The origin of the Hendersons of Caithness runs through the tower of Ackergil. The great feud between the Gunns and the Keiths which eventually sundered clan Gunn, and formed the Hendersons, has its roots here.
By the mid 1400s, the Keiths began to openly challenge the Gunns for supremacy in Caithness and Sutherland. The story of Ackergil begins further south in Braemore, to the west of Berriedale and Ramscraigs. In mid 1400’s, the local chief, Lachlan Gunn of Braemore, was to marry his daughter Helen of Braemore to distant cousin Alexander. Helen was reputed to have been of unparalleled beauty, and she had caught the eye of many local men, including Dugald Keith of Ackergil. Dugald had campaigned for her hand, but Lachlan Gunn held no interest in marrying his daughter to the Keiths.
Not content to lose her to another, Dugald mustered a group of clansmen and made their way south to Braemore. On the eve of Helen’s wedding night, the Keiths besieged Lachlan’s great hall, trapping Helen and a large number of feasting wedding guests inside. Pledging safe release for all if Helen surrendered to him, she was bound and taken north to Ackergil. With his prize claimed, Duglad Keith set the Braemore great hall ablaze, burning the wedding party alive.
At Ackergil, Dugald Keith locked Helen at the top of the tower, vowing to win her love no matter how long it took. As the days passed, Helen became increasingly despondent. One evening at sunset, she managed to distract her guards, and flung herself from the tower to the courtyard below.
This bloodshed between the Gunns and Keiths began what would be a 500 year feud that would eventually sunder the Gunns and render them defunct as a power in Caithness.
In May of 2010, I was fortunate enough to visit Ackergil, which is now a very pleasant house that is frequently rented out for weddings and ceremonies.