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Ackergill Tower

Old Photograph Ackergill Tower Scotland

Ackergill Tower, or Ackergill Castle, is a Scottish castle located north of Wick, Caithness, Scotland. The Clan Keith, under John Keith, inherited the lands of Ackergill in 1354, from the Cheynes family. Ackergill Tower was may have been built by his son, but was first mentioned in 1538. A legend relates the tale of a young woman by the name of Helen Gunn, who was abducted by John Keith for her beauty. She flung herself, or fell, from the highest tower to escape her abductor's advances. Supposedly her ghost is still seen, wearing a long red rustling ball gown and a tall head of black hair.[2] This was in the late 14th or early 15th century and is said to have been the true beginning for all feuding between the Gunns and Keiths. It led to the Battle of Champions in either 1478 or 1464, a judicial combat which led to a massacre of the Gunns by the Keiths at the chapel of St Tear (or Tayre) just east of the village.

In 1547, the Sinclairs of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe attacked and seized the castle. Mary of Guise, then Regent of Scotland, granted the Sinclairs remission for this, and returned Ackergill Tower to the Keiths. She later installed Laurence Oliphant, 4th Lord Oliphant as keeper of Ackergill in 1549. The Sinclairs again captured the castle in 1556, for which they were again granted remission. In 1593, Robert Keith, brother to the William Keith, 6th Earl Marischal (who rightfully owned the tower), seized Ackergill by force, for which he was declared a rebel, and the castle was returned to the Earl. In 1598, another Keith, one John Keith of Subster, attacked the tower in the dead of night, taking its occupants by surprise and capturing the place. In 1612, the Sinclairs acquired Ackergill Tower once again, but through legal means, when it was sold to the Earl of Caithness by the Earl Marischal. However, by 1623 it was under assault once more, when it was besieged by Sir Robert Gordon during his feud with George Sinclair, 5th Earl of Caithness, but the Sinclairs surrendered the castle before any assault took place. In 1651, Oliver Cromwell may have used Ackergill Castle to garrison his troops during his siege of the Keith's Dunnottar Castle, as he was hunting for the Honours of Scotland. In 1676, John Campbell, 2nd Earl of Breadalbane and Holland took possession of Ackergill Tower in repayment of debts owed to him by the Sinclairs.

John Campbell put Ackergill Tower up for sale in 1699, and it was bought by Sir William Dunbar of Hempriggs. The Dunbars began extensive renovations, including the addition of a lean-to-shaped extension to the tower. In the mid 19th century, further additions including a cap house were made by the architect David Bryce on behalf of George Sutherland Dunbar, 7th Lord Duffus.

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