Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is considered to be one of the earliest seats of Clan Sinclair. It was built by William Sinclair, the 2nd Earl of Caithness, probably sometime between 1476 and 1496, but before his death at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.
In 1577, George Sinclair, the 4th Earl of Caithness imprisoned his own son John, Master of Caithness in Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, on suspicion of rebelling against his rule. He was held there for seven years, after which his father fed him a diet of salted beef, with nothing to drink, so that he eventually died insane from thirst.
The castle was extended in 1606, with new structures consisting of a gatehouse and other buildings surrounded by a curtain wall, these connected to rest of the castle by a drawbridge over a rock-cut ravine. At this time, the Earl of Caithness obtained official permission, in an Act of Parliament, to change the name from Castle Girnigoe to Castle Sinclair. However, both names remained in use.
Girnigoe was an adapted 5 story L-plan crow-stepped gabled tower house, which sat upon a rocky promontory jutting out into Sinclair Bay. This tower was adjoined to various outbuildings within a surrounding wall which encompassed the entire promontory. There is some evidence to suggest that the tower house of Girnigoe is a 17th-century addition. Girnigoe has a number of special architectural details, including a small secret chamber in the vaulted ceiling of the kitchen, a rock-cut stairway down to the sea, and a well (now filled-in) in the lowest level of the tower.
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe was continuously inhabited by the Sinclair Earls of Caithness until George Sinclair, the 6th Earl of Caithness died without issue in 1676, after which John Campbell of Glen Orchy, who married George Sinclair’s widow, claimed the title of Earl of Caithness, as well as Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. George Sinclair of Keiss, who was considered the rightful heir, stormed the castle in 1679, an action which led to the Battle of Altimarlech in 1680, in which the Campbells were victorious.
In 1690, George Sinclair of Keiss once again besieged the castle, but this time destroyed it with heavy cannon fire, though recent investigations seem to discount the cannon fire story. Although he reclaimed the title of Earl of Caithness for Clan Sinclair, Castle Sinclair Girnigoe was now a ruined shell. Until recently, it had been allowed to fall into decay.
Recently, the Clan Sinclair Trust has begun restoration work on the Castle, in an attempt to preserve the archeological and historical importance of the structure. Once restored, it will be one of the few castles open to the public which are accessible to handicapped people.References:
Glimmingehus is the best preserved medieval stronghold in Scandinavia. It was built 1499-1506, during an era when Scania formed a vital part of Denmark, and contains many defensive arrangements of the era, such as parapets, false doors and dead-end corridors, 'murder-holes' for pouring boiling pitch over the attackers, moats, drawbridges and various other forms of death traps to surprise trespassers and protect the nobles against peasant uprisings. The lower part of the castle's stone walls are 2.4 meters (94 inches) thick and the upper part 1.8 meters (71 inches).
Construction was started in 1499 by the Danish knight Jens Holgersen Ulfstand and stone-cutter-mason and architect Adam van Düren, a North German master who also worked on Lund Cathedral. Construction was completed in 1506.
Ulfstand was a councillor, nobleman and admiral serving under John I of Denmark and many objects have been uncovered during archeological excavations that demonstrate the extravagant lifestyle of the knight's family at Glimmingehus up until Ulfstand's death in 1523. Some of the most expensive objects for sale in Europe during this period, such as Venetian glass, painted glass from the Rhine district and Spanish ceramics have been found here. Evidence of the family's wealth can also be seen inside the stone fortress, where everyday comforts for the knight's family included hot air channels in the walls and bench seats in the window recesses. Although considered comfortable for its period, it has also been argued that Glimmingehus was an expression of "Knighthood nostalgia" and not considered opulent or progressive enough even to the knight's contemporaries and especially not to later generations of the Scanian nobility. Glimmingehus is thought to have served as a residential castle for only a few generations before being transformed into a storage facility for grain.
An order from Charles XI to the administrators of the Swedish dominion of Scania in 1676 to demolish the castle, in order to ensure that it would not fall into the hands of the Danish king during the Scanian War, could not be executed. A first attempt, in which 20 Scanian farmers were ordered to assist, proved unsuccessful. An additional force of 130 men were sent to Glimmingehus to execute the order in a second attempt. However, before they could carry out the order, a Danish-Dutch naval division arrived in Ystad, and the Swedes had to abandon the demolition attempts. Throughout the 18th century the castle was used as deposit for agricultural produce and in 1924 it was donated to the Swedish state. Today it is administered by the Swedish National Heritage Board.
On site there is a museum, medieval kitchen, shop and restaurant and coffee house. During summer time there are several guided tours daily. In local folklore, the castle is described as haunted by multiple ghosts and the tradition of storytelling inspired by the castle is continued in the summer events at the castle called "Strange stories and terrifying tales".