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:
The city walls of Avila were built in the 11th century to protect the citizens from the Moors. They have been well maintained throughout the centuries and are now a major tourist attraction as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can walk around about half of the length of the walls.
The layout of the city is an even quadrilateral with a perimeter of 2,516 m. Its walls, which consist in part of stones already used in earlier constructions, have an average thickness of 3 m. Access to the city is afforded by nine gates of different periods; twin 20 m high towers, linked by a semi-circular arch, flank the oldest ones, Puerta de San Vicente and Puerta del Alcázar.