Have you ever wondered what the small circular monument, located near the RSPB visitor centre at Loch Gruinart is for? Perhaps you've never seen it, because it's easily missed. You can find it on the road from Loch Gruinart to Loch Gorm about hundred metres, or even less, from the visitor centre on your right. It's a memorial cairn with plaque and is a reminder of the battle of Traigh Ghruineard (Loch Gruinart) which took place in 1598. Below a fragment of Islay's history from the Downfall of the Lords of the Isles to the time that the Campbells ruled Islay to put the battle and memorial in perspective.
The lordship of the Isles was ended in 1493 when the last lord, John II was found to have acted treasonably in treating with the English king against King James III of Scotland and was defeated in battle by James IV. In the political vacuum which followed the fall of John II, there followed numerous rebellions and order was not restored until King James IV returned lands on Islay to John of Ardnamurchan, a MacDonald. Under his rule, a new court system was instigated, land valuations were carried out and the church was reformed. These changes were not universally accepted, however, and the threat of insurrection remained ever present. It is likely that the castle at Dunyvaig near Lagavulin, already a well used stronghold which may once have been used by Somerled, was refortified during this period.
On the death of John of Ardnamurchan, administration of the Islay estates was passed firstly to Sir John Campbell of Cawdor and later in 1528, to The Earl of Argyll, Alexander MacIan. Finally, after disagreement, much of the lands fell to King James V in 1542. A rebellion led by Donald Dubh to regain power was put down and, with it, the hopes of restoring the lordship for ever.
Feuding continued on a smaller scale, however, culminating with a battle at Loch Gruinart between the MacDonalds and MacLeans over the ownership of the Rhinns. The battlefield site can still be located and burials said to represent the slain from this battle have been reported nearby.
The downfall of the MacDonalds provided opportunities for the rise of the Campbells, who acted both as representatives of the crown and as chiefly rulers. They continued to expand their influence and land holdings, including those on Islay, until by the 17th century they occupied a dominant position and Islay gradually came under Mainland Scottish influence.....
The inscription on the plaque is as follows:
This Cairn indicates the spot where, on the 5th August 1598, Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean of Duart fell in a desperate encounter with his nephew, Sir James Macdonald of Knockrinsay. The Battle of Traigh Ghruinneard is the best known incident in the long feud between the Macleans and the Macdonalds for the Rinns of Islay.