks made by the Macdonalds against the Macleods was to secure this. Donald invaded Skye. At this time the MacLeods were fighting for their very existence.

A large force of MacDonalds under Alastair, brother of the Lord of the Isles (the ancestor of the MacDonalds of Keppoch) landed at Eynort. William MacLeod collected his clan, and met the invaders at the head of Loch Sligachan.

After, what is described as, "a fierce and bloody contest" the MacDonalds fled. Alastair MacDonald had been killed by "Tormod Coil MacLeod, a cousin of the Chief, and son of his uncle Murdo" (not yet entirley sure who these are).

Few of the MacDonalds escaped alive, their galleys having been captured by MacCaskill, who put every soul on board to death, and carried their heads to Dunvegan, where they were numbered and delivered to the Chief's warder.

After the battle at Loch Sligachan, William divided the spoil amongst his followers at the foot of a rock which has ever since been called Creag na Feanish, or the Rock of the Spoil. (This rock is said to be the 'Bloody Stone' in Hartacorrie.)

Much of the information above is from the MacLeods source mentioned below. However it is worth noting Alastair MacDonald, brother to The Lord of the Isles, and ancestor of the Keppel MacDonalds is not known to have died here. Further the names of Tormod Coil MacLeod, a cousin of the Chief, and son of his uncle Murdo, do not seem to accord with the history of the family, even as recorded by the historian.


  • Source S-1Roderick Charles MacLeod. The Macleods of Dunvegan from the time of Leod to the end of the seventeenth century. Vol. I. Edinburgh: Clan MacLeod, 1927. archive.org

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