We were attempting to settle down at the Ackergill Tower Castle but at 8:30 PM, the sky was still bright and this threw off our internal clocks. Frequent glances out of the window in our Princess Royal Suite confirmed the sun had yet to set, and the view of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe was beckoning us to come hither. Temptation proved to be too much so off we went again to explore another castle!
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe has a long and turbulent history. It was built sometime in the late 1400s by William Sinclair, 2nd Earl of Caithness, who ended up dying at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. John Sinclair was next in succession, became the 3rd Earl of Caithness, and proceeded to die in battle during the Battle of Summerdale (along with 500 of his men). His heir and son, George Sinclair, had a more interesting history than his predecessors though.
George Sinclair was a notorious scoundrel. He seems to have spent much of his days plotting against and attacking nearby clans, one of with which there was already a long standing feud. In 1547, Georgie attacked and seized Ackergill Castle. The Regent Queen Mary, mother of Mary Queen of Scots, intervened and returned Ackergill to the Keiths. This intervention was only temporary because in 1556 George again besieged Ackergill, however he was unable to secure the tower house. He was given remission for his actions so he then focused his attentions to attacking other local rival clans. He even attempted, unsuccessfully, to poison the household of Helmsdale castle during a banquet. Of course, this sort of ruthlessness was not confined to just rival clans. Oh no, George Sinclair was also a cruel father. Documents tell that he imprisoned his own son, John, for trying to make peace with clan Morey. During his imprisonment, John was fed a diet of salted beef. He eventually died insane from thirst. He had the gall to take seven years to die.
When John’s son, George II, inherited Castle Sinclair, his first action as Earl was to eliminate the jailers responsible for his father’s murder. He then proceeded a raiding campaign against local rival clans, much like his grandfather. He became known as the “Wicked Earl”. In between the feuding, the 5th Earl expanded Castle Sinclair and racked up a mighty debt in the process. This tumultuous history continued until 1690 when Castle Sinclair Girnigoe was destroyed by heavy cannon fire… by its own heir, George III Sinclair of Keiss.
After navigating the narrow streets of the nearby Staxigoe town, we found the car park for Castle Sinclair Girnigoe and the nearby Noss Head Lighthouse. From the car park, the castle is about a half mile walk (.8 km). We were there well after hours (around 9 PM) so being the rebels that we are had to hop over the closed fence.
Keepers of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe.
We had these castle ruins all to ourselves!
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe Overview
- Coordinates: 58.478014, -3.068082
- Fees: FREE
- Usage: Light
- Pets allowed: Sure.