Tidal turbines are subject to highly dynamic mechanical loading through operation in some of the most energetic waters. If these loads cannot be accurately quantified at the design stage, turbine developers run the risk of a major failure, or must choose to conservatively over-engineer the device at additional cost. Both of these scenarios have consequences on the expected return from the project. Despite an extensive amount of research on the mechanical loading of model scale tidal turbines, very little is known from full-scale devices operating in real sea conditions. This paper addresses this by reporting on the rotor loads measured on a 400 kW tidal turbine. The results obtained during ebb tidal conditions were found to agree well with theoretical predictions of rotor loading, but the measurements during flood were lower than expected. This is believed to be due to a disturbance in the approaching flood flow created by the turbine frame geometry, and, to a lesser extent, the non-typical vertical flow profile during this tidal phase. These findings outline the necessity to quantify the characteristics of the turbulent flows at sea sites during the entire tidal cycle to ensure the long-term integrity of the deployed tidal turbines.