The Ruins of Thurso Castle, Scotland

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As we drove into Thurso in Caithness, Scotland, a coastal town overlooking the Pentland Firth, a large ruin stood out from the eastern side of Thurso Bay, the remains of Thurso Castle.  There was no time to stop and I took some long distance photos as we passed by, just to keep a record of the castles that we were passing on our road trip of 2014.


A little history…….The original castle c.1660, which was built on 12th century earthworks was itself, largely replaced by the castellated mansion that still dominates the skyline as a ruin. Its position gave it marvellous views over Thurso Bay. The replacement was built 1872 – 1878 by Sir Tollemache Sinclair and designed by David Smith who it is believed was also responsible for the Gatehouse. The 1660 castle was actually the home of the old Earls of Caithness.

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This is how the replacement castle looked liked, it does need a lot of imagination to change the ruins into this Gothic Glory.  You can still make out the tower and therefore gain an impression of the hight and size of the building. The tower was 8 floors and 100 feet high but the foundations were only made for taking a tower 40 feet high therefore it was never going to last. By 1914 the tower had already started to lean and it was evacuated. Then a sea mine was washed ashore exploding, and blowing out some of the windows. Although it was thought no structural damage was done. Unfortunately there was a fire, and in 1951 the castle was abandoned and the following year, 1952, parts of the castle had to be demolished and the roof was removed, to leave the remains that you see today.  The ruins are not open to the public, but you can get a good view from the harbour.

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As you carry on driving, you come to the very mock gothic castle gates, and all at once you can visualise how the replacement castle would have looked.



8 Replies to “The Ruins of Thurso Castle, Scotland”

  1. Today it is rainy ,damp and cold…. As I was looking at the stone castles, I wonder how damp and cold they got when that wind blew off the water….

    1. Very, very cold and damp, people use to wear long warm cloaks and sheep skin robes just to keep warm. They would be nice and cool in the summer, but even with the biggest fires they would never warm up in the winter. We have been lucky today, we had snow yesterday, but wonderful sunshine and blues skies all day long today. We have had months of rain, so I feel for you, its horrible when it like that, roll on the spring 🙂

    1. Yes, it would have been better for the castle if they had left the 1660 one as it was, I did find a picture but it was one you could’t copy, it was more solid and a lot lower. I think they over did the rebuild, too high for the ancient foundations……poor old castle.

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