This 16th century heavily fortified castle was built by Gilbert Balfour from Fife, brother-in-law of Mary Queen of Scots. Balfour and his brothers had been involved in the murder of Cardinal Beaton in 1546 and had been sentenced to serve time as oar men on a French galley. His cousin Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney gave Gilbert land in Orkney in 1560 and it is from this time that Noltland probably dates. Balfour’s support for Mary turned against him when she lost power and he was found guilty of treason. Eventually he fled to Sweden leaving the castle to his nephew. Gilbert was executed in 1576 for attempting to kill te King of Sweden. John Knox, chaplain of Gilbert and friend described him and his brothers as “men without God” with “neither fear of God nor love of virtue further than their present commodity persuaded them”. The castle was taken from the Balfour’s as payment for a debt in 1592.
There are several different types ghost connected to this ruin and the Balfours. When a member of the family was about to die a strange howling omen from a phantom dog was supposed to have been heard. This dog was referred to as the Boky Hound.
Something called the Booine would ensure boats were pulled to safety and built the roads around the castle.
The third mysterious occupant was a ghostly light that would appear to herald a new birth or marriage in the Balfour family. It seems strange that given the short length of time the Balfours owned the castle, their family is tied up so much with the haunting or stories attached to the ruin. Or, given Gilbert Balfour’s character, maybe it is not.
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