Carbisdale Castle was built by the Duchess of Sutherland and is now used as a youth hostel, operated by the Scottish Youth Hostels Association. It is located on a hill above the Kyle of Sutherland in the region of Ross and Cromarty in the Highlands. The closest towns are Culrain, Invershin, Lairg, Ardgay and Bonar Bridge. Culrain railway station is located nearby.

The castle was built between 1905 and 1917 for the Duchess of Sutherland. Mary Caroline Mitchell's second marriage in 1889 to George Granville William Sutherland Levenson-Gower, 3rd Duke and 18th Earl of Sutherland, made her the Duchess. 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, well in favour of the Duchess, was contested by his son and heir. In a court process that followed, the Duchess was found guilty of destroying documents and was imprisoned for six weeks in London. Eventually, the Sutherland family came to an agreement giving the 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 cleverly located on a hillside and 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 is widely considered that the Duchess located the game castle there to spite her husbands family and the settlement agreement. 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. 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 June 22, 1941, that the Russian forces, should they enter Norwegian territory, would not stay there after the war. Three years later, on October 25, 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 June 2, 1945 and is still serving this purpose.

Features and facts
  • The castle has 365 windows, one for each day of the year.
  • 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. This mechanism is not in use anymore.
  • The castle is said to have several ghosts. It has been investigated by paranormal experts with varying results. The appearances include a lady in white, fallen soldiers of the Battle of Carbisdale and the sounds of a piper. The Ghost of the Castles Gardener The Hooded Gardener is said to roam the grounds looking for his lost daughter, he often haunts girls that are the same age as his own daughter (15); he has been seen dressed in black with a black hood with only part of his face shown.
  • The Castle has a large collection of art with some pieces dating back to the year 1680.
  • There are 19 Italian marble statues in the Lower Gallery of amazing beauty, dating back to around 1857.
  • Every May, Erskine Stewart's Melville Schools, a private school, have a school trip there. During this time, bagpipes are played at 7 in the morning as an alarm.


3 photos

Building Activity

  • removed a media and updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via
  • updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via Annotator