Old Wick Castle

Old Wick was originally a fortress for Haraald Madasson, the Norse Earl of Caithness, in the mid 12th Century. It is believed to have been built as the principle mainland seat for the Earl.

In the early 14th century, it was a stronghold in the possession of Sir Reginald Cheyne. At his death around 1345, the lands passed to the Sutherland Lords of Duffus through the marriage of Nicholas Sutherland of Duffus to Reginald Cheyne's daughter. The lands then passed through Christian, the daughter and heiress of Alexander Sutherland of Duffus, to William Oliphant, who was thereafter styled Sir William Oliphant of Berriedale (the progenitor of the Oliphant's of Berriedale).


An artistic reconstruction of the Castle of Old Wick by Andrew Spratt

The Land was later given to the chiefly line, the Lords Oliphant, in order to protect the Caithness lands from its constant attackers (including the Gunns and Sinclairs.) In the 15th Century, Old Wick was besieged and the occupants starved into submission after 8 days by John, Master of Caithness. It was sold by the 5th Lord Oliphant to the Sinclair Earls of Caithness in 1606. The Sinclairs then sold the Castle to the Campbells of Glenorchy in the 1670's, who later sold it to the Dunbar's of Hemprigg who held the castle until 1910 when it was abandoned.

The 'Old Man O'Wick', as it is often referred to by seamen, is also known as Castle Oliphant and is the site of a great tale of bravery still told in Caithness to this day, the Oliphant Leap at Old Wick. (see Middle Ages)

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