Skibo Castle (Scottish Gaelic: Caisteal Sgìobail) is located to the west of Dornoch in the Highland county of Sutherland, Scotland overlooking the Dornoch Firth. Although the castle dates back to the 12th century, the present structure is largely of the 19th century, and early 20th century, when it was the home of industrialist Andrew Carnegie. It is now operated as the Carnegie Club, a members-only hotel and country club.
According to William J. Watson, Skibo is the anglicisation of Scottish Gaelic Sgìobal, which in turn comes from an Old Norse name meaning either firewood-steading or Skithi's steading. It is also said that the name Skibo derives from the word schytherbolle, which is Gaelic for fairyland.
Construction of Skibo Castle was started by Gilbert de Moravia, the Bishop of Caithness, around 1186 at "Schytherbolle" in the southern area of his bishopric. Skibo Castle remained the residence of subsequent bishops until 1545, when the estate was, as a tactical measure by the church, given to John Gray in order to reinforce its alliance with a powerful family as the threat of a Protestant uprising spread towards the north.
In 1745, Robert Gray surrendered the estate. It was later bought by a relative who built a modern house before 1760. Its ownership changed frequently until 1872, when it was bought by Evan Charles Sutherland-Walker, who extended the house and improved the grounds. However, the condition of the building had declined by 1897, when wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie took a one year lease, with an option to buy. In 1898 he exercised that option for £85,000. However its condition had declined so much by this time that a further £2 million was spent on improvements, including an increase in area from 16,000 square feet (1,500 m2) to over 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2), plus the creation of Loch Ospisdale and an 18-hole golf course.
Skibo stayed with the Carnegie family until 1982. It was later purchased by businessman Peter de Savary and used as the foundation of a private members club, the Carnegie Club. Establishment of the club required restoration of the castle to recreate the luxury of an Edwardian sporting estate. Similar renovation was undertaken on the many lodges located amongst the castle grounds to provide additional accommodation for club members. De Savary sold the club to Ellis Short in 2003, for £23million. In 2007, Mr. Short allegedly threatened to shoot a retired couple’s dogs because they were walking across the estate; in Scots law, the concept of trespass on open land does not exist. In May 2011, a shoot manager on the Skibo Estate was convicted of possessing over 10.5kg of carbofuran, a pesticide banned in the UK since 2001.
The Carnegie Club
The Carnegie Club is a members-only hotel and club, with about 400 members. The Carnegie links golf course has fewer than 1000 rounds played on it per annum. The funds raised from membership fees are reinvested, including upgrading some holes of the golf course. The club has received planning permission for restoration of the swimming pool.
The Carnegie Club hosted Madonna's wedding reception to Guy Ritchie on 22 December 2000. In 1995, it had hosted the marriage of golfer Sam Torrance and the actress Suzanne Danielle. On 28 December 1997 it hosted the marriage of actor Robert Carlyle and his wife Anastasia Shirley.
On 3 December 2006, the BBC Television programme Landward featured the Burnett family who for several generations had been tenants of a farm on Skibo estate. The programme highlighted their search for a new farm following their eviction by the estate. The farm is now part of an off-road driving facility for the use of paying guests of the castle. In March 2008, Skibo became a "members only" club, with only members and guests allowed to stay there
The grounds include Lake Louise, a very small artificial lake, and one of only a few bodies of water in Scotland known as lakes. The estate is listed on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, the list of nationally significant designed landscapes.
- See Watson, William J.: "Scottish Place-name Papers", Steve Savage (publisher) 2002, pp40, 68, 234
- Maxwell, Jessica (23 July 2007). "Staying at Andy's". Forbes. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
- "Skibo Castle: Site History". Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. Historic Scotland. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
- "QUEEN OF SKIBO THREATENED TO SHOOT OUR DOGS". Sunday Mail. 2007-01-07. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- Carrell, Severin (27 May 2011). "Gamekeeper with huge cache of bird poison fined £3,300". The Guardian (London).
- Madonna's wedding will be the Highlands' biggest fling, The Telegraph
- Ryan Parry, Secret weapon won us Ryder glory at thefreelibrary.com
- Q&A: Robert Carlyle, The Guardian
- "Lake Louise". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
- "Skibo Castle". Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. Historic Scotland. Retrieved 5 November 2013.