Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Dunrobin Castle

Looking like a French chateau, Dunrobin is located a half-mile (1 km) northeast of Golspie in the Highland council area, that part which was the old county of Sutherland. It is the ancestral seat of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland. The oldest part of the castle, a massive square keep, is thought to date from around 1275, although the surrounding lands have been associated with the family since 1235. The name Dunrobin first appears in 1401 and is thought to be derived from Robert the 6th Earl (Robin's Castle).

L-shaped extensions were built between 1672 and 1682 on each side of the keep, resulting in an E-plan structure. The castle was briefly held by the Jacobites in 1745 with the 17th Earl only narrowly avoiding capture. Dunrobin was further augmented by the 1st Duke, who more notably 'improved' the estates and was consequently held responsible for the most enthusiastic of the 'highland clearances' despite his liberal attitudes and probable sound motives. The castle was drawn in 1815 by William Daniell (1769 - 1837) with the resulting aquatint published in his Voyage Round Great Britain. The fairy-tale look of the present castle was created during the remodelling between 1845 and 1851 by the architect, Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the gardens which extend down to the sea. Queen Victoria stayed at Dunrobin Castle for a week in 1872, as a guest of the 3rd Duke.

The interior was sympathetically reconstructed in 1921 by Sir Robert Lorimer, following a fire in 1915 while the castle was being used as a military hospital. The result included a fine Drawing Room, Dining Room and Library. A museum was created in the summer-house in 1878 and today includes an large and varied collection from Pictish stones to the numerous game trophies of the 5th Duke.

The Earldom is unusual in that it can follow the female line, and hence while the Dukedom passed to a remote relation on the death of the 5th Duke in 1963, the Earldom and Dunrobin passed to his daughter, Elizabeth. Today the castle is owned by the Sutherland Trust.

The upper floors of the castle are said to be haunted by the ghost of the 14th Earl's daughter, who fell to her death while trying to elope by climbing out an attic window.

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