Old Wick Castle, Caithness
1 miles South of Wick
The Castle of Old Wick was probably built by an earl of Caithness in the 1100s, making it one of the oldest castles in Scotland. It was built at a time when the kings of Norway held sway over Caithness and Sutherland, as well as the Northern and Western Isles.
‘The Old Man of Wick’
The castle complex hugging the narrow promontory is dominated by the tall 12th-century tower. This tower gives the castle its more familiar name – ‘the Old Man of Wick’. The tower is almost square on plan and four storeys high. Entry was via a door at first-floor level on the seaward side (although this side has long since collapsed). Apart from the narrow window slits and the ledges for supporting the upper timber floors, the only other feature to survive is a fireplace on the second floor. The similarity with Cubbie Roo’s Castle on Orkney, built around 1150, is striking. Behind the tower are remains of other structures, none of them archaeologically excavated as yet.
Finding Old Wick castle is not an easy one as it sits far from the road. However, there are pathways from the main road where you can find safe places to park. The walk is quite a trek, but very much worthwhile, when you arrive at the castle perched spectacularly on a narrow promontory with steep cliffs plunging down to the North Sea far below.
~ History ~
1100's - The Earl of Caithness, the great Earl Harald Maddadson, half-Orcadian, through his mother, and half-Scottish through his father, the Earl of Atholl, builds himself a castle
1159 - Earl Harald is the sole earl of Orkney and Caithness. His castle at Wick being his chief seat on the mainland.
1300's - During the Wards of Independence, the castle is held by Sir Reginald le Cheyne, Lord of Duffus, who supports King Edward I of England.
1350 ~ After the death of Sir Reginald de Cheyne Old Wick, through the marriage of his daughter Mary with Sir Nicolas Sutherland, passes into the hands of the family Sutherland.
1569 ~ The castle and its owners the Oliphants are attacked by John Sinclair, the young troublesome master of Caithness, who blockades the castle to starve out the Oliphants into submission.
Later in the same year, John Sinclair, after a quarrel with his father is imprisoned in a nearby castle Sinclair & Girnigoe. He remains there until his death.
1606 ~ The castle becomes the property if the family Sinclair.