Perched right on the edge of the sea this was once a stronghold of various Scottish clans in the mid 1400's...it's named Sinclair Castle and is in Caithness in Northern Scotland.
Pity about the barbed wire fence in the foreground, though if it wasn't there sheep might be diving off the cliff thinking they could fly...
The logistics of building a castle like this must have been a nightmare in the planning...the stones were easy enough to come by but the wood for the scaffolding would have presumably have needed to have been brought either overland or by sea...and every stone would have been shaped to fit the next and so on. The builders must have had a design in mind before they laid the first stones...probably from other castles in the same era because, rather like the Irish bungalow, everyone tended to have the same So did the chief builder sketch out a plan for the men to follow...there wouldn't have been much point in telling them to build it the same as Jimmy's castle fifty miles away...they'd have had to trudge back and forth to see where Jimmy had put his windows and then they'd most likely have forgotten before they were half-way back again...
So I think the planning began much like buildings today...with sketches of where to place doors and windows and how many towers and where the garderobes would be. Most of the ruined Irish castles we've visited have the smaller stones towards the tops of the building held in place with a rough mortar...the larger stones on the bottoms of the walls are simply laid on top of each other in a staggered fashion...because the Highlands of Scotland have had domestic and wild sheep there for very many years, they might have used sheeps wool to form the base of the mortar...mixed with lime it forms a strong bond. Our cottage stones are held together with a mixture of horse hair, dung and lime...but the sheds and barns are simply stones shaped to fit together with no evidence of any mortar at all...
It's doubtful Sinclair castle had foundations...they may have incorporated a natural sea cave as a dungeon but the actual castle would have simply been built straight onto the rocks themselves...No glass for the windows of course because it would have been extremely expensive...the tenants would have hung thick sacking up instead to keep out the worst of the weather.
It would have been a cold and draughty place to spend your time...lit by oil tapers and sparsely furnished with basics...a long dining table and benches...a huge hearth which belched out smoke whenever the wind changed direction and a roughly hewn wooden bed with fleeces and furs for bedding...the servants, serfs and visiting knights would have slept on the heather covered floor...
I'm always irritated when visiting a humble castle opened to the public which has been 'done up' to the ninth degree with oil paintings hanging on the walls and high backed carved wooden chairs which would never have been seen in a castle built mostly as a defensive place rather than a cosy family home...it was only the stately castles lived in by people who had little to concern themselves with in the way of seiges and attack which had the comparative luxury of ancestors portraits and tapestry hangings...and chairs.
I do find it quite sad that these ancient castles, which were built with skill and care, have been allowed to become ruinous when they were once someones home and have history leaking from each and every stone...but Scotland...like Ireland...is positively heaving with ruined castles and it is simply impractical to restore each and every one to their former selves...still a little sad though.