Harald's Tower

Thurso

The derelict tower guarding the flanks of Clardon Hill 2kms east of Thurso marks the grave of one of the two adversaries who, in 1196, met in a classic encounter of good against evil.

On one side was the wicked Harold Maddadson, an Orcadian colloquially known as 'Harold the Elder'. The son of the infamous Countess of Athole, by way of his extraordinary cruelty and tyranny, he was a perfect scourge to Caithness. Ranged against him was the local Harald Ungi, 'Harald the Younger', grandson of Earl Ronald, one of the founders of Kirkwall Cathedral.

It was the latter that sought the confrontation in an attempt to regain upwards of half his rightful kingdom the former had dispossessed him of. Both sides mustered a large force and the battle commenced with a furious head on assault. During these early encounters, Ungi himself was slain, the command then being jointly assumed by Murt and Lifolf. The battle raged without undue advantage for some considerable time, but then the Caithness men gained an upper hand, driving the Orcadians with great slaughter towards Murkle Bay. As they did so both Murt and Lifolf were simultaneously cut down and, without obvious leadership the local contingent now fell into disarray.

After the ensuing rout, Harald the Elder easily subdued the remainder of Caithness, hunting his enemies and meting out the traditional punishments of eye-poking and tongue removal

Harald the Younger was quietly buried close to where he fell. Fearful locals quickly establish a small shrine over the spot and a contemporary writer attributed several miracles to God honouring his remains and thereby showing that his cause had been just.

The shrine became a chapel, but eventually this fell into disrepair. It lay derelict until Sir John Sinclair, at the suggestion of the Rev. Alexander, erected a tower over the site. Sadly this too now lies boarded up and forlorn.

Location

Clardon Hill, 2kms east of Thurso.