Castle of Old Wick
Step into the former stronghold of Wick. Walk along the coastline of this Caithness village and explore the remnants of this Nordic castle, built around the 12th century

The Castle of Old Wick

The ruins of Old Wick Castle

So, you’re looking for a little Wick history? And you want to enjoy dramatic scenery and coastlines? Well, look no further than a walk to Castle of Old Wick, just 8 minutes from our hotel doorstep. This is a first stop when on holiday in the Scottish Highlands! And as one of Scotland’s oldest castles, the ruins of Old Wick Castle are spectacular. During your walk, you will enjoy spectacular views and delights. The Highland castle itself is small and in ruins. But please don’t let that put you off! Apart from the dramatic scenery and wildlife to enjoy, you can still get a good feel for what this historic castle was like in its heyday. And it really is a spectacular must-see thing to do when on holiday in Wick and Caithness, set high on the cliff rocks.

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About This Castle Walk

Firstly, how to get there? Well, the castle is a short 15 minute-walk across uneven grassland (it is stony in places and unsteady underfoot). So, you must wear comfy shoes that are stable for walking rough terrain. This really is quite a spectacular venture with the most stunning sights. Indeed, if the steep cliffs and the sea crashing on the rocks aren’t enough, the castle itself sits upon a narrow promontory jutting into the North Sea!

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Whenever we are up here, there’s only one hotel that we stay in! Murray, and his team, always make every guest feel so at home. The rooms are cosy, hotel well situated, by the river, and the restaurant and bar are fab. Excellent food and a great selection of drinks. Even with the covid restrictions, our stay was still lovely and we will definitely be back!

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Dramatic scenery...
The Castle of Old Wick built on a finger of rock
Rocks beside Castle of Old Wick in Scotland

Keep to the paths and enjoy the views

On your ventures please take care on the cliffs with dogs and children. That is to say, if you keep to the paths you will be perfectly safe and can really enjoy the dramatic dramatic cliffs and spectacular sights. During your visit, you will enjoy beautiful views across the sea. And if lucky, you might see grey seals sunbathing on a sunny day. During the day, they enjoy basking in a little bay as you head towards the castle. Explore the castle via Google Street View.

The History Of Old Wick Castle

Nordic Influence

The castle is said to have been influenced by the Kings of Norway. They exercised a huge influence on the economic and political life of Scotland. It is thought, Earl of Caithness, Harold Maddadson, built the castle in the 1160s, when Caithness was part of the lands ruled over by the Norse Earls of Orkney. Furthermore, being under the influences of the time, the castle is simple, with a focus upon its defences. 30m sheer cliffs to the crashing sea below provide protection on three sides. In addition, the castle walls are over two metres thick in a square roughly 8 x 5 meters wide. And with storeys it stands approximately 10 metres tall, with only a single window per floor. Plus, the entrance was on the seaside of the castle, to offer protection to its occupants entering and exiting the castle.

From Grand Structure to Ruin

Sadly, the only accurate documentation regarding the castle’s history was when the Sinclairs besieged it in 1569. Thanks to its excellent protection, the only route of access to the castle was to starve its occupants into submission – a gruesome but ultimately successful tactic. As time passed, the castle stopped being used as a residence in the 1700s, falling into the beautiful ruin it is today.

Historic Scotland now run the castle as a free Scottish attraction open to the public year-round. Always take care when visiting the site, however. It is very exposed to the elements. Please also note that a walk of about three quarters of a mile is necessary to reach it.

The Castle Ruins Today

Now, only the ruins of the single square tower remain. Likewise, the walls are badly damaged with the southern and eastern walls mostly collapsed. However, access is granted to the ground floor. And, you will also find the footings of an associated courtyard and the promontory crossing over to the castle rock high above the sea. The ancient courtyard to the rear contained two rows of buildings and is expected to and have terminated at a small courtyard with a sea gate. Furthermore, access to the castle would have been gated and potentially accessed via a drawbridge across a 10m ditch. But it is the castle’s location on the steep cliffs that offered its greatest defence. And as such beautiful views surround your explorations along the coast. What’s more, you can extend your walk along the cliffs past the castle. And here you can enjoy spotting the seabirds and nature around.

Visiting Old Wick Castle

How to get there

Sat nav: Wick, Caithness, KW1 4XF

So, how to find this historic Scottish castle ruin? Well, there is a car park situated 800m from the castle ruins – just a short 15-minute walk. There are convenient signposts to the castle if you are coming from Wick. Follow the signs and eventually you reach a car park. And this super walk steps off as soon as you park up! Here, the rocks by the car park alone make for a spectacular seascape. Further directions here. 

Dramatic coastal scenery in the far north of Scotland