Thurso Castle

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Thurso Castle ruins Thurso Castle 20090614 02.jpg
Thurso Castle ruins
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Thurso Castle

Thurso Castle (alternatively, Castrum De Thorsa, Castle of Ormly, and Castle of Ormlie) is a ruined 19th-century castle, located in Thurso, Caithness, in the Scottish Highlands. Situated in Thurso East, off Castletown Road, east of the River Thurso, the site can be seen from across the river. [1] The current castle ruins date to 1872; A large part was demolished in 1952, although there has been a fortress here since the 12th century. Part of the castle is still habitable and remains a home of the Viscounts Thurso. [2] [3]

Thurso town in Caithness, Scotland

Thurso is a town and former burgh on the north coast of the Highland council area of Scotland. Situated in the historical area of Caithness, it is the northernmost town on the British mainland.

Caithness Historic county in Scotland

Caithness is a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area of Scotland.

Scottish Highlands Place

The Highlands is a historic region of Scotland. Culturally, the Highlands and the Lowlands diverged from the later Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands. The term is also used for the area north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, although the exact boundaries are not clearly defined, particularly to the east. The Great Glen divides the Grampian Mountains to the southeast from the Northwest Highlands. The Scottish Gaelic name of A' Ghàidhealtachd literally means "the place of the Gaels" and traditionally, from a Gaelic-speaking point of view, includes both the Western Isles and the Highlands.



The name Thurso means "Thor's River" and was named by the Vikings. [4] There was a castle at Thurso East, which served as a residence of the earls of Orkney and Caithness, and it is probably the earthwork structure which was recorded in 1157 as the Thorsa castle. [5] A fire gutted it in the early 16th century, [6] and no vestige of it remains. [5]

The Arch, also known as Thurso Castle, was built in 1665 by George Sinclair, 6th Earl of Caithness. The contract between him and the master mason, Donald Ross, records the price as 600 merks. [5] The Thurso Lairdship was later held by Sir John Sinclair, 1st Baronet, [7] who erected a new structure, designed as a castle or fortress. [8] It was restored and enlarged in 1806 and 1835. [9]

Merk (coin)

The merk was a Scottish silver coin. Originally the same word as a money mark of silver, the merk was in circulation at the end of the 16th century and in the 17th century. It was originally valued at 13s. 4d., later raised to 14s. Scots. In addition to merks, half-merk and quarter-merk coins were produced with values of, respectively, 7s. and 3s. 6d., as well as a four-merk coin of 56s. (£2 16s.).

Laird Scottish gentry title

Laird is a generic name for the owner of a large, long-established Scottish estate, roughly equivalent to an esquire in England, yet ranking above the same in Scotland. In the Scottish order of precedence, a laird ranks below a baron and above a gentleman. This rank is only held by those lairds holding official recognition in a territorial designation by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. They are usually styled [name] [surname] of [lairdship], and are traditionally entitled to place The Much Honoured before their name.

Sir John Sinclair, 1st Baronet Scottish politician, writer on finance and agriculture

Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, 1st Baronet, PC, MP, FRS, FRSE, FLS was a Scottish politician, a writer on both finance and agriculture, and the first person to use the word statistics in the English language, in his vast, pioneering work, Statistical Account of Scotland, in 21 volumes.

The current structure, a Victorian Gothic ruin, was built in 1872 and demolished in 1952. [10]

Former United States President, Ulysses S. Grant visited the castle as part of his 1877 world tour.


The Gatehouse, Thurso Castle The Gatehouse, Thurso Castle, Caithness - - 1326.jpg
The Gatehouse, Thurso Castle

The previous structure, known as the Arch was described in 1802 as "the most ornamental piece of architecture in the north". [8] Robert Sinclair refers to the present castle as "a gallant ruined reminder of its former Gothic glory". [4] On the south side, a gatehouse and associated lodge are in fair condition. On the north side, adjacent to the river, are the remains of the north tower and a wing. Brick was added to the lower windows in the 20th century. The well is roughly 20 feet (6.1 m) deep.


The site, of hilly ground known as Brown Hill, [1] is situated 0.5 miles (0.80 km) east of Thurso, close to the Atlantic Ocean atop of a rock several fathoms high. [5] A manse was erected at the site in 1818 using some of the stones from the castle. [6] About a mile to the northeast is Harald Tower, built in 1780, which served as a burial place for the Sinclairs of Thurso. [10]

Manse clergy house

A manse is a clergy house inhabited by, or formerly inhabited by, a minister, usually used in the context of Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and other Christian traditions.

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John Thurso British politician

John Archibald Sinclair, 3rd Viscount Thurso,, known also as John Thurso, is a Scottish businessman, Liberal Democrat politician and hereditary peer.

Archibald Sinclair, 1st Viscount Thurso British politician

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Viscount Thurso

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Dunbeath Castle

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The Lord Lieutenant of Caithness is the British monarch's personal representative in an area defined since 1975 as consisting of the local government district of Caithness, in Scotland. This definition was renewed by the Lord-Lieutenants (Scotland) Order 1996. Previously, the area of the lieutenancy was the county of Caithness, which was abolished as a local government area by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. The district was created under the 1973 act as a district of the two-tier Highland region and abolished as a local government area under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1994, which turned the Highland region into a unitary council area.

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Thurso East human settlement in United Kingdom

Thurso East is a coastline section of the Atlantic 0.5 miles (0.80 km) east of Thurso, Caithness, northern Scotland. It is situated at the mouth of the River Thurso, overlooked by the remains of Thurso Castle. The reef is made of layers of Caithness flagstone. It is Scotland's prime surfing venue on the north coast.

Braal Castle

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Roslin Castle castle near the village of Roslin in Midlothian, Scotland

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Westerdale, Highland human settlement in United Kingdom

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Murkle human settlement in United Kingdom

Murkle (Murchill) is a small scattered hamlet, made up of East Murkle and West Murkle located one mile (1.6 km) east of Thurso, in Caithness, Scottish Highlands and is in the Scottish council area of Highland.

Forss, Highland human settlement in United Kingdom

Forss is a small hamlet, situated 3 miles west of Thurso, in Caithness, Scottish Highlands and is in the Scottish council area of Highland. Brims Castle is located in Forss and was the former stronghold of the Sinclairs of Dunbeath. The ancient 12th century chapel of St Mary's Chapel is located nearby at Crosskirk.

Keiss Castle

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James Sinclair, 12th Earl of Caithness was a Scottish noble and chief of the Clan Sinclair.

Old St Peters Church, Thurso

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Halkirk Auld Kirk

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Robin Macdonald Sinclair, 2nd Viscount Thurso, JP, was a Scottish landowner, businessman and Liberal Party politician.


  1. 1 2 "Thurso Castle ND 124-689 Caithness Scotland". CastleUK.Net. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  2. "He went to Eton... worked as a skivvy... now the Viscount wants to speak for Scotland". Sunday Mail (Scotland) . 4 April 1999.
  3. "John Thurso: The hereditary peer who became an MP". BBC. 22 February 2011.
  4. 1 2 Sinclair, Robert (11 June 2013). The Sinclairs of Scotland. AuthorHouse. p. 145. ISBN   978-1-4817-9623-1.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Anderson, William; Robertson, Joseph; Brichan, James Brodie; McNab, John (1855). Origines Parochiales Scotiae: pt. 1. Diocese of Argyle. Diocese of the Isles (Public domain ed.). W.H. Lizars. pp. 754–.
  6. 1 2 "Thurso, Princes Street, Castlegreen Manse, Castle Of Ormlie". Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  7. Carlisle, Nicholas (1813). A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland: And of the Islands in the British Seas (Public domain ed.). G. and W. Nicol. pp. 732–.
  8. 1 2 Cooke, George Alexander (1802). Topography of Great Britain: Or, British Traveller's Directory: Cornwall (Public domain ed.). C. Cooke. pp. 85–.
  9. "Thurso Castle". Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  10. 1 2 Miers, Richenda (2006). Scotland's Highlands and Islands. New Holland Publishers. pp. 193–. ISBN   978-1-86011-340-6.


Coordinates: 58°35′57.46″N3°30′29.55″W / 58.5992944°N 3.5082083°W / 58.5992944; -3.5082083