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Sinclair Landmarks



Some landmarks of interest to members of Clan Sinclair:

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Castle Sinclair Girnigoe from the sea
- click to connect to Caithness Castles

The ancestral seat of the Earl of Caithness, hereditary chief of Clan Sinclair, Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is near Wick in the old county of Caithness, Scotland. Locate it on the map here.

Administered by a trust, Castle Sinclair Girnigoe has been designated by the World Monument Fund as an endangered heritage site, and is presently undergoing conservation work. It is expected to open to visitors in the summer of 2005, when there will be disabled access. The following is from the information provided for the Highland (Caithness) Doors Open Days programme in September 2004:

"Sinclair Girnigoe Castle, the most spectacular ruin in the North of Scotland, was erected in the late 14C as an enclosure Castle with the main Tower at the West end. It was completely impregnable until it became a ruin in the mid 1600s. The promontory on which it stands had been cut away from the mainland both at its base and half way along by great ditches dividing the Castle into two baileys.

"The Castle was constantly altered over time to take account of changes in weaponry and social conditions. The main access was through the west Barbican on the west side of the moat, over a drawbridge, past a portcullis and through the long vaulted pend of the Gatehouse Tower. This remains, but the chimney above is late 16-early 17C. The buildings that surround the outer bailey courtyard are also of that period but built on earlier foundations and the curtain walling on the south side is mid 15C. A second drawbridge gave access to the inner bailey and on the edge of the second trench the Tower House built in 16C, again on earlier foundations, and which rises to three storeys, with one wing behind on the sea side. Behind that again was the inner bailey of a courtyard with buildings dating from the late 14-late 15C. One of the two rooms forming the basement of this Tower House probably contained a deep well (now infilled) and was vaulted, as was the entire ground storey. By contrast, the upper floors were constructed of timber. A stone stair descended to a sally port at sea level at the East end of the peninsular.

"The Castle was the stronghold of the Sinclair family who were made Earls of Caithness in 1455 and remained the seat until besieged by cannon (for the first time in Caithness) in 1680. Since that time it has been allowed to fall into decay. In 1606 the Earl of Caithness obtained an Act of Parliament to change the name of the Castle from Castle Girnigoe to Castle Sinclair but both names remained in use which led to the confusion and error that there were 2 Castles on the site. The Castle is the official seat of the Earldom and is now owned by the Clan Sinclair Trust which is seeking to preserve it and the first phase of work started in August."

The photo of the castle with its scaffolding, taken from the sea by Tom Richard on 9 October 2004, appeared on the front page of Caithness.org, the Caithness Community Web Site and may still be found in its October 2004 Headlines Archive. More photos in their Caithness Castles pages.

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Formerly called Barrogill Castle, the Castle of Mey is in the parish of Canisbay, between Thurso and John O'Groats - map here - and was the long-time home in Caithness of the late Queen Mother.

The Castle was built by George, 4th Earl of Caithness, whose third son, George Sinclair founded the family of the Sinclairs of Mey. Sir James Sinclair of Mey, 7th Baronet, was found the rightful Earl of Caithness in 1793; his grandson the 14th Earl was created Baron Barrogill of Barrogill Castle, but that title expired when the 15th Earl died unmarried in 1889. The castle changed hands several times and was purchased by the Queen Mother in 1952. It is now managed by a trust established in 1996, and is open to the public during the summer.

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The county home of Viscount Thurso is in a part of the castle at Thurso East Mains. Map here.

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Ravenscraig Castle is in Kirkcaldy, Fife, by Sinclairtown. Map here.

In 1470, James III gave the castle to William Sinclair, who was also 1st Lord St Clair (1449) and 1st Earl of Caithness (1455), in exchange for resigning his Earldom of Orkney. In 1789, its ownership passed from the 14th Lord St Clair (but for the attainder) to his cousin, later the 2nd Earl of Rosslyn.

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The seat of the Earl of Rosslyn, Rosslyn Castle overlooks the North Esk River in Roslin just south of Edinburgh. The wonderful Rosslyn Chapel is adjacent to the castle. Map here.

Accommodation in the castle may be booked through the Landmark Trust - check the availability list online, then book by phone: +44 (0) 1628 825925.

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Once the seat of the Sinclairs of Herdmanston, ancestors of Lord Sinclair, Herdmanston Castle's only standing remains are a burial chapel and some outbuildings. The castle was near present-day Samuelston in East Lothian, overlooking the River Tyne — map here.

For the description in Sketches of East Lothian by D. Croal, printed in 1875, click here.

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In 911 AD, the King of France ceded Normandy to the Norse raider Rollon (Rolf the Ganger). The treaty was signed at the castle of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in France.

Click here to see a map of Normandy, and here to locate Saint-Clair-sur-Epte.

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There are many places in Normandy that are named after St Clair. It is thought the clan's name was taken to Britain by a Norman family from Saint-Clair-sur-l'Elle near Saint-Lô - map here.

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