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Local information

Accommodation in the Highlands
Moray Council

Dunrobin Castle, Scottish Highlands

Location: Golspie, Sutherland, KW10 6SF (map and directions)

Dunrobin Castle, one of Scotlandís great houses, is located 50 miles north of Inverness, in the Scottish highlands, overlooking the Moray Firth near Golspie and Dornoch. This French chateau- style castle has 189 rooms (of which visitors can view roughly 20), making it the largest house in the northern Highlands, and it is also one of Britainís oldest continuously lived-in houses, dating back to the 1300s.

Dunrobin Castle, Scottish Highlands copyright Dorcas Sinclair
Dunrobin Castle © Dorcas Sinclair

History of Dunrobin Castle

During the time of its construction, Dunrobin served as home to Earls of Sutherland, and later, Dukes of Sutherland. The first structure was a small, square keep with windows looking out from a cliff top view. This castle served exclusively as a defensive structure.

In the 16th century ownership of Dunrobin passed to the Gordon family who extended the keep and added a large house and a courtyard in the 17th century. The Earldom was passed on to the Gordons along with title to the house, and in 1745, when the Jacobites stormed Dunrobin suddenly and unexpectedly due to Clan Sutherlandís support of the British government, the 17th Earl of Sutherland escaped through the back door of the castle with seconds to spare. Upon the death of the 18th Earl of Sutherland in 1766, ownership passed to his daughter Elizabeth whose politician husband George Leveson-Gower became the 1st Duke of Sutherland.

In 1785 the house was extended and renovated again and it was the 2nd Duke of Sutherland who commissioned architect Sir Charles Barry to completely re-model Dunrobin Castle. Barry had designed the Palace of Westminster in London and took inspiration from Balmoral Castle to create the structure. It is this version of Dunrobin which has almost completely endured through to the present day. The 2nd Duke of Sutherland had eight children, which may have played a role in the massive extensions and remodelling ordered for Dunrobin, which upon completion in 1851, stood three times larger than the before the remodel.

Dunrobin Castle, Scottish Highlands copyright Jack Spellingbacon
Dunrobin Castle © Jack Spellingbacon

A fire in 1915 damaged much of the interior, at a time when the building was in use as a naval hospital during World War I. Architect Sir Robert Lorimer renovated the house. In 1963 the 5th Duke of Sutherland died and Dunrobinís ownership was passed to his niece. However, as tradition dictates Dukedom must be passed to a male heir, so John Egerton, Earl of Ellesmere became Duke of Sutherland.

After a short stint as a boys' boarding school, Dunrobin house and grounds was made open to the public in 1973. The Sutherland family retain a private area of the house which is not open to the public.

The interior of Dunrobin includes a stunning collection of paintings, furniture and architectural flair, while the exterior includes work inspired by the French architect Viollet-le-Duc, including the pyramid-shaped roof over the main entrance and the gardens which were designed by Barry and completed in 1850, using the French style of the Garden of Versailles.

Map and directions

Dunrobin is open 1030-430 daily from 1st April to 15th October, with longer summer hours until 5:30pm.

View Dunrobin Castle in a larger map

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