Scheduled Monument

Castle Girnigoe and Castle SinclairSM622

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Secular: castle
Local Authority
ND 37836 54924
337836, 954924


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.

Statement of National Importance

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.



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.

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for the designation of buildings, monuments, gardens and designed landscapes and historic battlefields. We also advise Scottish Ministers on the designation of historic marine protected areas.

Scheduling is the way that a monument or archaeological site of national importance is recognised by law through the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments of national importance using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The description and map showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The additional information in the scheduled monument record gives an indication of the national importance of the monument(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the monument(s). The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief and some information will not have been recorded. Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at

Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8716 or at


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Printed: 17/10/2018 06:20