Castle of Old Wick

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Castle of Old Wick


The Old Castle of Wick
Grid reference: ND368487
Built 12th century
Condition: ruins
Owned by: Historic Scotland

The Old Castle of Wick is one of the oldest castles in the north. It stands on a headland of Caithness a mile south of Wick, on the shore road overlooking the North Sea.

The castle is also known locally as 'the Old Man of Wick', a name suggested by the tall 12th-century tower standing along on the rock.


The castle was probably built by an Earl of Caithness in the early twelfth century, at a time when the Kings of Norway were overlords of Caithness and Sutherland, as well as Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides.

The castle may have been built by the great Earl Harald Maddadson, whose deeds are described in the Orkneyinga saga. Harald was a son of the Earls of Orkney through his mother, but with a Scottish father, Matad, Earl of Atholl. From 1159 Earl Harald was sole earl of Orkney and Caithness and it is possible that he intended the castle to be his chief seat on the mainland.

The castle has an obscure history. In the early 1300s, during the Wars of King Edward I of England the castle was held by Sir Reginald le Cheyne, Lord of Duffus, who supported King Edward. There is no record of any action taking place there at this period. The castle and its estates later passed to the Sutherlands of Duffus.

The castle

The castle complex hugs the narrow promontory on which it is built. It has a tall tower of the 12th-century, almost square on plan and four storeys high. The entrance to the tower (though now inaccessible) is a door at first-floor level on the seaward side: the stairway 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.

In plan, the castle is similar to Cubbie Roo's Castle, a castle on Orkney, built around 1150.

Behind the tower are remains of other structures, none of them properly archaeologically excavated.

Outside links

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about Castle of Old Wick)