Scalloway Castle

Scalloway Castle

Scalloway Castle Details

  • Access: Historic Scotland
  • Condition: ruin
  • First build century: 17th
  • Closest To: Scalloway
  • Grid Ref: HU404392
  • Last use century: 18th

Scalloway Castle is a tower house built overlooking the harbour of Scalloway, on the western side of the main island of Shetland. It is well sited to control traffic in and out of the harbour, and is liberally supplied with turrets, corbelling and shot holes. It dates to the early 17th century, and although ruined is in generally good condition.

The castle was built by Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney and Shetland, between 1600 and 1607. At the time he succeeded his father as Earl, there was no castle on Shetland, the old seat of lordship at Castle Holm long having fallen into disrepair. Earl Patrick built himself a tower house which was of fairly standard design, with vaulted basement rooms including a kitchen, a great hall on the first floor, and suites of chambers upstairs. The square wing, offset to provide covering fire along the gable end of the hall block, contained the entrance as well as the main stair to the first floor. Unusually, one of the stair turrets to the upper floor is on an external facing angle.

All of the external angles of the castle are served with bartizan turrets, reflecting the Earl’s desire to keep a close eye on his neighbours and shipping. After his execution in 1615, the castle was granted to the Bishop of Orkney and Shetland, James Law, and it remained in the hands of the Bishops until the establishment of the Commonwealth. Under Cromwell the castle was garrisoned, and once the troops departed in the 1650s, the castle remained the seat of judgement in Shetland, with letters being dated there as late as 1733. At an uncertain date after this, it fell into disrepair. In 1909 it was transferred to the ownership of the state and today is maintained by Historic Scotland. It is kept locked but the key is available from the Scalloway Museum when it is open.

Official Historic Scotland page

HES Canmore database entry