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  • Index Number

  • Parish

  • NGR

    HY 429 487
  • Council

    Orkney Islands
  • Category

  • Legal Document
    [PDF, .18 MB]

Noltland Castle


The monument comprises the remains of a castle of 16th-century date. It is in the care of the Secretary of State for Scotland and is being re-scheduled to clarify the extent of the protected area.

The monument lies about 800m to the WNW of Pierowall, at around 25m OD. It comprises Noltland Castle, a Z-plan castle constructed by Sir Gilbert Balfour from 1560 onwards. The castle, now roofless, consists of an oblong main building measuring about 27m E-W by about 11m transversely and containing a hall and chamber above a vaulted kitchen and cellarage. Square towers project from the SW and NE corners of the main building.

The SW tower measures about 9m square and the NE tower about 8m. Although the main building of the castle was designed to have 3 upper storeys, only the NE tower and the adjoining chamber block of the main building appear ever to have been ever completed. These are finished with corbelled parapets and cylindrical turrets, within which rise the crow-stepped gables of the high-pitched roofs. The main building has 71 gun-loops, arranged in tiers. On the S side of the castle stand the S wall and footings of a range of 17th-century buildings enclosing a courtyard. Overall, the castle measures about 34m N-S by about 40m E-W.

The area proposed for scheduling comprises the remains described and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found. It is quadrangular, with maximum dimensions of 51m approximately E-W by 70m approximately N-S, and is defined on all sides except the S by the outer face of a stone wall, as marked in red on the accompanying map extract.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because of its contribution to our understanding of 16th- and 17th-century domestic and defensive architecture. Its importance is enhanced by the colourful role that its builder, Sir Gilbert Balfour, played in the political affairs of Scotland and Sweden in the 16th century, and by the potential that its below-ground remains have for shedding further light on the material culture of the period. Its importance is reflected in its status as a Property in Care of the Scottish Ministers.

Other Information

RCAHMS records the monument as HY 44 NW 1.


Ashmore, P. (ed.) The ancient monuments of Orkney. HMSO; Edinburgh.

Cross, M. (1994) Bibliography of Monuments in the Care of the Secretary of State for Scotland, 468-9, Glasgow.

Ritchie, A. (1996) Orkney, The Stationary Office; Edinburgh.

Simpson, W. D. (1983) Noltland Castle. HMSO; Edinburgh.

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