Keiss Castle

Perched somewhat precariously on the very northern tip of mainland Scotland, soaking in stunning views across the North Sea, Keiss Castle is a fine sight to behold for anyone visiting Caithness in the Scottish Highlands.

The dramatic Tower House ruins, located close to John O’Groats, overlooks Sinclair Bay and has been standing since the late 16th/early 17th century, when it was constructed by the Fifth Earl of Caithness, George Sinclair.

After falling into disrepair, a new mansion house was built, which itself became known as Keiss Castle.

The new ‘castle’ and beaches below were used to defend Caithness during World War II – especially pivotal given the coastline’s proximity to the Orkney Isles, where some of the larger warships belonging to the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet were housed.

Getting there and things you should know

Today, due to the decaying nature of Keiss Castle and the precarious proximity to the sheer cliff edge, it’s not possible to visit the ruins. They can, however, be seen from a distance and the castle, coupled with the dramatic backdrop, makes for a spectacular sight.

Keiss Castle, located at the northern end of Keiss beach, is best reached by car. Take the A9 or A99, before heading towards Keiss village. Parking is available on the High Street or at Keiss Harbour, just off the High Street and then a footpath will take you along the coast. Be aware that the path is fairy uneven and muddy in places.

While in the area, you will also be able to see the ‘new’ Keiss Castle – a mansion house built to replace the Tower House in 1755 – and remnants from World War II, including pillboxes and anti-tank obstacles.

Things to see nearby

The coastline itself provides stunning walks and vistas, whether you head south or north from Keiss Harbour, while just up the road you’ll also find Nybster Broch and Caithness Broch Centre.

Travel south to the town of Wick, and there are plenty more historical and scenic spots to explore, including the Castle of Old Wick, Tinker’s Cave, North Baths and the fog cannon.

Keiss is also on the route on the North Coast 500 – a stunning driving route around 500 miles of Scottish coastline, beginning and ending at Inverness Castle.

Places to eat and drink nearby

Being in such a remote location only adds to the spectacular beauty on offer at Keiss Castle – but it also means there’s little in the way of local amenities.

Head back into Keiss village and you’ll find Sinclair Bay hotel, but for anything more substantial, you’ll need to travel eight miles down the road to Wick, where there are a number of pubs, cafés and restaurants on offer, including highly-regarded French restaurant, Bord De L’Eau.

Did you know…

Perhaps unsurprisingly, part of the old Keiss Castle collapsed when the cliff beneath it was eroded and crumbled into the North Sea.

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