Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Bucholly Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Wick and East Caithness, Highland

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Latitude: 58.576 / 58°34'33"N

Longitude: -3.0642 / 3°3'51"W

OS Eastings: 338208

OS Northings: 965825

OS Grid: ND382658

Mapcode National: GBR L6S2.516

Mapcode Global: WH6CW.XP1X

Entry Name: Bucholly Castle

Scheduled Date: 17 February 1938

Last Amended: 16 June 2016

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM620

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Canisbay

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Wick and East Caithness

Traditional County: Caithness


The monument is the remains of a castle dating to the 15th century. It is visible as a ruined gatehouse structure with associated ranges of buildings evident as turf-covered walling. The monument is located on a narrow rocky promontory that projects into the sea, accessed only by a narrow isthmus, rising around 10m above sea level.

The castle is almost completely surrounded by precipitous cliffs and is accessed across a narrow isthmus around two metres wide, cut by a ditch measuring about three metres in depth and two metres in width. The gatehouse structure, of which just the west wall and part of the south wall survives, rises from the east side of this ditch and survives to a height of around nine metres. It measures about six metres north-south by 4.3m transversely. The remains of corbelling above second floor level indicates that the gatehouse had a projecting battlement. A vaulted passageway about 1.4m wide passes through the gatehouse giving access to a narrow courtyard set at right angles to this passage. The courtyard is flanked by buildings, surviving as turf-covered walling measuring up to about 1.3m in height. Traces of an outside stair giving access to an upper floor are visible in this courtyard and an extensive kitchen midden is recorded as lying along the cliff-top on the seaward side.

The scheduled area is irregular in plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The monument was first scheduled in 1938 and the documentation does not conform to current standards; the present amendment rectifies this.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

This monument is of national importance because it can make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of late medieval society in northern Scotland and the date, construction, use and development of castles. This significance is enhanced by the similarities Bullochy has with a number of other castles located along the Caithness coast, including Castle Girnigoe built by the Sinclair earls of Caithness. Comparative analysis has the potential to add to our understanding of the spread of architectural ideas, the influence of specific families such as the Sinclairs and the importance of sea travel to the location choice for such residences. Although fragmentary, it is an impressive monument located on a coastal promontory which has been carefully exploited to accentuate the natural defences of the site. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the character of late medieval fortifications, and the structure and organisation of society and economy during this period.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 9301 (accessed on 23/04/2015).

The Highland Council Historic Environment Record reference is MHG1664.

Batey, C E (1982) Caithness coastal survey 1982: interim reports 1980-2, typescript. Durham.

Lamb, R G (1980) Iron Age promontory forts in the Northern Isles, Brit Archaeol Rep, BAR British, vol. 79. Oxford.

MacGibbon and Ross, D and T (1887-92) The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries, 5v. Edinburgh.

Mowat, J (1931) Place-names of Canisbay, Caithness.

RCAHMS (1911) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Third report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Caithness. London.


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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