A Survey of Norse Castles in Orkney

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Orkney is perhaps best known, in the context of castles, for Cubbie Roo’s
castle (Figure 16.1, 1), thought to be one of the earliest stone-built keeps in Scotland. However, its relationship to other fortified buildings in the earldom, and the role of these buildings in 12th-century Orcadian society, is less well understood. Why was a stone keep built in Orkney in the mid 12th century? From where did the inspiration come? Was it exceptional or did it form part of a wider pattern of ‘castle’ architecture? To address these questions, Cubbie Roo’s castle will be discussed in the context of 12th-century Orkney society and compared with other similar buildings, with particular emphasis on their placement. This study aims to evaluate the evidence in the context of Northern European maritime power and the recent revision of ideas of kingship and feudalism in the wider Scandinavian world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCastles and Galleys
Subtitle of host publicationA reassessment of the historic galley-castles of the Norse-Gaelic seaways
EditorsPaula Martin
Place of PublicationLaxay
PublisherIslands Book Trust
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9781907443763
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


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