Westray, Noltland Castle

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Canmore ID 2764
Site Number HY44NW 1
NGR HY 42944 48695
Former District ORKNEY
Former County ORKNEY
Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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Architectural Notes

Miscellaneous: Dr Thomas Ross - manuscript notes.
(Undated) information in NMRS.

Notes and Activities Click to sort results by Event date ascending

Archaeological Notes

HY44NW 1 42944 48695

(HY 4293 4870) Noltland Castle (NR) (In Ruins).
OS 6" map, Orkney, 2nd ed., (1900).

The remains of a late 16th c. Z-plan castle to which a range enclosed in a courtyard was added on the south in the 17th c; in the 18th c. other structures were erected outside the east and west walls of the courtyard. Simpson reasons that the castle was founded by Gilbert Balfour of Westray and is of the opinion that the main work was probably done on it between 1560 and 1572, but was never completed.
The building is in the custody of the M of PB&W, during whose excavations an early graveyard was disclosed adjoining the west side of the castle.
The castle is said to have been fired by Covenanters in 1650.
RCAHMS 1946, visited 1930; W D Simpson 1952.

Noltland Castle, as described, planned and illustrated.
Visited by OS (RL) 29 June 1970.

HY 4292 4868 A minor excavation was undertaken in October 2000 at Noltland Castle (NMRS HY44NW 1), as part of a programme of installing underground electricity cables. No significant discoveries were made.
Sponsor: Historic Scotland
D Murray and G Ewart 2001

The excavation of skeletons in 1873 and 1874 was reported in 'The Orkney Herald'.
(Undated) information in NMRS.


Notes A 2-plan artillery-defended tower-house, most likely founded
by Gilbert Balfour and dating 1560-72, but probably unfinished.
A probably C17th courtyard range adjoins. According to OS,
excavations by MoPBW disclosed a cemetery alongside the W side of
the castle. [R1-R6]

National Archives of Scotland Finds File:

October 1925 - Richardson ' The area in question [no plan to indicate which
area is being discussed] appears to be a grave-yard of some extent and
belongs to Christian times, but it is impossible to fix the exact period as
apparently no grave constructions were found. The coin found on the site
was a plack of James VI c.1600. There is not sufficient evidence to show
that the foundations discovered are those of a small Church but nevertheless
it is quite likely that they may be.'

Richardson wrote to Marwick for advice, stating:
'It has been reported that a large number of human bones and part of the
foundations of building were uncovered in the recent excavations within the
courtyard on the north side of the Castle.
So far as I can gather the skeletons were lying east and west and no trace
of any grave constructions were found. Seventy-five skulls were found all
in a good state of preservation and the teeth were excellent. The only
relic found was an Edinburgh plack of James VI but it seems unlikely that
this will help is to fix the date.
The foundations seem to have been built in lime mortar and may have possibly
been those of some Church.'

National Archives of Scotland Finds 1925 File:

Excavations dating from 16 September 1925 - 26 September 1925, a silver coin
James VI plack Atkinson (bullion) was found in excavations at the north side
of the castle or burial ground.
Information from Orkney SMR

Further details

Books and References

Billings, R W (1845-52) The baronial and ecclesiastical antiquities of Scotland, 4v Edinburgh
Page(s): Vol.4, 25-6 Held at RCAHMS D.2.R

Coventry, M (2008) Castles of the Clans: the strongholds and seats of 750 Scottish families and clans, Musselburgh
Page(s): 25 Held at RCAHMS F.5.21.COV

Cruden, S (1963a) The Scottish castle, Studies in History and Archaeology series. Revision Edinburgh
Page(s): 187-9 Held at RCAHMS F.5.21.CRU

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