Welcome to the Muness Castle, the most northerly Castle in Scotland. This remote castle sits on the Isle of Unst, the northmost isle of the Shetland Isles. While these beautiful islands are difficult to reach, Muness Castle is well worth the visit if you’re planning to explore the historic attractions of Scotland.
Muness Castle is one of only two tower house castles in the Shetland Isles (the other one is Scalloway Castle) and harkens to a time of historical importance in Scotland. Learn about how Earl Patrick Stewart misused Shetland laird’s taxes, how the Dutch East India Company owned Muness Castle for a time, and how French pirates destroyed it.
We’ll cover all this fascinating history, how to get to this far-flung island attraction and the attractions you can look forward to while you’re there.
In This Post
History of Muness Castle
Muness Castle was built in 1598 for the half-brother of Robert Stewart, Laurence Bruce of Cultmalindie. When Robert Stewart was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle for misusing Shetland laird’s taxes and lands, his son became Earl Patrick Stewart and commanded that Andrew Crawford build the Z-plan tower house on the isle of Unst. Andrew Crawford was an accomplished builder, having constructed Scalloway Castle and Earl’s Palace in Kirkwall.
Laurence Bruce followed in the footsteps of Robert Patrick and would regularly charge exuberant taxes on Shetlanders. Laurence Bruce also had a deal with the Dutch East India Company, which would use the tower house and sell goods to Shetlanders at extremely high prices – splitting the profit with Laurence.
Laurence then passed the castle to his son Andrew in 1617, after which the Bruce family suffered greatly when a group of French pirates laid siege to the structure. Muness Castle was burnt down and abandoned, a state which it remains in to this day. In the fire and damage, Muness Castle lost its roof, much of the first floor, and possibly even a formal garden to the south west.
Historic Scotland now manages Muness Castle, which is a fantastic attraction to enjoy whilst on the Isle of Unst.
How to Get There & Details to Know
Muness Castle is free to visit, and there aren’t any blockades to the entrance – making it a simple and easy attraction to explore while you’re in the Shetland Isles.
How to Get There by Ferry
One of the only routes to reach Unst is by ferry from Lerwick. The ferry trip takes 90 – 120 minutes and involves two ferry journeys in total. The cash payments are required to make the journey to the northmost part of the British Isles, so make sure you have some when you travel.
The ferry operates throughout the year, so no matter when you arrive, you’ll have a way to reach Unst.
Attractions at Muness Castle
Once you’ve made the adventurous journey to the Isle of Unst in Shetland, keep an eye out for these spectacular attractions within Muness Castle.
Explore the Northmost Castle in Scotland
As you approach Muness Castle, the circular towers of this mighty tower house will be the first parts you’ll see. The castle is open to visitors, meaning no entrance fees or restrictions, although it is essential to respect such a historic site.
As you enter in the ruined hall of Muness, the towering stone walls give an excellent indication of how large the main block was. The lack of a roof makes Muness bright and clear on a sunny day, letting you see the remains of ornate carvings into the stonework.
Learn about Muness Castle
Throughout Muness Castle, you’ll be able to find a small collection of informative displays that cover a brief history of the castle, its constructions, and its place throughout Scottish history. There are no visitor centres or guides for Muness Castle, but the displays are more than enough to stoke the imagination of this far-flung tower house.
Delve into the Castle’s Lower Areas
Below the ground floor of Muness Castle are a series of lower chambers that guests can explore. You’ll need a torch on hand to venture this this part of the castle, and luckily they are provided to you on-site. Here, you can see the more architectural details and where the salvaged cargo stood during the castle’s height.