Brims Castle is a roofless ruin, dominating the shoreline of Brims to the west of Thurso. Brims Bay is a popular alternative surf break to Thurso East, and has been the chosen break for a number of world-class surf events.
Brims Castle was constructed in the 16th century by Henry Sinclair. At this time, Caithness was dominated by the ruthless Earl of Caithness, George Sinclair. Infamous for his use of aggressive tactics to enforce his rule, including sending out raiding parties to harass his neighbours, Brims Castle was built as a fortified storehouse and refuge by Henry Sinclair against the earl's oppression.
The castle was built near to the shoreline, a convenient landing spot for supplies, and consisted of a three-storey stone-built tower. The ground floor had a sturdy vaulted ceiling and was likely used for storage, while the great hall was located on the first floor and sleeping quarters on the upper level and attic. The tower was surrounded by a curtain wall that would have housed a number of common ancillary buildings such as stables, bakers, and a brewhouse.
Like most Caithness castles, Brims Castle changed hands many times, either through sales to other families or inheritance. In 1726, Alexander Sinclair, Earl of Caithness bought the castle after being forced from his home at Murkle by the infamous pirate John 'Pirate' Gow. Pirate Gow had been second mate and gunner of a merchant ship of the British navy. However, after seizing his commander's ship along with some of its crew, Gow began a career of lucrative piracy off the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. After some time he returned to Caithness, setting up base on the island of Stroma and harassing the local gentry.
Alexander Sinclair's primary residence at this time was at Murkle, and, after a feud with the pirate, Gow threatened to bombard the Earl's house. Instead of confronting him, the Sinclair chose to relocate his residence to Haimer and built a castle there instead. Whilst this castle was under construction, he bought Brims Castle, taking up residence there until his new castle was completed. It is said that Gow did take his ship to Murkle and attempt to bombard the castle, but that the castle was built too far inland to be within range of his cannon fire.
Brims Castle passed through a number of other owners until being abandoned in 1970, and the roof finally collapsed in 1980.
You can find out more about Brims Castle, as well as other archaeological and historical sites, on Canmore, Scotland's historic environment record.
Cannonballs thought to have been fired by Pirate Gow against Haimer Castle can still be seen at Castlehill Heritage Centre.