|Forse Castle, Caithness
Map Ref ND 224338 Landranger Sheet 11
Forse Castle stands upon a dramatic peninsula, rising almost 50 metres above sea level, not far from the village of
Forse, about 2 kilometres from Latheron and some 4 kilometres from Lybster. The castle is surrounded on all sides by steep rocks and is cut off from the mainland by a natural ditch at the neck of the peninsula.
The keep stands behind a defensive barmkin wall, which also enclosed a triangular shaped courtyard with other buildings nearly all the way around it. These buildings would contain additional accommodation, stables, store rooms, brewhouse, chapel etc.
The keep measures internally 21 by 11 1/2ft, with walls 7ft thick, standing up to 30ft in height. The entrance to the keep is on the seaward side, one floor up.
This “artistic reconstruction” shows how the castle would have looked in the late 1500’s. It was painted by Andrew Spratt who used recent photographs of the castle site as a template to superimpose the original foundation plan of the castle - effectively rebuilding it section by section. The painting shows the modern causeway removed, thus re-instating the ditch over which was a bridge and drawbridge to access the castle.
Forse was the stronghold of the Sutherlands of Forse who inhabited the castle until about 1660 when the 10th Laird built a modern mansion about a mile inland at Nottingham. This was later demolished and a greater mansion house was built a little behind the old one. This became known as Forse House and was occupied by the Lairds of Forse until 1905. The 18th and last Laird of Forse, John William Sutherland, died in 1909 leaving two daughters, both of whom subsequently died without issue.
Forse House later became an hotel and is now presently being used as a nursing home.
Forse Castle in the meantime fell into decay and is now sadly deteriorating rapidly.
Forse Castle Today
Situated on the east coast of Caithness 2 miles south of Lybster and commanding fine views of the coastline, Forse Castle is about 800 years old and sits on a high rocky peninsula. It was once cut off by a ditch and drawbridge. Believed to have been built by Sir Reginald de Cheyne, Forse was inherited by the Keiths through the marriage of one of Sir Reginald's daughters in 1350. It then passed to the Sutherlands through the marriage of a daughter to Kenneth, second son of the 5th Earl of Sutherland. From then until 1771, 17 generations of Sutherlands held it until it was abandoned.