Castle & Gardens of Mey Was The Queen Mother’s Favourite Home in Caithness
Located between Thurso and John O’Groats, is the Castle of Mey, the northern-most castle on the UK mainland. Castle Mey was the favourite home of the Queen Mother when she visited Scotland and it was also the only home that she owned in her own right.
On our travel around Scotland the weather has ranged from intermittent grey skies to rain and sunshine. Thankfully, the sun decides to re-appear during our stop at the Castle of Mey. We are fortunate to be able to see the castle, in its magnificent setting on the Caithness Coast, in the brilliance of the late afternoon light and to have photos with blue skies.
Castle Mey is not a big castle. Walking through some of the narrow corridors and spiral staircases, it becomes clear as to why it is necessary for a tour group of forty to be split into three smaller groups.
Our visit begins at the walled garden, which was much loved by the Queen Mother. Behind the protection of the Great Wall of Mey is a beautiful and traditional Scottish garden full of lovely and interesting flowers, fruit trees and herbs. All throughout the garden, the Queen Mother’s personal touch can be seen, from the greenhouse to the floral displays in the Shell Garden where she loved to sit.
The garden is very much a working garden and during the Queen Mother’s summer residence, it provides the fruit and vegetables for the kitchen as well as the flowers for the castle. I rub my fingers on some lemon thyme and the herb smell is so strong that it stays with me when we visit the inside of the castle. Playing on my mind was whether the guide will know that I have touched the royal herbs. The gardens are definitely worth visiting and our only regret is not having more time to appreciate the hundreds of species of plants and beautiful flowers in it.
Castle of Mey
Castle Mey is a historic castle with spectacular views across the Pentland Firth towards Orkney. Built in the late 16th century by George Sinclair, the 4th Earl of Caithness, it was occupied by his descendants for over 300 years.
Castle Mey’s colourful history includes the dark deeds by its early owners as well as the eccentric activities of later occupants such as the 14th Earl, who brought the first steam car to this part of Scotland in 1860.
The last Sinclair to live at Castle Mey was the 15th Earl of Caithness. When he died in 1889, the castle was bequeathed away from the Sinclair family. Queen Victoria bought it in 1952. She fell in love of Castle Mey at first sight.
When the Queen Mother bought the castle, it was in a bad state of repair. After significant repairs, she created a much loved holiday home which she returned to every year until her death. Today, the castle is still kept in the same way that the Queen Mother had left it. A tour of the castle gives visitors interesting insights into her personality, interests and love of life. The Queen Mother was known for her tacky tastes and the collectibles in the castle bear witness to this. The castle has a very homely feel, rather than a grand castle atmosphere and it very much reminds of how one’s granny’s home might be. The knowledgeable guides make the visit quite enjoyable.
Castle Mey is held by the Queen Elizabeth Castle Mey Trust of which Prince Charles is the President. The Queen wanted the castle to be maintained by the Trust for the benefit of the local community.
Photography is not allowed in the rooms of Castle Mey, apparently for security reasons as the royal family still uses this castle. However, we can share with you some other photos of Castle of Mey Gardens Here.
Castle of Mey
Map of Caithness: