Historic Scotland

Opening times

Open year-round.

 

Overview

Count the gunholes dotting the exterior of this unique and imposing castle.  

It was built for Gilbert Balfour, master of Mary Queen of Scots household, Sheriff of Orkney, Constable of Kirkwall Castle and a man who had need for strong defences. 

Balfour was implicated in the murder of Cardinal Beaton at St Andrews and that of Mary’s second husband, Henry Lord Darnley. 

After Mary’s arrest, Balfour retired to Noltland Castle, where the 71 gun holes that dot its walls would have provided him some reassurance. The castle is as much a fortress as it is a noble residence, though it seems it was never completed. 

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