Police probe “suspicious” Ackergill Tower fire

Police are investigating the fire at Ackergill Tower. Picture: submitted
Police are investigating the fire at Ackergill Tower. Picture: submitted
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An investigation has been launched after a fire broke out at a Scottish castle which is a popular celebrity bolthole.

Emergency services were called to 15th century Ackergill Tower at Wick in Caithness after reports of smoke coming from a back door of the building.

A spokesman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service - which has launched a joint investigation with police - said a cellar at the building had been badly damaged and smoke had affected the rest of the building.

He added that it was not clear if anybody was in the building at the time. Nobody from the hotel was available to comment.

The fire was reported by a member of the public at 4.23am. Two fire appliances from Wick arrived 11 minutes later and had the fire under control an hour later. They returned to station at 7.47am.

“Early this morning police were called to an outbreak of fire at Ackergill Tower,” said a Police Scotland spokesman.

“Enquiries are at an early stage however it has been established the fire has been contained to a storage area and part of the main building.

“Police are treating this fire as suspicious and are appealing for anyone who has information regarding this fire or who may have seen someone acting suspiciously in the area to contact them on 101.”

Ackergill Tower has been a retreat for celebrities such as Sir Richard Branson, Billy Connolly and Philip Schofield.

The A-listed castle near John O’Groats - which is now a five star hotel - has also played discreet host to Hollywood veterans such as Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas, as well as British celebrities Twiggy and Jeremy Irons.

Ackergill Tower was advertised for sale with a £5m price tag in 2009. It is now owned by the Clarenco group.

The castle boasts 35 luxurious bedroom suites, four self-catering cottages and the largest treehouse in Europe - all set in 3000 acres of stunning scenery.


The tower also boasts a rich history. It was first mentioned in the middle of the 14th century as part of the ‘lands of Ackergill’, owned by Sir Reginald de Cheyne who, at that time, owned nearly half of Caithness. The style of architecture, however, suggests that the tower was built around 1475.

In 1651, Oliver Cromwell reportedly used Ackergill to garrison his troops during his siege of Dunnottar Castle as he was hunting for the Honours of Scotland. In 1676, John Campbell, 2nd Earl of Breadalbane and Holland, took possession of Ackergill Tower in repayment of debts owed to him by the landowning Sinclairs.