Castle Girnigoe- Stronghold of the Despotic Earls of Caithness 

By Nancy Lyon

Between the Vikings and the evil earls, Caithness is a ghost-buster's heaven.

Castle Girnigo’s evil ruins

Castle Girnigo’s evil ruins

Glowering over Noss Head in Caithness, the dark jagged ruins of Castle Girnigoe are as evil looking as it gets. One 19th century traveler wrote ...if Goethe be right in describing architecture as petrified music, Girnigoe sounds out one of the most gruesome dirges or laments that was ever embodied in stone.

Girnigoe, the stronghold of the despotic Earls of Caithness, was named for the sound of the North Sea waves "girning" in the narrow inlet or geo. Girnigoe was impregnable when erected in 1476, but was shot to pieces by 17th century cannons.

Rotting steps descend to the dungeon where George, the fourth and most Wicked Earl of Caithness imprisoned and starved his first-born son John in 1576. Before John was fed salted beef and made to die of thirst, he managed to batter his vengeful brother William to death with his prison chains...

Girnigoe’s ruins, the secret dungeon and oubliette were treacherous to explore, as any slip would dash a body on the wave-lashed rocks below. But that was the thrill before us now: no admission fees, no handrails, ropes or crowds, just the ghosts of the poor souls murdered there. Gordon and I would get to explore and photograph the ancient evil castle before it was restored and Visitor-Centered into banality.

Castle Guernigo’s ruins are viewable on a walk around Noss Head.