Dunrobin Castle is a historic stately home in the Highlands of Scotland. It sits atop a cliff overlooking the Moray Firth, about an hour from Inverness and an hour and a half from Invergordon.
it is believed that Dunrobin Castle is built on the site of an earlier Medieval fortress. The current house began as a fortified house dates from the 13th century.
Dunrobin Castle has been home to the Earls of Sutherland for many centuries. The earldom was created around 1235 when King Alexander II made local landowner William, Lord Duffus, an earl. William took the name of his lands and so became Earl of Sutherland.
The title and the castle passed into the hands of the Gordon family when the 9th Earl of Sutherland died without issue in 1514. His sister Elizabeth, who had married Adam Gordon, became Countess of Sutherland in her own right. However, both Elizabeth and her son were poisoned by an aunt in an attempt to gain the earldom so Elizabeth was succeeded by her grandson.
Dunrobbin was taken by the Jacobites during the Rising of 1745. However, it was soon back in the earl's hands as the Sutherland clan had supported the winning Hanoverian side.
The title remained with the Gordon family, who changed their name to Sutherland in the early 18th century, until 1766 At the death of the 18th Earl, the title passed to his baby daughter Elizabeth. She eventually married George Granville Leveson-Gower Lord Stafford, an English lord.
Lord Stafford believed strongly in reform. Seeing the conditions of the people who lived on his wife's estates, he decided to act. Unfortunately, his solution was harsh and sometimes brutal. In what became known as the Sutherland Clearances, he evicted the people from the estates. Some were given work in industries that he had financed. Others emigrated to Canada or elsewhere in the British Empire. For his efforts, Lord Stafford earned the lasting hatred of many Scots. However, for his reform efforts he was made a Duke. An enormous statue of him stands on a hillside near Dunrobin.
Architecturally, Dunrobin Castle had seen a number of changes over the centuries. A large extension was added in 1785. In 1845, Sir Charles Barry, who designed the Houses of Parliament, was commissioned to re-model Dunrobin. He enclosed the original house with new additions and gave it a Scottish Baronial style exterior.
During World War I, Dunrobin was used as a Royal Naval Hospital. In 1915, a Large fire broke out. It was only brought under control when British sailors from ships anchored nearby came to Dunrobin and formed a line passing buckets of water to pour on the blaze. Much of the addition made by Barry was destroyed.
Following the war, Sir Robert Lorimer was commissioned to restore the castle. He redesigned much of the interior and re-did the main tower and the clock tower in the Scottish Renaissance style, giving the house its present look.
The 5th Duke died without issue in 1963. As a result, the earldom (including Dunrobin) passed to his niece (once again) Elizabeth. However, while the earldom could pass to a female hier, the dukedom could not. Consequently, the dukedom and the earldom split with the dukedom going to a more distant relation.
Visiting the Castle
Walking from the carpark to the front door, Dunrobin Castle does not look particularly impressive. However, go around to the garden side, and the castle's beauty materializes. Looking much like a French chateau, Dunrobin sits majestically at the edge of a cliff overlooking the gardens and the sea below.
Once inside, the main entrance way and staircase give Dunrobin a Victorian atmosphere. However, this evaporates as you go upstairs and proceed through the various rooms.
The rooms are furnished with fine antiques from a variety of periods. Moreover, they are arranged not like a museum but like a home.
Dunrobin is a treasure house of paintings. The family had numerous portraits done and they commissioned the best artists including Reynolds, Ramsay, Landseer, Lawrence, Romney, Hoppner, Kneller, Winterhalter and Vigee Le Brun. In addition, there are works by Tintoretto and Wilkie.
Visitors proceed through the house on a prescribed route. In each room, there are placards talking about the contents and how the room was used. Knowledgeable and friendly guides are stationed along the route for additional information.
The house is said to be haunted. One is the spirit of a 15th century captive girl who died trying to escape after she refused to marry the earl. However, she has not been heard from for many years. A male ghost has been reported walking through closed doors but his identity is unknown.
Dunrobin has a shop and a restaurant.
For more information on visiting, see the Dunrobin Castle website.
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Cruise destination - Scotland - Dunrobin Castle - page one