Castle Sinclair, Caithness, Scotland
Castles usually seem to have interesting histories and this one is no exception. William Sinclair, the 2nd Earl of Caithness, who died at the battle of Flodden in 1513, had the castle built sometime between 1476 and 1496 possibly on the ruins of an earlier structure. Almost 65 years later in 1577 John, Master of Caithness, held his father the 4th Earl, George Sinclair, prisoner in the castle for seven years where he eventually died. In 1606 the building was extended to include a gatehouse and other buildings that were surrounded by a curtain wall with a drawbridge spanning a rock-cut ravine. Following the expansion the then Earl obtained permission from Parliament to change the name from Girnigoe to Castle Sinclair; although, both names remain in use. As part of the renovation a small secret chamber was constructed in the vaulted ceiling of the kitchen with a rock-cut stairway down to the sea, and a well was built in the lowest level of the tower. Many castles and manor houses had "priest-holes" or secret hiding places where a priest or some other person could hide in time of need. About this same time escape routes were also often built.
The castle remained with the Sinclairs until 1676 when the Earl’s widow remarried John Campbell of Glen Orchy who claimed the title Earl and the castle. George Sinclair of Keiss, who claimed rightful inheritance, stormed the castle in 1679 resulting in the Battle of Altimarlech (1680). The Campbells were victorious. In 1690 George Sinclair again besieged the castle. It was thought that the castle sustained severe damage from cannon fire during that siege but the story has been discounted. Nevertheless the castle became a ruined shell and until recently it was allowed to fall in decay. Today the Clan Sinclair Trust has begun restoration work in an attempt to preserve the importance of the building. Once work is complete it will become one of the few castles open to the public and accessible to handicapped people.
For addition historical information, see: