Battle of Traigh Ghruinneart

Coordinates: 55°49′19″N 6°21′18″W / 55.822°N 6.355°W / 55.822; -6.355
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Battle of Traigh Ghruinneart
Scottish Gaelic: Blàr Tràigh Ghruineart
Part of the Scottish clan battles

Cairn marking the spot where Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean fell in battle
Date5 August 1598
Location55°49′19″N 6°21′18″W / 55.822°N 6.355°W / 55.822; -6.355
Result MacDonald victory
Clan Donald Clan MacLean
Commanders and leaders
Sir James MacDonald Sir Lachlan MacLean  
300–500 men 800–1,000 men
Casualties and losses
30 dead
60 wounded
280 dead

The Battle of Traigh Ghruinneart or in Scottish Gaelic Blàr Tràigh Ghruineart or sometimes called the Battle of Gruinart Strand was a Scottish clan battle fought on 5 August 1598, on the Isle of Islay, in the Hebrides. It was fought between the Clan Donald and Clan Maclean.[1][2][3][4] A tràigh or stand is the flat area of land bordering a body of water, a beach, or shoreline.


The Isle of Islay had belonged to Clan MacDonald whose leader was Sir James MacDonald, 9th of Dunnyveg, the son of Clan chief Angus MacDonald and who may have already imprisoned his father, and a nephew of Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean.

Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean claimed that the island belonged to his clan and landed about 800 to 1,000 men at Loch Ghruinneart. MacDonald offered his uncle half of the island for MacLean's lifetime only, but he refused unless he received the entire island.[1][2]

James MacDonald had fewer troops but they were well trained. Allies to the Clan MacDonald sent men from Kintyre and Arran, including Clan MacAlister, which were led by Angus MhicMhuirich of Arran. MacDonald's forces feigned retreat toward the setting sun then turned around to fight with the sun in the eyes of their enemy. The MacDonalds were victorious and the MacLeans were defeated.[1]

A dwarf named Dubh Sith (Black Fairy) was hidden in a tree and he killed Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean with a shot through his eye after he had removed his helmet.[5]

With Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean and about 280 of his men killed in battle, the rest were chased to their boats and some sought refuge in the chapel of Kilnave. The chapel was burnt down, killing all but one of the men inside.[1]

Sir James MacDonald was seriously wounded after being shot through the body with an arrow. He was found after the battle amongst the dead MacDonalds, which also included Angus MhicMhuirich of Arran. About 30 MacDonalds were slain and 60 wounded.[1]

Afterwards King James VI, awarded MacDonald lands to Clan Campbell, leading to an extension of the feud.[2]

Clan MacDonald's reign in Islay came to an end in 1612 when Angus MacDonald, 8th of Dunnyveg, the father of Sir James, sold his land holdings to Sir John Campbell of Cawdor of Clan Campbell of Cawdor.


  1. ^ a b c d e Reverend Angus Macdonald and Reverend Archibald Macdonald (1900). The Clan Donald, Volume 2. A fierce battle was fought at a place called Traigh Ghruinneart, at the head of Loch Gruinneart. The Macdonald leader is said to have displayed some strategy at the beginning of the day. By making a semi-retrograde movement, he secured the advantage of getting his men posted on a hill, and at the same time avoided the discomfort which his adversaries experienced of having the glare of the summer sun in his eyes. In the end, the Clan Donald, having repulsed the Maclean vanguard, and thrown them back upon the main body, threw the whole force into confusion, with the result that they were totally routed, and the brave Sir Lauchlan, with 80 of his kinsmen and 200 of his common soldiers, were left dead upon Traigh Ghruinneart. Lauchlan Barrach Maclean, who was severely wounded, escaped with the survivors to the galleys. Nor did the Clan Donald get off scatheless. About 30 of them were slain and 60 wounded, while Sir James, who was dangerously wounded by an arrow through the body, was during most of the following night left for dead among the slain.
  2. ^ a b c Conflicts of the Clans: The Death of Sir Lauchlan Maclean in 1598. Foulis Press. 1764. Sir Lauchlan Maclean's ambition, together with his desire of revenge, thrust him on to claim the inheritance of the whole Isle of Islay, being always the possession and ancient inheritance of the Clan Donald, all which Maclean thought easily now to compass, Sir James Macdonald (the just inheritor thereof) being young, and his father, Angus Macdonald, aged. ...
  3. ^ Murder Under Trust by Nicholas Maclean-Bristol. Tuckwell Press. 1999.
  4. ^ John Patterson MacLean (1889). A History of the Clan MacLean from Its First Settlement at Duard Castle, in the Isle of Mull, to the Present Period: Including a Genealogical Account of Some of the Principal Families Together with Their Heraldry, Legends, Superstitions, etc. R. Clarke & Company. p. 224. ... He fell in a clan battle with the MacDonalds of Islay, on August 5, 1598.
  5. ^ "Gaelic-Rings". 2009. Retrieved 3 July 2009. Before battle started, an ugly hunch-backed dwarf called Dubh Sith (Black Fairy) offered his services to MacLean. His offer was spurned. On offering his service to MacDonald, he was welcomed and armed as one of his men. ... Dubh Sith hidden in a tree above Tobar Neil Neònach killed Sir Lachlan with a shot through the eye when the MacLean chief had removed his helmet to drink.