Built on the site of St. Martin's Chapel on an area of rising ground some 400m north of the coast and 150m south of the deserted farmhouse of Mains of Ulbster. NGRND 33568 41857
The square single storey mausoleum is set within simple dry stone walls in the burial ground. 6.7m square with walls, some 3.6m in height from the floor to wall-head, constructed of harled rubble with chamfered ashlar margins it has an ogee Caithness slate roof topped with a stone apex finial and small wrought-iron flag dated 1700. Some of the stones in the building may have come from the earlier chapel. A much weathered inscribed stone on the external face of the east wall has been recorded as reading:
'Thou Who Desires Ane Humbling Sight To See Come In Behold What Thou Ere Long Must Be'.
The raised central door in the south elevation is approached by a wide flight of nine stone steps, which rise about 2m from ground level. A pair of tall square rusticated ashlar gate piers of circa 1700 flank the south entrance each with wide moulded lichen covered cornices, and urn finials to provide a fine entrance to the cemetery.
The interior floor is stone-flagged with a slab, now sealed, set in the middle of the east side of the floor, covering access to a low barrel burial vault. The roof structure consists of rough rafters (approx. 160 by 120 mm) set into the wall, braced by tie-beams at two principal levels, the uppermost supporting a king-post. At the corners there are further minor rafters. The roof has had more recent restoration work (1995) to ensure it is supported and does not collapse. There are two windows in the east wall, one of which has been blocked, one in the north wall and a fireplace with a projecting moulded stone-surround in the west wall, flanked by shallow square-headed recesses
The Pictish symbol stone, known as the Ulbster stone was unearthed in 1770 in the mausoleum's burial ground then erected on a mound in the garden of Thurso castle. The large sandstone slab, 5ft (1.5m) high, 7 ½ ins (0.19 m) thick, 3ft (0.9m) wide at the top, tapering to 2ft 6ins (0.76m) at the bottom, depicts an array of Pictish symbols sculpted on the two main faces, partly in relief and partly with incised lines. At some later date deeply engraved letters reading "The Ulbster Stone" were carved in a highly ornate script partly defacing one side of the monument. Caithness Horizons now feature the stone in a display of early medieval sculpture in Thurso.
Images and text by courtesy of Fergus Mather.
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