Carbisdale Castle

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Carbisdale Castle
Carbisdale Castle - - 1730146.jpg
Carbisdale Castle
Location Kyle of Sutherland, Scottish Highlands
Coordinates 57°55′32″N 4°24′32″W / 57.9255°N 4.409°W / 57.9255; -4.409Coordinates: 57°55′32″N 4°24′32″W / 57.9255°N 4.409°W / 57.9255; -4.409
OS grid reference NH574954
Built 1905-1917 (1905-1917)
Built for Duchess of Sutherland
Architect John Robertson
Architectural style(s) Scots Baronial
Listed Building – Category B
Designated 18 March 1971
Reference no. 7165
Carbisdale Castle is located in Highland
Carbisdale Castle
Location of Carbisdale Castle in Highland council area

Carbisdale Castle was built in 1907 for the Duchess of Sutherland on a hill across the Kyle of Sutherland from Invershin in the Scottish Highlands. It is now used as a youth hostel, operated by the Scottish Youth Hostels Association. The castle is situated north of Culrain, and around 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north-west of Bonar Bridge. The castle is in the Scots Baronial style, and is protected as a category B listed building.[1] The hostel closed for repair in 2011, and as of August 2014 had been put up for sale for £1.2m.[2]


The castle was built between 1905 and 1917 for Mary Caroline, Duchess of Sutherland, the second wife of George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 3rd Duke of Sutherland, whom she married in 1889. She is better known as "Duchess Blair" because of her first marriage to Captain Arthur Kindersely Blair of the 71st Highland Light Infantry, who died in a hunting accident in 1883 near Pitlochry. The marriage was not well liked in the Sutherland family. When the Duke died in 1892 his will, in favour of the Duchess, was contested by his son and heir Cromartie. In a court process that followed, the Duchess was found guilty of destroying documents and was imprisoned for six weeks in London.[citation needed]

Eventually, the Sutherland family came to an agreement giving Duchess Blair a substantial financial settlement. Furthermore, the family agreed to build a castle for the Duchess, as long as it was outside of the Sutherland lands. The Duchess employed a firm of Ayrshire builders and work started in 1906 just outside the Sutherland lands in Ross-shire. It was located on a hillside to be visible to a large part of Sutherland, especially the main road and rail line which the Sutherland family would have to use to travel south. Thus it became known as the "Castle of Spite" as it was widely considered that the Duchess located the castle there to spite her husband's family and the settlement agreement.[3] This is further supported by the fact that the castle's tower only has clocks on three of its four faces - the side facing Sutherland is blank, supposedly because the Duchess did not wish to give the time of day to her former relatives.[3]

Colonel Theodore Salvesen, a wealthy Scottish businessman of Norwegian extraction, bought the castle in 1933. He provided the castle as a safe refuge for King Haakon VII of Norway and Crown Prince Olav, who would later become King Olav V, during the Nazi occupation of Norway in World War II. During that time the castle was also used to hold important meetings. King Haakon VII made an agreement at the Carbisdale Conference on 22 June 1941, that the Russian forces, should they enter Norwegian territory, would not stay there after the war. Three years later, on 25 October 1944, the Red Army entered Norway and captured thirty towns, but later withdrew according to the terms of the agreement. After the Colonel died his son, Captain Harold Salvesen, inherited the castle and gave its contents and estate to the Scottish Youth Hostels Association. Carbisdale Castle Youth Hostel opened to members on 2 June 1945.

Following frost damage, the hostel closed for repairs in February 2011. Further structural damage was discovered, and over £2 million has been spent on repairs.[4] As of June 2014 the hostel remains closed. The SYHA have stated that it may not open for the foreseeable future.[3]

In the end of 2014, Carbisdale Castle was sold by the SYHA.[5] 17 marble sculptures and 36 19th Century paintings will be offered for sale at an auction in London on May 20th 2015.[6]


The Lower Gallery

The castle has 365 windows, and the clock-tower only has clocks on three sides: the side facing Sutherland does not have a clock. There is a secret door below the Great Staircase which could be opened by rotating one of the statues.[citation needed] This mechanism is no longer in use. The castle has a large collection of art, with some pieces dating back to the year 1680. The Lower Gallery contains 19 Italian marble statues, dating back to around 1857.

The castle is said to have several ghosts. Paranormal experts have investigated with varying results. The appearances include a lady in white, fallen soldiers of the Battle of Carbisdale (1650) and the sounds of a piper. The ghost of the castle gardener, known as "The Hooded Gardener", is said to roam the grounds looking for his lost daughter. He is said to haunt girls that are the same age as his own daughter (15), and has reportedly been seen dressed in black, with a black hood and only part of his face shown.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Carbisdale Castle: Listed Building Report". Historic Scotland. 
  2. ^ "Scotland’s last castle – yours for less than the price of a London flat". Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Sutherland's 'Castle of Spite' hostel may close for good". BBC News. 25 March 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Ferguson, Brian (1 October 2012). "Carbisdale Castle Youth Hostel battles to stay open". The Scotsman. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Former hostel Carbisdale Castle close to sale in: The Scotsman, December 12th 2014
  6. ^ Artworks at Sutherland's Carbisdale Castle to be sold, BBC, April 24th 2015

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