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Join the students when the Moat Project starts on August 5th

Friday 22nd July 2011

Archaeological excavation work will take place in the moat at Castle Sinclair Girnigoe commencing at 12.00 pm on Sunday 5th August for a week. This is a community dig and all are welcome to come and join in. Bring good protective clothes and a packed lunch. No previous experience is necessary as work will take place under the supervision of Field Archaeologist Specialists Ltd of York who has managed all the excavations at the castle. The Clan Sinclair Trust is delighted that students from Sinclair College, Dayton, Ohio in the USA are coming over to take part in the excavations and strengthen the ties between the College and the County. If you would like to join us or for further information telephone Ian Sinclair at Noss Head on 01955 606700.


Visits by Tain & Easter Ross Civic Trust and Sinclair College, Dayton, Ohio, USA

Tuesday 22nd June 2010

On Saturday 12th June Hamish Mackenzie brought about twenty people from the Tain and Easter Ross Civic Trust to see the castle. They were shown round by The Earl of Caithness and in the party was Lachie Stewart who has been the architect since the project was conceived and was able to answer many of the technical questions.

On Friday 18th June Ian Sinclair showed Bob Keener and eleven colleagues from Sinclair College, Dayton, Ohio around the castle. Some had been here two years ago and were impressed by the changes that had taken place. For the others it was their first chance to see what a medieval/renaissance castle looked like and how it functioned.

Archaeologists return to site

Monday 21st June 2010

Archaeologists from Field Archaeology Specialists in York returned to the castle on Tuesday 15 June 2010. Initially they will secure any exposed archaeology in the Outer Ward in prearation for the opening of the castle to the public in August and turf the oustanding areas in the courtyard. They will then continue excavating the area between the outer ward and the Tower House.


Castle to open to the public in August

Monday 21st June 2010

Most of the outer ward will be open to the public from Monday 2nd August 2010 and will close for the winter at the end of October. After seven years of excavation, preservation and consolidation of stonework, Viscount Thurso MP, a trustee of the Clan Sinclair Trust, will officially open the castle on 1st August during the International Clan Sinclair Gathering


PRESS RELEASE 6 November 2009

Friday 6th November 2009

Regarding recent rumours in circulation in relation to an alleged investigation into the Clan Sinclair Trust by the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR), the Trust would like to make the following


"The Clan Sinclair Trust was formed with the main objective of rescuing and preserving Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, and of developing a visitor centre and library. Over the years the Trust has raised substantial funds which have been spent on the castle including major works to stabilise the remaining building and on conducting major archaeological research which has resulted in highly important historical discoveries.

In addition, in 2006 the Trust acquired Noss Head Estates Limited (the company that owns the Noss Head visitor centre and the Niven Sinclair library) as a going concern to continue the activities at Noss Head and hopefully to establish a clan centre when funds permit. Details of all this can be found on the Trust's website (

Last year the Trust received communications from one of the donors who had helped finance the acquisition of Noss Head and who had donated books to the library. He made a number of accusations against the Trust, mainly relating to the purchase of the company, which stemmed from a misunderstanding on his part of the way the Trust accounted for the purchase.

The Trust made a thorough investigation into all the matters raised and concluded that his allegations did not stand up to scrutiny. The Trust also immediately sent a copy of its report to OSCR and requested their advice.

The Trust understands that the complainer has now instructed his solicitors to make a complaint to OSCR, who may well wish to investigate further. The Trust will co-operate fully with OSCR in any investigation, if required, but has not received any requisition from OSCR to date.

The Trust sought professional advice during the transaction is confident that it has acted properly throughout and applied all funds appropriately. The accounts of the Trust are prepared and audited by Saffery Champness a major firm of accountants who are satisfied that the accounts give a correct view of the Trust's affairs. To ensure maximum transparency to the public, the Trust's accounts have been always published on the website - even before OSCR was created.

The Trust regrets that a previous benefactor should should feel it necessary to complain in this way and that charitable resources may need to be diverted that would otherwise be applied to the objectives of the Trust. The Trust will vigorously defend its reputation and good standing as a major charitable building preservation trust providing substantial benefit to the public in general, and Caithness in particular, from one of the lowest cost bases of any Scottish charity."

Euan Sinclair


Clan Sinclair Trust (charity number SC028778)

Archaeologists discover Castle's Oven

Friday 19th September 2008

The oven was uncovered fully by the Archaeologists in August. It is very rare to find one so big and in such good condition.

Rt Hon The Earl of Caithness P C

The Archaelogists Return for the Summer Season

Wednesday 23rd July 2008

Archaeologists discover Castle's Oven

The archaeologists have returned to site for the summer season. They are finishing off the NE Tower or lodgings building in the outer bailey and will then move over to the south range starting with the square staircase tower. A second team will come up shortly and they will finish off the east range which is less hard digging and do the recording. No new finds to date but more confirmation of the mess the castle was left in after Cromwell's occupation.

Rt Hon The Earl of Caithness

Opening of the New Bridge at Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

Wednesday 4th June 2008

Opening of the New Bridge at Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

The new bridge to the Castle was opened by Andrew Sinclair and the Chief on 27th May 2008.

The New Bridge at Castle Sinclair Girngoe

Sunday 16th December 2007

New access in place

A new bridge is going into place at Castle Sinclair Girnigoe to provide permanent and safe access for the future.

Community Archaeology Finds and Summer Works

Wednesday 26th September 2007

Results of 2007 Summer Dig and New Access

- A previously unrecorded cobbled roadway 'discovered' September 2007. It is beside the existing track on the south side of the Goe opposite the Castle

- The new access path looking towards the west barbican August/September 2007

- The new path under construction August/September 2007

- The east face of a possible south barbican wall excavated by volunteers August/September 2007

- A possible south barbican wall from the south west.

- The lodgings building in the north east of the outer bailey. The full archway has been exposed.

Photographs courtesy of Ian Sinclair of Noss.

Community Archaeology at the Castle

Friday 17th August 2007

Update on works

Community Archaeology at the Castle

A full programme of work, organised by the Caithness Archaeological Trust, and involving the community started at the Castle under the supervision of Field Archaeology Specialists Ltd of the University of York on the 9th August and is digging on weekdays until 7th September. In the spring and early summer FAS Ltd excavated most of the north range of the outer bailey exposing rooms hidden under rubble as well as a possible staircase about which nobody knew anything. The archaeologists will be completing those excavations and begin work on the east range of the outer bailey. After 7th September the archaeologists will be replaced by the local builders MM Miller who will install the new bridge in preparation for opening part of the Castle to the public next year. When the bridge is completed FAS will return to work until winter weather prevents further work.

Castle Works Photographs

Wednesday 4th April 2007

Catalogue of photos 2000-2007

We have posted a new page contrasting photographs before and after works to stabilise the structure, together with a new gallery of works from 2002-2007. Click on "The Castle" and "Castle Image Library" to access the pages.

World Monuments Fund Visit to Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

Thursday 17th August 2006

Bonnie Burnham, President of the WMF, visited the Castle on 17th August

World Monuments Fund Visit to Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

A top official from the World Monuments Fund visited Caithness yesterday and was taken to see the historic Castle Sinclair Girnigoe.

Bonnie Burnham, President of the WMF, inspected the preservation works being carried out at the castle by the Clan Sinclair Trust.

on her first visit to Scotland.

Ms Burnham, who described the castle as “very dramatic” and “impressive" added “This is a major historical monument for Scotland and it was wonderful to see it. I think it has a lot of potential for the future.”

The Earl of Caithness, who accompanied Ms Burnham and her party on the trip, said: “Without the help of the World Monuments Fund we would not be where we are right now. It is very important for them to see one of their listings and to hear about the plans for the future.”

The Earl explained that every two years the fund issues its “Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World” – a global call to action on behalf of sites in need of immediate intervention – and in 2002 it listed Castle Sinclair Girnigoe as one of those sites.

“This unique medieval/renaissance castle is the only one in Scotland to be so listed,” he said. “Since then a comprehensive conservation plan has been prepared by Field Archaeology Specialists Ltd of York University (FAS) and a programme of work to conserve the castle agreed with Historic Scotland.

“Phase one of the work, costing about £400,000, is almost complete and has involved the preservation of the iconic chimney stack of the west gatehouse in the outer bailey and adjacent buildings as well as the removal of fallen masonry within the castle to return to the medieval floor level. Specialists have been brought in to undertake some of the work but O’Brien Construction from Thurso has carried out the masonry work and volunteers working through Caithness Archaeological Trust, in conjunction with FAS, have worked on the archaeology. Through the World Monuments Fund, the Robert Wilson Challenge Fund and Samuel H. Kress Foundation have donated money to the project.”

The WMF is the foremost private, non-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation of endangered architectural and cultural sites around the world. Since 1965, WMF has worked to stem the loss of historic structures at more than 450 sites in over 80 countries throughout the world.

WMF’s work spans a wide range of sites, including the vast temple complexes at Angkor, Cambodia, the historic centre of Mexico City and the extraordinary 18th-century Qianlong Garden complex in Beijing’s Forbidden City.

From its headquarters in New York City – and offices and affiliates in Paris, London, Madrid, and Lisbon – WMF works with local partners and communities to identify and save important heritage through innovative programmes of project planning, fieldwork, advocacy, grant-making, education, and on-site training.

Trust Purchase of Noss Head

Thursday 18th May 2006

Trust Purchase of Noss Head

It is with great pleasure that I can confirm that, thanks to the generosity of Sandy Sinclair Pershing and Niven Sinclair, the Trust has now completed the purchase of Noss Head adjacent to Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. The property comprises two dwelling houses, a former stable block, kitchen garden and about thirty five acres of land. The Lighthouse remains the property of the Northern Lighthouse Board. Joan Burton and Ian Sinclair will continue to live in their house and thus life at Noss Head will continue very much as before.

The Study Centre and Niven Sinclair Library are currently housed in Joan and Ian’s house but the library is already full to overflowing with some books not on display. There is a good likelihood of more books to come from another benefactor so new premises are needed. It is also right that Joan and Ian should have the house to themselves. Thus the Trust are looking at various options to build a new interpretation centre for the Castle combined with a Clan/Study Centre and possibly other buildings as soon as finances permit. We need to be able to handle the growing number of visitors to both the Castle and Study Centre and provide them with a better experience and facilities. It will not be the same as being in the house where Joan and Ian have made so many of us welcome but it is the right move to make for the future. Meanwhile the Trust has bought a portable site office which is positioned next to the former stable block and this will serve as an office and conference room for the foreseeable future. Electricity is connected and it has a working coffee machine. The other dwelling house known as The Laird’s Retreat will be let as in the past.

It is great news that land that once was part of the great estates owned by the 1st to 6th Earls and their Norse ancestors is now held in perpetuity for Sinclairs and others to enjoy.

Rt Hon The Earl of Caithness PC

Patron's Visit

Wednesday 22nd June 2005

Patron's Visit

The Earl of Caithness, HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay with Jonathan Clark and Lisa Smith of Field Archaeology Specialists of York University after inspecting last year's repairs, and Jonathan Clark pointing out future work on the Tower House.