Highlands & Islands

Events to recall demolished Helmsdale Castle

Helmsdale Castle in 1960s Image copyright Timespan
Image caption The ruins of Helmsdale Castle seen from the nearby village in a photograph taken in the 1960s

Events are to be held to recall a medieval castle demolished in the 1970s to make way for a road bridge.

Helmsdale Castle at Helmsdale in Sutherland was built in the 15th Century on the orders of a countess.

It was the scene of a triple murder involving poison. The plot is said to have inspired Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Timespan Museum and Art Gallery will lead the events, which include a screening of the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2010 production of Hamlet.

It starred Scots actor David Tennant in the title role.

Image copyright Timespan
Image caption A photograph of the castle from the 1940s

Taking place next week, the events will also include marking out the lost boundaries of the castle with balloons.

A storytelling session and a picnic are also to be held.

The castle was constructed on the instructions of Margaret Baillie, Countess of Sutherland and the wife of William, Earl of Sutherland.

It was rebuilt and repaired in 1616 by Alexander Gordon of Garty and was later used as a hunting lodge for landowners and their guests.

Helmsdale Castle fell into ruin and was demolished to clear the site for a road building project in the 1970s.

Image copyright Timespan
Image caption The castle was used as a hunting lodge before falling into ruin and eventually being demolished

The triple murder said to have fired the imagination of Shakespeare was committed in 1567.

The 11th Earl of Sutherland and his countess were poisoned over dinner after a day's hunting.

The assailant was the earl's own aunt, Isobel Sinclair, who had also hoped to dispatch her nephew's son and heir in a plot so her own son could inherit the earldom.

In an ironic twist, Sinclair mistakenly administered the poison to her own son too and killed him.

She was sentenced to hang in Edinburgh for her crime, but took her own life before she could be executed.

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