A popular stop-off on the northeast coast of the NC500 is the Castle Sinclair Girnigoe in Caithness. It’s convenient… It’s dramatic. It’s enchanting… And it is very Game of Thrones!
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is situated 3 miles north of Wick. If you are popping into town for some road trip errands, then you should totally consider going a little further to discover the magic of Girnigoe.
Castle Sinclair's Postcode: KW1 4QT Click here for the Google Map location.
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe Car Park
Conveniently for cars, campers and motorhomes, there is a fairly large, gravelled car parking area at Noss Head for Castle Sinclair. The Google Maps directions can be found here. Though you should know, that no overnight parking is permitted. Continue reading to find out where to camp in close proximity to the castle.
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe Walk
The walk from the car park to the castle is short but sweet. This will perhaps take you about 10 minutes. It’s essentially a very basic, grassy track. Therefore, you should take suitable footwear during rainy conditions.
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What To See When Visiting Castle Sinclair
In my opinion, Castle Sinclair is very worthy of a visit, especially considering that it isn’t just the castle there to explore! Firstly, the ruins are a viewpoint to the dramatic cliff faces and the lengthy Reiss Beach, both of which encompass Sinclair Bay.
The path leading to the castle is pretty in itself. There is the added bonus of information boards that will take you on a historical journey of the area. Upon arriving at the castle, you’ll be welcomed by a more recently-built foot bridge for visitors to step inside.
Take your time nosing around the castle. The information boards will assist you in imaging how the residents once lived inside. Then don’t leave just yet, there’s one more part to see… And I think it’s the hidden gem of Castle Sinclair!
Follow the footpaths below the wooden bridge at the entrance. They will lead you to a tiny inlet with an intriguing stoney beach. Hundreds of stacked pebbles line the cliffside – can you make one?
If you are visiting with kids, then they will undoubtedly enjoy exploring every nook and cranny that this place has to offer. I felt like a curious, and giddy, child myself wandering around in awe. The whole space has a very enchanting quality to it!
Dogs are welcome, but they should be on a leash to prevent them from disturbing any nesting birds.
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe Opening Times & Admission Fee
You are free to roam the confines of the castle at any time and any day of the week. Although, some areas of the castle may remain cornered off due to the ongoing maintenance and restoration work taking place.
There is an honesty box at the beginning of the walk to Castle Sinclair. It is suggested that the admission is £1.00 per adult, with return visits being free of charge. This money helps the Castle Sinclair Girnigoe Trust to care for the property. The bonus is, the car parking has no admission fee… Win!
Read Also: A Highlander's Guide to Scotland's NC500 Road Trip
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe’s History
The castle was originally built by the highly powerful Sinclair Family during the 15th century. Large parts of the castle were rebuilt, and many extensions were added through to the 17th century.
It was around the time of a dispute of ownership that the castle then became a ruin. Since then, these derelict ruins have remained constructed but were greatly impacted by strong winds and natural cliffside erosion from the sea.
In more recent years, the castle has been in the hands of the ‘Clan Sinclair Trust’ who have been repairing and maintaining the ruin, with the ambition of reversing any damage.
When should you visit the Castle?
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe can experience a fairly steady stream of visitors throughout the summer season. If you are looking for a quieter experience, then perhaps try early in the morning and later on in the evening.
Can you camp at Castle Sinclair Girnigoe?
You should be mindful of camping in the surrounding area of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe as the area is mostly enclosed for livestock. However, a temporary campsite has been set up by the council. You’ll find this area signposted from the main car park, albeit the spot is only accessible via a less-maintained, more rocky track. You cannot book a spot; it’s based on first-come-first-serve.
The designated site has a donation box upon entering. If you are kind enough to donate, then the fee is £10. Otherwise, £15 will be collected in person at some point. Please treat the surrounding wildlife with respect by ensuring that your vehicle (or tent) is within the confines of the stoney area.
Heading North on the NC500? Duncansby Head (How to Get to the Stacks & Lighthouse) Heading South instead? Whaligoe Steps (Near Wick)