Keiss Castle: Unearthing the Secrets of Scotland’s Northern Shores

Situated on the picturesque northern shores of Scotland, Keiss Castle is a breathtaking structure that holds significant historical and architectural importance. Built in the 16th century, the castle has witnessed multiple battles, political upheavals and undergone several renovations. It has been a residence for wealthy Scottish families, a garrison for soldiers, and even a prison. Today, it stands tall as a magnificent reminder of Scotland’s rich past and attracts visitors from all over the world.

Key Takeaways

  • Keiss Castle is an important historical landmark located on Scotland’s northern shores.
  • The castle holds significant historical and architectural importance and has witnessed multiple battles and political upheavals.
  • Built in the 16th century, it has undergone several renovations throughout its history.
  • Originally a residence for wealthy Scottish families, the castle has also served as a garrison for soldiers and a prison.
  • Today, Keiss Castle attracts visitors from all over the world who come to explore its rich history and stunning architecture.

A Brief Overview of Keiss Castle

Keiss Castle is a historical landmark located on the scenic northern shores of Scotland. This magnificent structure holds a special place in Scotland’s architectural heritage and is considered a testament to the country’s rich history and culture.

The castle was built in the 16th century as a stronghold for the Sinclair family, who were prominent members of Scottish society at the time. Over the centuries, the castle changed hands several times and was even used as a military barracks during World War II. Despite its many transitions, Keiss Castle has stood the test of time and remains a symbol of Scotland’s enduring legacy.

One of the most impressive features of Keiss Castle is its unique architecture. Built in a distinct L-shape, the castle boasts several defensive features that were designed to protect its inhabitants from enemy attacks. These defensive features include a gun port, a drawbridge, and a moat.

Today, Keiss Castle stands as a testament to Scotland’s rich cultural heritage and continues to attract visitors from all over the world. Its stunning architecture, rich history, and mystique make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland, and a must-visit for anyone interested in the country’s fascinating past.

The Architecture and Design of Keiss Castle

The architecture and design of Keiss Castle are integral parts of its charm and grandeur. Built in the late 16th century, the castle incorporates several unique features that make it a significant example of Scottish architecture. The castle’s location on the northern shores of Scotland also influenced its design, as it was constructed to withstand the harsh climate and defend the region from potential invasion.

One of the most striking aspects of the castle’s design is its triangular shape. The castle comprises three wings that form a triangular courtyard, with the main tower at the center. This design allowed for a more efficient use of space and provided better lines of sight for defense and security purposes.

The castle also features a range of defensive elements, including turrets, battlements, and gun loops. These features were essential for protecting the castle against potential invaders, particularly during the turbulent times of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The castle’s architecture displays a mix of styles, including Gothic and Renaissance influences. The entrance doorway, for example, features a distinctive Scottish Renaissance style, while the tower and turrets are more in line with the Gothic style.

Interestingly, the castle’s designer is not known for certain. However, it is believed to have been built by the Sinclair family, who were prominent landowners in the region at the time.

Preserving Keiss Castle’s Architecture and Design

Despite the challenges posed by age and weather, Keiss Castle’s architecture and design have been remarkably well-preserved. The castle is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of its builders, as well as the dedication of those who have worked tirelessly to keep it intact and accessible to visitors.

Today, visitors can explore the castle’s unique layout and design, and learn more about its architectural significance. From the distinctive triangular design to the mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles, Keiss Castle is truly a remarkable structure that continues to captivate visitors from around the world.

Legends and Stories Surrounding Keiss Castle

Keiss Castle is not just a grand architectural wonder, but also a place steeped in legends and tales that add to its enchanting allure. For centuries, the castle has been a source of inspiration for storytellers, artists, and history enthusiasts.

One of the most haunting stories linked with the castle is the apparition of a ghostly lady who is said to haunt the tower. According to legend, the woman was the wife of the castle’s owner, who was imprisoned and left to die in the tower. Her spirit still lingers, and many visitors claim to have seen her ghostly figure roaming the castle grounds.

Another intriguing tale associated with Keiss Castle is the story of the hidden treasure buried somewhere within its walls. The treasure is said to have been amassed by the castle’s original owners, who were wealthy landowners and traders. Despite numerous attempts to locate the treasure, it has never been found, adding to the mystery and allure of the castle.

The castle also holds historical significance linked to the infamous Highland Clearances, a period when many Scottish landowners forcibly evicted tenants from their properties to make way for sheep farming. The Sinclair family, who owned Keiss Castle, refused to participate in these clearances, and instead provided refuge to those who were displaced. It is said that the castle acted as a sanctuary for many families during this turbulent period.

Visitors to Keiss Castle can immerse themselves in these stories and legends, adding to the depth and richness of their experience at this magnificent historical landmark.

Keiss Castle’s Role in Scottish History

Keiss Castle has played a significant role in Scottish history, serving as a symbol of power and prestige for centuries. Built in the 16th century, the castle was originally intended as a stronghold against Viking raids, thanks to its strategic location overlooking the North Sea.

Over time, Keiss Castle became a center of political intrigue and a coveted prize for ambitious nobles vying for power. During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the mid-17th century, the castle changed hands several times as royalists and parliamentarians battled for control of Scotland.

The castle’s most infamous moment came in 1680, when it became the site of a bloody massacre that claimed the lives of over 300 Covenanters, who were protesting against King Charles II’s religious policies. This event, known as the Battle of Maol Rubha, still haunts the castle’s legacy to this day and adds a somber note to its rich history.

Despite its tumultuous past, Keiss Castle continued to be an important landmark for generations, serving as a residence for notable Scottish families and even sheltering troops during World War II. Today, the castle stands as a testament to Scotland’s enduring heritage and the resilience of its people.

Restoration Efforts and Current State of Keiss Castle

Despite its long history, Keiss Castle has faced considerable wear and tear over the years. The harsh Scottish weather, natural degradation, and occasional vandalism have taken a toll on the castle’s physical structure. In response, restoration efforts have been ongoing for over a decade.

The restoration of Keiss Castle is an ongoing project that aims to preserve its historical heritage and help visitors understand the castle’s importance in Scottish history. The restoration work includes a comprehensive plan to stabilize the structure and restore its original features.

The restoration project began in the early 2000s and has made significant progress in recent years. Several parts of the castle have been carefully restored, including the Great Hall and the tower. The foundations have also been reinforced, and the castle’s walls have been made more stable.

However, due to the substantial work that still needs to be done, the castle is not currently accessible to visitors. The site is fenced off and closed to the public for safety reasons. Nevertheless, visitors to the area can observe the exterior of the castle from a distance and appreciate its impressive architecture.

Despite the closure, visitors can still learn about the restoration efforts through exhibits and educational materials. The project is a testament to the importance of preserving cultural heritage and the need for continuous efforts to maintain historical landmarks like Keiss Castle.

Exploring the Surrounding Area of Keiss Castle

Beyond the majestic walls of Keiss Castle lies a picturesque surrounding area just waiting to be explored. With its rugged coastline, pristine beaches, and quaint villages, one can spend days soaking up the natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of Scotland’s northern shores.

Attraction Description
John O’ Groats A popular tourist destination, John O’ Groats is known for its stunning views of the Pentland Firth and the rugged Orkney Islands. Visitors can take a ferry to the islands, go on wildlife tours, and explore the local shops and cafes.
Dunnet Head The most northerly point of mainland Britain, Dunnet Head offers breathtaking views of the surrounding sea cliffs and rocky shores. Visitors can take guided walks, spot rare seabirds, and visit the nearby Dunnet Bay Distillery.
Castle of Mey Formerly a summer home of the late Queen Mother, the Castle of Mey is now open to the public and is a must-visit attraction. With its stunning gardens, art collection, and historical significance, it offers a glimpse into the royal family’s private life.
Whaligoe Steps A historic stairway that descends steeply from the clifftop to a small harbor below, Whaligoe Steps is a unique and intriguing attraction that offers spectacular views of the North Sea. Visitors can enjoy a meal at the nearby Whaligoe Steps Cafe.

Other nearby attractions include the Castle and Gardens of Mey, the Whaligoe Steps Cafe, and the Seadrift Visitor Centre. With so much to see and do, Keiss Castle and its surrounding area offer a delightful escape for those eager to experience Scotland’s beauty and charm.

Keiss Castle: A Photographer’s Paradise

Keiss Castle and its surrounding landscapes provide an ideal setting for photographers of all skill levels. The castle’s dramatic architecture and stunning coastal location offer a wealth of opportunities to capture images that showcase both its historic significance and natural beauty.

When planning your photography session, consider visiting during the golden hours of sunrise or sunset, when the light is soft and warm, casting a magical glow over the castle and seascape. Early morning and late evening light also creates long shadows that add depth and dimension to your shots.

To capture the perfect shot of Keiss Castle, we recommend using a wide-angle lens to encompass the full scope of the castle’s grandeur and the surrounding landscapes. A tripod is also essential to steady your camera and ensure sharp, clear images.

You may also want to experiment with different perspectives and angles, such as shooting from a low vantage point to emphasize the castle’s height, or framing the castle against the rocky shoreline to create a striking contrast between man-made structure and natural environment.

In addition to Keiss Castle, the surrounding area offers plenty of opportunities to capture scenic landscapes and wildlife. Take a stroll along the coastal path or head down to the beach to explore the rock pools and caves, and keep an eye out for seabirds, seals, and other wildlife that call this area home.

Whether you’re a professional photographer or simply enjoy capturing memories of your travels, Keiss Castle and the surrounding area are sure to provide a wealth of photographic inspiration.

Events and Activities at Keiss Castle

Keiss Castle offers a variety of events and activities throughout the year, perfect for visitors of all ages and interests. From historical reenactments to interactive workshops, there’s always something exciting happening at this landmark castle.

One of the most popular events is the annual medieval festival, which transports visitors back in time to the castle’s early days. Guests can witness knights in full armor jousting, enjoy traditional food and drink, and even try hands-on activities like archery and calligraphy.

The castle also hosts educational programs, including history lectures and tours led by knowledgeable guides. These programs offer visitors a chance to learn more about the castle’s rich heritage and significance in Scottish history.

For those interested in outdoor activities, the castle’s scenic surroundings provide ample opportunities for hiking, cycling, and exploring the rugged coastline. The nearby Keiss Beach is a popular spot for beachcombing and birdwatching.

During the summer months, the castle offers a variety of family-friendly activities, including treasure hunts and arts and crafts workshops. These events provide a fun and interactive way for children to learn more about the castle and its history.

Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or simply having fun, Keiss Castle has something for everyone. Check their website for upcoming events and make sure to include a visit to this captivating castle during your trip to Scotland.


As we conclude our exploration of Keiss Castle, it’s clear that this historical landmark holds a special place in Scotland’s architectural heritage. Its magnificent structure, intricate design, and rich history continue to captivate visitors from around the world.

From its origins as a defensive structure to its role in Scottish history, Keiss Castle has stood the test of time and remains an important symbol of the region’s cultural identity. The ongoing restoration efforts ensure that this magnificent structure will continue to endure for future generations to appreciate and admire.

Whether you choose to explore the surrounding area, attend an event, or simply admire the castle’s beauty, Keiss Castle offers a truly unique experience. From photographers capturing the scenic landscapes to history enthusiasts learning about its fascinating past, there’s something for everyone at this enchanting destination.

As you leave Keiss Castle and return home, we hope that you will carry with you the memories of this magical place. Remember the legends and mysteries that surround it, the grandeur of its architecture, and the importance of its historical significance.

Book your visit to Keiss Castle today and discover one of Scotland’s most captivating landmarks. Whether you’re traveling solo, with family or friends, or as part of an organized tour, you’ll be sure to leave with a deeper appreciation for the region’s rich cultural heritage.


What is the history of Keiss Castle?

Keiss Castle has a rich history that dates back to the 16th century. It was originally built by the Sinclair family and served as a stronghold during turbulent times in Scotland’s history.

What is the architectural significance of Keiss Castle?

Keiss Castle showcases a unique blend of architectural styles, including elements of both medieval and Renaissance design. Its strategic location and defensive features make it a remarkable example of a Scottish castle.

Are there any legends or ghost stories associated with Keiss Castle?

Yes, Keiss Castle is known for its intriguing legends and ghostly tales. Many visitors have reported paranormal experiences and sightings of apparitions within the castle’s walls.

How can I visit Keiss Castle?

Keiss Castle is open to the public for guided tours. You can check the official website for visiting hours and ticket information. However, please note that access to certain areas of the castle may be restricted due to ongoing restoration work.

Can I take photographs at Keiss Castle?

Photography is allowed at Keiss Castle, and it is a popular spot for photographers due to its picturesque surroundings. Be sure to respect any rules or restrictions in place and capture the castle’s beauty responsibly.

What events and activities are held at Keiss Castle?

Keiss Castle hosts a variety of events and activities throughout the year, including historical reenactments, workshops, and educational programs. Check the castle’s event calendar for upcoming activities that may interest you.

How is Keiss Castle being preserved and restored?

Keiss Castle is undergoing ongoing restoration efforts to preserve its historical significance and ensure its longevity. Skilled craftsmen and conservation experts are working to restore the castle’s deteriorated sections and protect it from further damage.

What attractions are there in the surrounding area of Keiss Castle?

The area surrounding Keiss Castle offers breathtaking coastal scenery and natural beauty. Visitors can explore nearby beaches, hiking trails, and other attractions such as Sinclair Bay and the Caithness Horizons museum.