Ormacleit - Western Isles - Scotland

Ormacleit (or sometimes Ormaclete) in South Uist is famous for its ruined castle, though it looks more like a house than a castle. The castle was built for Ailean, chief of the Clan Ranald at the beginning of the 18th century, and burned down in 1715 when a side of venison caught fire on the eve of the battle of Sherriffmuir. Ailean died in the blaze.

Ormacleit Castle
Source: Wikipedia

In Scottish Gaelic, the castle is known locally as 'Caisteal Tioram'. 'Tigh' is gaelic for house, 'tye' in Old English, 'ty' in Welsh, and 'ti' in Breton all mean the same; so what we have is 'the castle of Orme's house', and it looks as though the site was known as Ormes House before the 18th century structure was built.

The Western Isles of Scotland became the home of many Norsemen who arrived between the 9th and 11th centuries. In 1098 the Western Isles officially became part of Norway under an agreement between the Norwegian King, Magnus Barefoot, and the Scottish King, Malcolm. In 1266 the Treaty of Perth returned the Western Isles and Kintyre to Scotland.

The meaning of 'Ormacleit' has been obscured by the mists of time. Using modern gaelic we can find: Orm = on me, cléit = a downy feather or a snowflake, and that would produce 'a snowflake on me'. A likely thing to happen in South Uist but an improbable place name! Allowing for spelling to change over 1,000 years, there is a similar modern word 'cleith' which means concealing or hiding - Orms hiding? Could it be Orme's hideout, or even where he buried his gold after Viking raids? Now where did I put that spade? ..... :-)


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