A fortified tower house constructed by the infamous Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney. Measuring 18m x 10m with a tower added to the south-west angle, the building stood 4 storeys high and also included a garret. There were turrets at each corner and the entrance was located at the tower. The windows were larger than normal but there were circular gun loops at the ground floor level. The stairway was in the small tower.
Robert Stewart was granted the lands in Orkney and Shetland by Queen Mary in 1564 and his son Patrick, took over the lands when Robert Stewart died in 1592. Patrick Stewart wanted to make his main base on Shetland at Scalloway and constructed the castle. He taxed the local people by making them provide a workforce for the building, and they had to supply their own food too. The taxes and the work were well over and above what was expected of a lord to burden his people with. The locals complained to the King and Patrick Stewart was arrested and held in Edinburgh Castle. He was beheaded by James VI in 1615. The lands were then granted to James Law, Bishop of Orkney.
Scalloway Castle was where the Thing took place – the local Parliament – and the Sheriffs Court. And it did indeed become the capital of Shetland. The castle was originally approached from the area of the East Voe.
1599/1600 The castle began construction.
1607 The castle was completed. It included:
Ground Floor – Kitchen, fireplace, well, storeroom.
1st Floor – Hall, 9 windows, 2 fireplaces.
Upper Floors – Larger rooms divided into private apartments. The small rooms and upper rooms of the small tower were also utilized, as well as the turrets.
Above the entrance was the engraving: PATRICK STEWART EARL OF ORKNEY; JAMES V KING OF SCOTS; THAT HOUSE WHOSE FOUNDATION IS ON A ROCK WILL STAND; BUT IF ON SAND IT WILL FALL. AD 1600.
1612 Lands were granted to James Law, Bishop of Orkney, who held his first court at the site.
1615 Patrick Stewart was executed, by beheading, at Edinburgh Castle.
1653 Garrisoned by Cromwell’s forces during the English Civil War.
1733 The site was described as still being a castle.
1792 Sketched by Captain Columbine.
1803 Andrew Mitchel was granted permission by the Earl of Orkney, to remove the gateway and windows for use in his new house.
1902 Was reported as being in ruins; on the OS map.
1908 The owner, the Marquis of Zetland, handed the site and property over to the State.
1946 Visited by RCAHMS.
1950 Visited by RCAHMS.
1968 Visited by RCAHMS.
1971 Aerial photograph taken of the site.
1979-1980 The site was partially excavated. Click HERE for full excavation details.
1997 Mentioned by RCAHMS: Explaining Scotland’s History.
References & Bibliography
Anderson. P. 2013. The Stewart Earls of Orkney. Birlinn.
Buchanan. G. 1751. History of Scotland. Hamilton, Balfour & Neill.
Cowie. R. 1879. Shetland: Descriptive and Historical; and Topographical Description of that Country. Smith.
Hall, D; Lindsay, W. J.1983. “Excavations at Scalloway Castle, 1979 and 1980”. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. 113: 554–593. Available at https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-352-1/dissemination/pdf/vol_113/113_554_593.pdf. Accessed 1 July 2020.
Hibbert. S. 1822. A Description of the Shetland Islands: Comprising an Account of Their Geology, Scenery, Antiquities, and Superstitions. A. Constable & Company.
Maxwell. W. H. 1853. Wanderings in the Highlands and Islands, with sketches taken on the Scottish Border, being a sequel to “Wild Sports of the West.” Routledge & Co.
Stephens. W. 1856. The Leisure Hour: An Illustrated Magazine for Home Reading, Volume 5. p.486. W. Stephens.
Scalloway Castle – By Tom Parnell from Scottish Borders, Scotland – Scalloway Castle, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79235628
Scalloway Castle – By Tom Parnell from Scottish Borders, Scotland – Scalloway Castle, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79235633
Scalloway Castle – By Tom Parnell from Scottish Borders, Scotland – Scalloway Castle, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79235630
Scalloway Castle 1st Image – By George Wolfe from Calver, GB – 150730 4 Scalloway Castle, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74207424