Do you remember that time we won an overnight stay in castle in Scotland? No, well you can remind yourself of that here. We’d flown in to Inverness airport, picked up a nippy Fiat 500L, which I had never heard of up until this point, and spent time exploring the Scottish Highlands. The first day involved a visit to the Glenfiddich Distillery which was great, followed by an overnight and uneventful stay at Loch Ness which was perfectly fine but Nessie disappointingly never appeared.
The following morning, we headed north further into the Scottish Highlands. Our destination for the evening was Dornoch Castle Hotel, but we had a few hours to kill before we could check into our prize winning hotel. We went for a drive a little further north than Dornoch, beyond a little town called Golspie on the A9, and took a right turn down a tree lined lane to arrive at a destination most unlike anything you would expect to see in the Scottish Highlands – Dunrobin Castle.
So what makes Dunrobin Castle any different to all of those other castles scattered around Scotland, I hear you ask? Well, my friends, this one looks like it’s been plucked from a French fairy tale. With it’s conical spires and turrets overlooking the stunning formal gardens stretching to the coast, it’s has an air of magic and wonder about it.
The castle has a mixed history. Dating originally back to the early 1300’s, the building and gardens in their current form were mostly added between 1835 and 1850 by the architect Charles Barry for the 2nd Duke of Sutherland. It was used a naval hospital during the first world war and a boys boarding school between 1965 and 1972. It is now open to the public between April and October, where visitors can tour the castle, museum, tea room, gift shop and the gardens, which feature a fantastic falconry display that’s not to be missed.
It’s fair to say that the best views of the castle are from the gardens. Sitting on a bluff above the walled garden and terraces, the stunning architecture against the backdrop of a gorgeous blue sky is perfect.
The view from the castle, looking down towards the gardens isn’t half bad either. Inspired by the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, the formal gardens were laid out by Sir Charles Barry in 1850 and very little has changed to the layout since.
While wandering through the gardens, be sure to take a look in the museum. The building was originally designed as a summer house and features a collection of archaeological relics and items collected by William, Earl of Sutherland and his family on their travels around the globe, particularly Africa. Be warned, there is also collection of animal heads shot by the family while on safari (if this is not really your thing)!
The beauty of the castle can be seen in all of it’s glory while wandering around the parterres of the garden, the reflections shimmering in the circular pools.
One of my favourite parts of our visit was the Falconry display on the formal lawn. The flying demonstrations happen twice daily at 11.00am and 2.00pm, and feature birds of prey such as Eagle Owls and Peregrine Falcons. There was also an outing by an absolutely beautiful Golden Eagle, who wasn’t much up for flying that day. The resident Falconer, Andy Davies was amusing, informative and passionate. The love he has for these magnificent birds was so clear to see – they were his babies.
If you find yourself on the east coast of the Scottish Highlands, be sure to visit. It’s a great afternoon out, and a beautiful part of the world.
Scotland, KW10 6SF,