Dating from the 16th century, Westray's Noltland Castle stands testament to a troubled period of Scottish history.

The heavily fortified castle lies approximately half a mile from Pierowall Bay and was built by a Scotsman, Gilbert Balfour from Fife.

Balfour was up to his neck in the political intrigues common during the time of his sister-in-law, Mary Queen of Scots, and as a result had made some powerful enemies.

In 1546 Balfour, along with two of his brothers, was implicated in the murder of Cardinal Beaton. Afterwards, they underwent the siege of St. Andrew's Castle and upon its surrender were sentenced to a period at the oar of a French galley. Balfour's chaplain and partner in crime, John Knox, later described the three brothers as "men without God" who had "neither fear of God nor love of virtue further than their present commodity persuaded them".


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