Ghosts of Giringoe

In the far north of Scotland, the icy waters of the North Sea lash a forbidding promontory jutting into the Bay of Sinclair, 29 kilometers south of John o’ Groats. On a crooked finger of land stands the ruin of Castle Sinclair-Girnigoe, its sublime remains embraced by a sheer drop to the sea on the north and a massive dry moat on the south. Founded in the late fourteenth century, the castle served as the ancestral seat of the Earls of Caithness, until it was abandoned following a heavy artillery attack by rival claimants to the Earldom in 1680. Until recently, the castle had lain untouched—its stones, one by one, being claimed by storm and sea. Today, however, the site is the subject of a major archaeological campaign and conservation initiative, prompted in part by the castle’s inclusion on WMF’s 2002 list of the 100 Most Endangered Sites. Over the past two years, a multidisciplinary team of archaeologists, architects, and structural engineers—brought together by none other than Malcolm, the twentieth Earl of Caithness—has begun to unravel the ancient history of one of Scotland’s most picturesque sites. Their findings, which have elucidated the construction history of the building, have also overturned the traditional understanding of the site and have shown the castle to be of far greater significance than previously thought

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