tower house
12th century
aka Old Wick Castle, Castle Oliphant


NO 369 488
on Wick Bay
1m s of Wick


open site


Historic Scotland


Castle of Old Wick

The rain was rolling in (despite the fact that it looks like blue-sky oin this picture, I swear it was pouring! I do!

we didn't foray off into the rain to see the tower

12th century tower house

Old Wick is one of the oldest tower houses in Scotland. The country was run from the Orkneys by the Norwegians, and the three story castle here on the headlands was an important stronghold on the Caithness coast.

The three-story tower is thick-walled and rather plain. A ditch protects the landward side of the castle, which stands on a rocky cliff. The tower measures 11.2m x 9.1m, with 2m thick walls, which are gradually stepped inside for the placement of floors. The windows are tiny, and the interior rooms are dark and small.

The current tower has no sign of an entrance or other architectural details, which were destroyed when the south and east walls collapsed. There were still stairs in the tower as late as 1770, and foundations of a range of buildings around the tower hint that the castle was a residence, at least for a time after the 15th century.


The original castle here was probably built by the Earl of Caithness, Harald Maddadson, in tthe 1160s, under the auspices of the Norse rulers of northern Scotland.

Until the mid-14th century, the castle was owned by the Cheynes family, then th Sutherlands by marriage, then the Oliphants by the 15th century. It was sold to the Sinclairs (after they besieged the castle into submission) in 1606.

The castle was a ruin by the 1679, when it the Campbells of Glenorchy sold the castle to the Dumbars of Hemprigg, who owned the castle until 1910, when itw as handed to state care.