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Noltland Castle

A fine and strong castle on the island of Westray in the Orkney Islands, Noltland is situated a half-mile (0.8 km) west of Pierowall. Begun on the site of an earlier structure in 1560, it was built by Gilbert Balfour who took a leading role in the murder Lord Darnley (1545-67), the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87). The castle was considered by Mary as a refuge following her escape from Loch Leven Castle in 1568.

One of the largest Z-plan castles in Scotland, the main block rises to four storeys plus an attic, with square towers at opposite corners. The structure is peppered with gun-loops. A lower L-shaped block, added in the 17th century, completes the construction around a courtyard. The castle is entered from the southwest tower; kitchens occupy the lowest floor, with a sizeable hall and withdrawing room above, accessed by an unusually wide spiral stair. This stair is thought to have been added by Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney, who took Noltland in 1592 in settlement of a debt. Some of the Marquis of Montrose's officers took refuge here after his defeat in 1650 and the castle was later held by Oliver Cromwell's troops. It was damaged by fire in 1746 and abandoned a decade later.

Noltland passed into state care in 1911 and is now maintained by Historic Environment Scotland.


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