Dunrobin Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Dunrobin Castle

Golspie, Scotland, United Kingdom

One of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses, Dunrobin Castle is the largest in the Northern Highlands and one of the most picturesque visits in the area. Resembling a French chateau, Dunrobin is the family seat of the Earls of Sutherland and has been in their possession for over 7 centuries.

Lily Johnson

16 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Dunrobin Castle

One of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses, Dunrobin Castle is the family seat of the Earls of Sutherland, and has been in their possession for over 7 centuries. It is the largest house in the Northern Highlands, and one of the most picturesque visits in the area.

Dunrobin Castle history

Dunrobin was first mentioned as a stronghold in 1401, and is thought to have been named for Robert, 6th Earl of Sutherland who died in 1427. The oldest remaining sections of the castle were likely built in the late 1300s however, and it is possible that these were built on an even earlier structure. Pictish stones are present on the land and the inclusion of the word ‘dun’, a term for an ancient or medieval fort, suggests there were other defensive buildings in the immediate area.

Through the 16th and 17th centuries possession of Dunrobin remained in the Sutherland name, and between 1641-44 the 14th Earl built a substantial mansion, forming the basis of what stands today. During the Jacobite Rising of 1745, it was stormed by troops loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie (the grandson of James II) after Clan Sutherland voiced their support for the British government. Despite this conflict, it remained in Sutherland possession however.

Dunrobin was remodelled after the marriage of Elizabeth Sutherland to Viscount Trentham in 1785, and at the beginning of the 19th century the combined Sutherland-Trentham estate was the largest private estate in Europe at around 1.5 million acres.

In 1841, the 2nd Duke commissioned Sir Charles Barry (architect of the Houses of Parliament) to produce designs for a new house, and when the work was finished in 1851 it was three times bigger than it had been just 6 years earlier! This is largely what remains today, and when Queen Victoria visited in 1872 she described Dunrobin as ‘a mixture of an old Scotch castle and a French chateau.’

Dunrobin Castle today

Today, the stunning castle is one of the most picturesque in Europe and captures the idea of ‘fairytale architecture’ perfectly. The castle is open to the public between April and October and visitors are invited to explore its 189 rooms, filled with tapestries, portraits, and other intriguing pieces of art.

The exquisite 1,379-acre gardens may also be enjoyed, designed in the French formal style and modelled on the Palace of Versailles. Charmingly, if viewed from the castle’s drawing room the gardens display a slight optical illusion, appearing to stretch out beyond their actual layout! Picturesque views out to sea may also be admired from this vantage point.

Elsewhere, in the 18th-century summer-house adjoining the gardens there is a small museum, home to a host of archaeological artefacts and ethnographic items collected by members of the family over the years.

Getting to Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle is located 50 miles north of Inverness on the A9, and 0.5 miles north of Golspie. There is parking at the site, while Dunrobin Castle train station is also a 5-minute walk away. The 63, X98, and X99 Stagecoach services stop along the A9 at the Dunrobin Station stop, a 5-minute walk to the site.

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Scottish Castles

Nestled amongst Scotland's stunning landscapes and historic cities are a number of grand castles. Here's our pick of the best, from the domineering Edinburgh Castle to the picturesque Dunrobin.