The castle can be reached on foot across the tidal causeway, but there is no access to the interior because of the high risk of falling masonry. This is just one of 17 tidal islands that can be walked to from the Scottish mainland.
Tioram comprises a large multi-angular curtain wall with a small entrance in the north wall. This entrance leads through a long narrow passage into the courtyard in which there are a number of buildings errected at various dates between the 14th and 17th centuries.
The keep is a square tower with a turret at each angle. Another building to the east and south east consists of three floors. On the ground floor was the kitchen where an oven and well are still to be seen. Also on the ground floor was the hall of the castle complete with fireplace. A turnpike stair would have led to the upper floors but this no longer exists. There are however traces of an outside stair on the west wall leading to the battlements, with a parapet walk.
The earliest existing building appears to date from the mid 13th century. The castle was held by Amy MacRuari of Garmoran, who married John MacDonald, 1st Lord of the Isles in 1337. The castle then passed to their son Ranald from whom the MacDonalds of Clanranald take their name. The earliest reference to the ‘castle of Elantyrim’ is in 1373 when King Robert II confirmed the charter granted by John, Lord of the Isles to his son Ranald.
The MacDonalds of Clanranald continued to hold Castle Tioram until the end of 1692 when on the 31st December, Colonel John Hill, Governor of Fort William, was ordered to garrison the castle. Government troops continued to hold the castle until the Jacobite rising of 1715, when Allan MacDonald of Clanranald forced the garrison to surrender. The castle was then burnt on the orders of Clanranald on his way to the battle of Sheriffmuir where he lost his life.
The ruined castle was eventually returned to the Clanranald family who held it until 1905 when it was purchased by Baron Howard of Glossop. On his death in 1924 it was inherited by Edith Tredcroft who imediately sold it to Sir Alexander Maguire. He only held Tioram for a short time before selling it in 1926 to James Wiseman MacDonald, a counsellor at law from Los Angeles, who wad descended from the Clanranald family. Under his ownership some consolidation works were carried out by the Ministry of Works, ‘securing loose masonry and open joints on wall tops, excavating and securing walls exposed in the courtyard and water-proofing the vaults’. The castle had by this time been scheduled as an ancient monument.
Tioram continued to be owned by the Wiseman MacDonald family until 1997 when it was sold for £300,000 to Anta Estates, a company owned by Lex Brown. His intention was to fully restore the castle as a home and museum to the Clanranald family. In 1999 he applied for scheduled monument consent to bring the castle into residential use. A public enquiry lasting 30 days was eventually held in February 2002, following which the Scottish Executive backed a decision by Historic Scotland to refuse the application as they felt that Castle Tioram should be preserved as a historic ruin.