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Clan Seats of Scotland – Castle Sinclair Girnigoe – Clan Sinclair

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, Caithness – Clan Sinclair

castle sinclair - clan sinclair

Occupying a dramatic setting on the northeast coast of Scotland, Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is the ruined seat of the historic Sinclair Clan.

Associated with Caithness for centuries, the Sinclairs would first become involved in the area in 1379, when the Earldom of Orkney passed by marriage to Henry Sinclair. Therefore, it made sense for the family to construct a castle in the far north of the country, settling on the location of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, just to the north of Wick. It here that Henry Sinclair would build the original castle, then known as Castle Girnigoe, which would be extended in the early 15th century.

Eventually, the castle would full under the ownership of George Sinclair, the 5th Earl of Caithness. Like his ancestors, George would enjoy expanding the castle, but he would also engage in numerous feuds and battles with his neighbours, leading to the castle being besieged for 12 days by the Earl of Sutherland in 1588. It was then that the castle would prove its effectiveness as a defensible structure, easily repelling the attacks that were thrown at it. Now famous around the country for its size and scale, the castle would soon be renamed Castle Sinclair by an act of parliament, marking the beginning of hundreds of years of confusion, as patrons and owners alike struggled to decide on the structure’s real name.

This myth of the castle’s name would be extended further in 1700, when a visit from the Church of Scotland led to an account stating there were ‘two strong castles joined to one another by a draw bridge, called Castle Sinclair and Girnigoe’. This myth would remain for centuries, even featuring in an Ordance Survey map as recently as 2004 – and it is for this reason that the structure has now come to be known as ‘Castle Sinclair Girnigoe.

Now using a name that most people can agree on, the castle is once again an important landmark of the northern Scotland.  It can be visited via a bridge built in 2008 and features a plethora of interative boards, guiding visitors around the ruins of this once grand castle.