Carbisdale Castle

(Castle of Spite)

Situated in a commanding position overlooking the Kyle of Sutherland, Carbisdale Castle lies a half-mile (1 km) north of Culrain in Easter Ross. The castle was built by the Dowager Duchess of Sutherland between 1906 and 1917.

Lady Mary became the second wife of George Granville William Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, the 3rd Duke and 18th Earl of Sutherland in 1889. When he died in 1892, she was left the bulk of his estate. However the will was disputed by her step-son, the 4th Duke, which resulted in legal action and much bitterness. When the affair was finally settled, the Duchess used her £0.5 million inheritance to build Carbisdale only just outside the new Duke's Sutherland estate in the old county of Ross & Cromarty.

Although probably the newest of Scotland's castles, it is deliberately styled to give the credibility of an older square tower with the impression of a variety of extensions built over the years in contrasting styles and using different stonework.

It is said that the Duchess was determined not to give the new Duke or his family "the time of day" and designed the clock-tower at Carbisdale such that there are only three faces, with none on the side which the Duke could see when he passed on the nearby railway en route to his home at Dunrobin Castle. In return, the Duke would insist that the blinds on that side of his private carriage were closed as he passed.

Bought in 1933 by the Salvesen family, Scots-Norwegian ship-owners, it served as a refuge for the Norwegian Royal family during World War II. Gifted to the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) by the Salvesens in 1945, the castle became the jewel-in-the-crown of the Association's hostels and probably the finest youth hostel in the world. The gift came with the contents, including a fine collection of marble statues. Amongst these statues were Andromeda by Florentine sculptor Pasquale Romanelli and Nymph at the Stream by D.W. Stevenson (1842 - 1904). One of the statues had an interesting feature, it contains a mechanism which triggers the hidden door to a secret passage on the gallery. A further 'feature' of Carbisdale is its ghost - a 'lady in white', affectionately known as 'Betty'.

The castle closed in 2011 due to damage caused by the winter weather and the repair bill mounted. The remarkable sculptures and other art-works were sold for £1 million in 2015 and the castle itself was sold into private hands for just £900,000 the following year. In its years as a hostel, Carbisdale is thought to have hosted more than a million guests, including young people and families from all around the world. With redevelopment plans having not come to fruition, the castle was put on the market again in 2021 and bought by a London-based barrister the following year.

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