The Castle of Mey Caithness, Scotland

Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Fri, 2010-01-22

The Castle of Mey is open to the public. The Castle of Mey in Scotland’s most northerly coast of Caithness, in the parish of Canisbay, about 15 miles east of Thurso and six miles west of John O’Groats.

It stands on rising ground about 400 yards from the seashore, overlooking the Pentland Firth and the Orkney Islands. It is thought that a fortified granary occupied the site originally. It was the holiday residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother since 1952 when she bought the Castle and surrounding land.

The first of her homes was Birkhall, a Scottish lodge built of stone, harled and painted white. It was hidden in the trees of the Balmoral Estate, and it was there, in the 1950s, that she performed perhaps the strangest of her countless opening ceremonies.

When the Castle was first purchased it was in need of extensive repair but has been lovingly restored over many years. Once the deeds were in her possession, she changed the name from Barrogil to its previous title, the Castle of Mey, and would delight in its views and comfort for half a century until her death in 2002.

She brought the dilapidated Castle of Mey back to life after falling in love with the building in the early 1950s. The Queen Mother regularly travelled north to supervise the work, eventually moving in and restoring the ancient name, the Castle of Mey. She owned the property until 1996, when it was handed over to a charitable trust, along with its 2,000 acres of land and a herd of prize-winning Aberdeen Angus cattle.

Castle when it was in the early stages of the opening it was free for the local population whom the Castle was donated to, upon the death of the Queen Mother. It is very busy and the guides never stopped answering questions or explaining about different items in the Castle. The gardens are beautiful and if you are lucky you will be able to buy some of the produce from them.

You might be felt that the Castle was very much a home. A place where any visitor would be made welcome and would feel welcome. The furnishings and decor very much reflect the sense of friendliness and warmth which you always loved about the Queen Mother. Have a delicious snack in the tearoom, browse in the shop and check out the animal centre or just wander in the grounds and gardens and view the magnificent scenery across the Pentland Firth to Hoy, the nearest of the Orkney Islands. On a clear day the Old Man of Hoy can be seen on the horizon.

The Castle is not entirely suitable for disabled although there is restricted access by prior arrangement.

Tourists can viewed the butler’s pantry, the castle library, two acres of walled gardens and paintings by Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh. The gardens are perfect Caithness Gardens surrounded by a high wall (known as The Great Wall of Mey) and bordered by hedges. In the Castle of Mey there is a walled garden where vegetables as well as ornamental plants are grown. The glasshouse is used to raise plants for the castle. As you round each section you are constantly surprised at what you find there – you might not know that such a variety of plants could be grown successfully in Caithness!

For animal and pet lovers there is the small animal centre and exhibit where you can see a range of chickens, pigs, sheep and other animals. Kids love visiting this area of the castle.

Longoe Farm is situated on the exposed but picturesque shores of the Pentland Firth, and is linked to the Castle by a cliff-top track and strip of rough grazing. It has the debatable advantage of being one of the most northerly farms on the British mainland, with unparalleled views across to Hoy and the Orkneys. Just to the west lies Dunnet Head, the very northernmost point on the mainland. This is a certainly worth a visit.

The Castle of Mey Hours: For 2010, the Castle and Gardens will be open to visitors for the Easter weekend (2 – 5 April), and then daily from 1st May to 28th July inclusive and from 10th August to 17th October inclusive. (Closed from 29 July to 9 August inclusive and also 6, 7, 8 October 2010). Opening times are from 10.30am until 4pm.

Visitor centre with tearoom, toilets and gift shop.

Mey Selections Barrogill Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Inver House Distillers and North Highland Products launched the first ever North Highland Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, Barrogill at the Castle of Mey in Caithness on the 30th April 2007. Mey Selections Barrogill Blended Malt Scotch Whisky takes its name from the history and heritage of the Castle of Mey, the most northerly castle on the Scottish mainland. Originally built and named the Castle of Mey between 1566 and 1572 by George,4th Earl of Caithness, it was renamed Barrogill Castle in the early seventeenth century.

Contact: The Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust Jackie Phillipson PPR Media Solutions Ltd Burnside Studio, 2 Stour Close Wimborne, Dorset BH21 7LU Tel: 01847 851473 (general enquiry), 01202 896698 Mobile: 07740 611147


Image gallery (For larger view click on images)

The Castle of Mey is open to the public near Dunnet

The Castle gardens – The gardens are perfect Caithness Gardens surrounded by a high wall (known as The Great Wall of Mey) and bordered by hedges

The seat commemorating Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother

View from the sea

just wander in the grounds and gardens

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