Scheduled Monument

Castle Girnigoe and Castle SinclairSM622

Status: Designated


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

The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


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 designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

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 8914 or at


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Printed: 25/09/2020 08:30