Bucholie Castle, Caithness
Map Ref: ND 382658 Landranger Sheet 12

Bucholie Castle Photo Gallery
Bucholie Photo Gallery From The Air

Robert Wilson Richmond
28th August 2001

The artistic reconstruction by Andrew Spratt shows how the castle may have looked in 1475.

Bucholie Castle (formerly Lambaborg) lies 5 miles South of Duncansby Head on a narrow promontory and like Halberry Castle is not visible from the road.  Most visitors to the area are therefore quite unaware that this once mighty stronghold exists.  It is perhaps just as well that visitors are not encouraged as the access to the castle site is a dangerous one indeed - the only means of entry being by crossing a narrow isthmus about 4 ft wide to the gate with sheer 100 ft drops on either side; a tangible reminder of the suitability of the site for a defensive structure. It is inadvisable to visit this site unaccompanied.

There was a certain majesty about Bucholie as I approached it on foot with a friend after a half-mile walk from the road; the greater part of the front facade of the keep is still standing to a height of 3 storeys and the whole of the remains still project a feeling of strength and dominance in spite of their dereliction.

The entrance gateway is remarkably complete and once we scrambled safely across the isthmus and climbed up through the entrance doorway the thought crossed our mind that if we were attacking the castle and had managed to get this far it is unlikely that we would have succeeded any further because we would find ourselves in a long corridor about 4 ft wide with another locked gate at the end of the passage and no other way out. This was the killing zone - a very effective means of defence against anyone managing to breach the outer gate. The corridor was protected by the keep and high battlements on either side from which any assailants trapped below were easily disposed of.

Once we negotiated this grisly reminder of the past and entered through the second arched gateway, we found ourselves in the remains of a long narrow courtyard with the remains of buildings on either side of it. These would form the usual outbuildings such as stores, chapel, workhouses, offices, stables, armoury, accommodation etc.


Such was the positional strength of this fortification that an enclosing barmkin wall was not required around the whole site, the sheer cliffs all around extending to 100 ft or so offering sufficient security. The seaward or Eastern side of the promontory therefore afforded open views to sea and after exploring the ruins we were able to sit and soak up the relatively peaceful atmosphere of this flank.

A fortress called Lamaborg was first built on this site by Sweyn Asliefson the notorious pirate and robber in about 1140. Sweyn was the younger brother of Gunni from whom were descended the Clan Gunn.  From Sweyn descended the Swanson family name.

The Mowat family were granted Lambaborg and the lands of Freswick from King Robert the Bruce and they re-modelled it and named the castle Bucholie after their estate in Aberdeen.  Bucholie Castle remained in the Mowat family until 1661 after which it fell into disrepair.


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