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Castle Girnigoe and Castle Sinclair

A Scheduled Monument in Wick and East Caithness, Highland

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Latitude: 58.4781 / 58°28'41"N

Longitude: -3.0676 / 3°4'3"W

OS Eastings: 337836

OS Northings: 954924

OS Grid: ND378549

Mapcode National: GBR L6SB.3GF

Mapcode Global: WH6DG.V5DG

Entry Name: Castle Girnigoe and Castle Sinclair

Scheduled Date: 8 March 1935

Last Amended: 24 October 1996

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM622

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Wick

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Wick and East Caithness

Traditional County: Caithness


The monument consists of the ruinous remains of two castles and a defensive ditch on their western and southern sides. The castles are already scheduled, but the extent of the scheduled area is not certain, and probably inadequate. This proposal rectifies the position.

Girnigoe Castle is dated to the late 15th century and was the possession of William Sinclair, Earl of Orkney. Sinclair Castle was built in either 1606 or 1607. Both castles stand on a narrow rocky peninsula that projects into the sea for a distance of 122m and rises from 12m to 18m above sea level. It is bounded on its N and E sides by the sea and to the south by a narrow sea inlet or geo. The castles are protected on their W and S sides by a defensive ditch up to 14m wide and 4.5m deep. The buildings at the W end of the peninsula represent the outer ward of Castle Sinclair and include a gatehouse. There then follows the keep of Girnigoe Castle which is protected by a second trench or moat some 4.5m wide and deep. To the east of Girnigoe Castle stand the remains of a range of narrow buildings on the N side of the peninsula which run for a distance of 34m. On the S side of the peninsula is a curtain wall which runs for 34m before joining another narrow range of buildings which runs up to the E tip of the peninsula. A flight of steps leads down to a watergate and a boat landing stage.

The outer lip of the defensive ditch on the castles' W and S sides marks the limit of the scheduled area, the remainder being marked by the high water mark of ordinary spring tides. The area has maximum dimensions of 135m NE-SW by 70m, as shown in red on the accompanying map extract.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as the remains of two castles, one of 15th-century date and the other of 17th-century date. Study of the remains has the potential to add to our knowledge of castle architecture in the far North of Scotland. The monument is a striking example of a cliff castle whose remains are vulnerable both to erosion by natural agencies and to injudicious conservation exercises.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS Third Report and Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Caithness 1911,139, no 497.

MacGibbon and Ross 1887-92 Castellated and Domestic Architecture Volume 2,306-314.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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