It’s a new year and this means new explorations for A Highland Blend, starting with a January walk along the John O’Groats trail to Old Wick Castle.
One of the oldest castles in Scotland, Old Wick Castle is a site managed by Historic Environment Scotland and is thought to have been built sometime in the 12th century.
The Castle is a walkable distance from the town of Wick, and you can follow the Telford Trail along the harbour and up through the quarry before meeting the road – there’s space for cars to park at the far end of the road.
Once you clamber over a shallow stone stile, follow the faint path across the field, making sure that you cast your eyes offshore to the impressive wind farm. The field can be boggy, so wear some suitable footwear.
Once you’ve crossed the field and passed through a wooden gate, that’s when cliffs come into view and a closer view of Old Wick Castle. It’s here that you should really heed the warning to take care around the steep slopes – there are no barriers between the path and the cliff edge, so dogs should be kept on a lead and care taken with children.
A detailed history of the castle is unknown, but during the 12th century, it was Norwegian power that ruled over the areas of Caithness and Sutherland, as well as the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland. It’s thought that Earl Harald Maddadson, who was half Scottish and half Norse, built the castle to be his mainland stay of power.
The Castle is in an advanced state of ruin, but the location on a promontory makes it an atmospheric place, and there are some features that are still visible on the four-storey tower – a fireplace, slit windows and ledges for supporting timber floors. There are also remains of other structures, although these haven’t been excavated.
You can continue the John O’Groats trail past the castle or if you’re looking for other places to explore along the Caithness coastline beside Old Wick Castle, you could also visit the Whaligoe Steps, or Lybster Harbour. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, take a trip during the summer season with Caithness Seacoast!