Carbisdale Castle - Contrasting Roles

Carbisdale Castle was built for the controversial, much married Dowager Duchess of Sutherland Lady Mary who was the second wife of George, 3rd Duke and 18th Earl of Sutherland. He bequeathed his entire estate to her on his death, which was contested by her step-son, the 4th Duke. After much litigation and bitterness a settlement was reached whereby the Sutherland family agreed to build a suitable residence of her choice at their expense outside the Sutherland estate.

Carbisdale Castle was built overlooking the river Kyle in neighboring Ross-shire between 1906 and 1917. It is perhaps the newest castle is Scotland but designed in a manner that it looks like an old square tower with extensions built over the years. Different stonework and styles of architecture have been used deliberately to propagate this impression.

The Duchess died soon after and the castle was sold in 1933 to a Scottish businessman of Norwegian origin, Colonel Theodore Salvesen. On his death his son inherited the castle and in 1945 he gifted it with its contents and surrounding property to the Scottish Youth Hostels Association. Carbisdale Castle Youth Hostel opened soon after.

The castle has a number of interesting features like 365 windows, one for each day of the year. The tall square tower has clocks on three faces but none on the side facing the courtyard. Apparently the Duchess had no desire to even give her step-son the time of the day when he traveled past on his way home to Dunrobin Castle.

The Castle houses priceless paintings and artifacts and a collection of exceptionally beautiful Italian marble statues exhibited in the main Lower Gallery. One of these statues has an intriguing mechanism whereby on rotating it a hidden door below the Great Staircase opens to a secret passage in the gallery.

The hostel can be rented as a whole for a function. A beautiful high-ceilinged hall, the Upper Gallery is available for events. Other attractions include distilleries only a short distance away. Walk to the Falls of Shin where you can watch leaping salmon, or go trout fishing in Loch Shin and Migdale.


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