Noltland Castle
Noltland Castle is located on the island of Westray
Westray is one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, with a population of around 550 people. Its main village is Pierowall, with a heritage centre, the ruined Lady Kirk and ferries to Papa Westray.-Geography and geology:...

 in the Orkney Islands
Orkney Islands
Orkney also known as the Orkney Islands , is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated north of the coast of Caithness...

 of Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. It dates mainly to the later 16th century, although it was never fully completed. The castle is protected as a category A listed building, and as a scheduled monument.


In 1560 Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney
Bishop of Orkney
The Bishop of Orkney was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Orkney, one of thirteen medieval bishoprics within the territory of modern Scotland. It included both Orkney and Shetland. It was based for almost all of its history at St...

, granted the lands of Noltland to his brother-in-law Gilbert Balfour, who built the castle. Balfour was Master of the Royal Household
Master of the Household of Scotland
The office of Master of the Household is one of the Great Offices of the Royal Household in Scotland. It was held by various Earls of Argyll from the reign of James IV onwards. It was confirmed as a hereditary office to the 9th Earl by Crown charter of novodamus in 1667, and has remained with the...

 to Mary, Queen of Scots, and was involved in the plot to kill her husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
Henry Stewart or Stuart, 1st Duke of Albany , styled Lord Darnley before 1565, was king consort of Scotland and murdered at Kirk o'Field...

. After Mary's deposition and exile, he continued to support the queen. Noltland was seized by Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney
Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney
Robert Stewart, Knt., 1st Earl of Orkney and Lord of Zetland was a recognized illegitimate son of James V, King of Scotland, and his mistress Eupheme Elphinstone....

, an opponent of Mary's supporters, but he was forced to hand it back to Balfour in the early 1570s. Balfour died in Sweden in 1567, and in 1598 the castle was again seized by the Earl of Orkney (now Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney
Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney and Lord of Shetland was the son of Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney.On the death of his uncle, Lord Robert Stewart, junior, in 1581 Patrick was given the gift of the Priory of Whithorn...

, son of Robert). By 1606 the castle had been restored to the Balfours once more, when it was sold to Sir John Arnot, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, who later became Sheriff of Orkney.
During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms
Wars of the Three Kingdoms
The Wars of the Three Kingdoms formed an intertwined series of conflicts that took place in England, Ireland, and Scotland between 1639 and 1651 after these three countries had come under the "Personal Rule" of the same monarch...

 in 1650, Royalist officers occupied the castle after their defeat at the Battle of Carbisdale
Battle of Carbisdale
The Battle of Carbisdale took place close to the Village of Culrain on 27 April 1650 and was part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms...

. Local Covenanter
The Covenanters were a Scottish Presbyterian movement that played an important part in the history of Scotland, and to a lesser extent in that of England and Ireland, during the 17th century...

s captured and burned the castle. By 1881 it was described as a ruin, and was given into state care by the Balfour family in 1911. it is now maintained by Historic Scotland
Historic Scotland
Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government, responsible for historic monuments in Scotland.-Role:As its website states:...



The castle is built in the Z-plan
Z-plan castle
Z Plan is a form of castle design common in England and Scotland. The Z-plan castle has a strong central rectangular tower with smaller towers attached at diagonally opposite corners....

 form, comprising a rectangular main block with towers at opposite corners. A courtyard was added to the south in the 17th century. The castle is notable for its defensive architecture, unusual for the period, including a large number of shot holes. The large staircase has been compared to the stair at Fyvie Castle
Fyvie Castle
Fyvie Castle is a castle in the village of Fyvie, near Turriff in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.The earliest parts of Fyvie Castle date from the 13th century - some sources claim it was built in 1211 by William the Lion. Fyvie was the site of an open-air court held by Robert the Bruce, and Charles I...

in Aberdeenshire.

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