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Bu Of Cairston

Castle (Medieval)

Site Name Bu Of Cairston

Classification Castle (Medieval)

Canmore ID 1482

Site Number HY20NE 10

NGR HY 2720 0956

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Stromness
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY20NE 10 2720 0956.

The ruinous enclosure at Bu of Cairston, known traditionally as the 'Castle', is now used as a piggery. It measures some 70ft by 69ft 9 ins thick over walls approx 4 ft thick. Against the inner sides of the N. & W. walls are remains of domestic buildings. There is a circular turret at the NW corner and excavations in 1927 revealed another turret at the SE corner overlying earlier foundations.

Clouston shows an outer ward extending eastward an average of 57 ft on the lines of the N.and S. walls. He suggests that only the small mansion-house built against the inside is of 16th century date and that the remainder is the castle of 1152 AD mentioned in the Saga (F Gudmundsson (ed.) and only repairs were carried out in 1587.

The Commission refutes this, showing that the Saga writer is probably wrong in locating the castle at Cairston (A B Taylor 1931 and Munche) and states that the whole layout, which it visited in 1929, would accord better with the 16th century date.

RCAHMS 1946; J S Clouston 1929; 1931

HY 2720 0956. The Castle at Bu' of Cairston, now used as a chicken-run, is approx. 20.0 metres square, is extant to a height of 1 to 2 metres with outer walls 1.3 metres thick and the inner 0.5 metres thick. Mr. Rendall states that the Castle belonged to the Gordon Clan in Orkney, and the NW. corner was modernised in the 16th Century to form a mansion for a branch of the family. (Information from J W Rendall, Bu' of Cairston, Cairston, Stromness.) Several farm outbuildings have now been built on and around the site.

Visited by OS (RD) 14 September 1964.


Field Visit (1998)

A castle, dated variously to the 12th and 16th C date or 12th C date with later additions, is recorded at this location. It is said to have belonged to the Gordon clan and to have measured some 20 sq.m. in plan. In recent time the site has been used for farm buildings and, with the surrounding being very overgrown, nothing of the castle is now readily visible.

Moore and Wilson, 1998

Orkney Coastal Zone Assessment


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