The Castle of Oldwick (ND369488) - known to sailors as the Old Man of Wick - is a plain, rectangular keep or tower with two rows of outbuildings set near the landward end of a promontory.
The castle is flanked by high cliffs and an outer rampart and a ditch crosses the landward end of the promontory. Today, the simple tower survives as a ruined shell. The boxlike tower consisted of three storeys and a basement, all unvaulted. The doorway would have been in the seaward-facing northeast wall, probably at first floor level, reached by a portable ladder. Entry is now through a breach in the wall into the storeroom below. As there are no stairs in the wall access up and down from the hall must have been by internal wooden ladders. The rock-cut ditch adjoins the tower and may have been crossed by a drawbridge. It is known as 'Lord Oliphant's Leap'. To the rear of the keep two rows of building foundations flank a roadway, running along the centre of the promontory to an open area, which is said to have been the castle garden, and is now known as Castle Walk. Steps lead seaward from Castle Walk, but the sea is inaccessible.
Oldwick is commonly believed to date to the 12th or early 13th centuries, the time when the Norse Earls of Orkney held Caithness from the Kings of Scotland, and is often called a Norse castle. In the Orkneyinga Saga much mention is made of Wick, an important place during the Norse occupation. However, the first known owner of the property was Reginald Cheyne in the mid 14th century, a nobleman of Norman descent whose family inherited vast estates in Caithness by marriage with an heiress of the Norse line of Earls. Thereafter it passed by marriage to the Sutherlands of Duffus in the 14th century, then to the Oliphants in the 15th century. It then came to the Sinclairs in 1644, then to Lord Glenorchy, who sold it in 1690 to the Dunbars of Hempriggs, with whom it remained in 1910. In recent years it has been taken into the care of Historic Scotland.
All content © Caithness Archaeological Trust 2004
unless otherwise stated