Carbisdale Castle

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. Until 2011 it was 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 was put up for sale for £1.2m.[2] In April 2016, the asking price was lowered to £900,000, and a sale was completed in September 2016. The buyers are FCFM Group Ltd who stated they intended to make it "a world-class private residence".[3] In April 2021 it was reported that the castle was again for sale, priced at £1.5 million.[4]

Carbisdale Castle
Carbisdale Castle drone (25592663297).jpg
Carbisdale Castle
LocationKyle of Sutherland, Scottish Highlands
Coordinates57°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 referenceNH574954
Built1905–1917 (1905–1917)
Built forDuchess of Sutherland
ArchitectJohn Robertson
Architectural style(s)Scots Baronial
Listed Building – Category B
Designated18 March 1971
Reference no.LB7165
Carbisdale Castle is located in Highland
Carbisdale Castle
Location of Carbisdale Castle in Highland council area


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 in attempt of securing the inheritance and was imprisoned for six weeks in Holloway Prison, London.[5]

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.[6] 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.[6]

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.[7]

Towards the end of 2014, Carbisdale Castle was advertised for sale by the SYHA,[8] and 17 marble sculptures and 36 19th Century paintings were put up for sale at a London auction in May 2015, raising £1million for the SYHA.[9][10] A sale to FCFM Group Ltd was completed in September 2016 but was placed for sale again in April 2021.[11] The Castle was then taken down, before being put back up for sale in early 2022.


The Lower Gallery

The castle is 41,433 square feet (3,849.3 m2) and 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.[12] This mechanism is no longer in use. Until its closure, the castle had a large collection of art, with some pieces dating back to the year 1680, as well as the Italian marble statues.


  1. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Carbisdale Castle and entrance gates (Category B Listed Building) (LB7165)". Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Scotland's last castle – yours for less than the price of a London flat". Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  3. ^ "Buyer to turn Sutherland's Carbisdale Castle into private residence". BBC News. BBC. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  4. ^ Ross, John (21 April 2021). "Historic Carbisdale Castle back on the market for £1.5 million". Press and Journal. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  5. ^ "Carbisdale Castle History". Archived from the original on 29 June 2007. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Sutherland's 'Castle of Spite' hostel may close for good". BBC News. 25 March 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  7. ^ Ferguson, Brian (1 October 2012). "Carbisdale Castle Youth Hostel battles to stay open". The Scotsman. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  8. ^ Former hostel Carbisdale Castle close to sale in: The Scotsman, 12 December 2014
  9. ^ Carbisdale Castle art collection sold for £1m, BBC, 24 April 2015
  10. ^ Victorian marble goddesses and nymphs from Carbisdale Castle coming to market,
  11. ^ Hutchinson, Caitlin (22 April 2021). "Historic castle with colourful story could be returned to former glory after years as youth hostel". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  12. ^ "Carbisdale Castle". Retrieved 22 March 2019.

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