Ackergill Tower is a fascinating place in a beautiful spot, where 15th century architecture and 21st century entertaining meet a history that includes and Scotland's own answer to Helen of Troy. Phoebe Bath explains.
Situated on the edge of the unspoiled Sinclair Bay near Wick, Ackergill looks every inch the quintessential Scottish castle – and the history of the place, plus the extras within this small estate, make it an even more interesting prospect than you’d imagine.
It’s a superbly dramatic property, complete with a 15th century tower, that stands proud amongst 30 acres of land at the end of a mile-long drive.
The castle, on the market for £3,900,000 via Knight Frank, was last sold in 2009. Since then it’s been run as events and wedding venue, and even if the new owner wanted to keep the castle as a family home there’s still far more to the estate.
There’s everything from a pub and a Celilidh hall to a boathouse, plus a string of cottages and other accommodation.
Finally – and quite brilliantly – there’s also a treehouse, apparently the largest in Europe, constructed in and around a 150-year-old Sycamore tree in the walled garden. It sleeps two, and even has its own power and plumbing.
The original tower, which is believed to date from 1475, is imbued with centuries old history. The expansive lands of Ackergill were inherited in 1354 by the Clan Keith, which previously belonged to the Cheyne family.
Unable to bear a son, Sir Reginald le Cheyne gave Ackergill to his eldest daughter in 1305, before the property fell into the hands of Clan Keith. Legend recounts the tale of a young woman, Helen Gunn, known as the ‘Beauty of Braemore’, who was abducted by John Keith for her irresistible pulchritude.
In a bid to escape the clutches of her captor, she flung herself from the peak of the vertiginous tower. Helen’s ghost, so the local tales say, can still be seen roaming the grounds and battlements with spectral presence.
Her death turned her into a sort of Highlands Helen of Troy: the episode apparently triggered the feud between the Gunns and the Keiths, eventually leading to the Battle of Champions, where the Gunn family was ruthlessly massacred by their opposition.
During the mid 19th century, this vast property was significantly extended by the esteemed Scottish architect David Bryce, as well as being deservedly glorified by the restoration of the tower in the 1980s.
The current owners have spent £2,000,000 upgrading the old fortress as well, and today Ackergill offers five magnificent storeys in the main part of the castle, with an additional four-storey wing that was added to the rear of the property in the early 18th century.
There are lawns and formal gardens within the included 30 acres, while the sale includes a lease of shooting and fishing rights over an additional 3,000 acres of land which adjoin the property. It’s a remote spot, but Ackergill is a real jewel sparkling proudly at Scotland’s northernmost tip.
Ackergill Tower is for sale through Knight Frank for £3,900,000 – see more pictures and details.
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