Director – Head of Estates & Farm AgencyEdinburgh Estate Agents
Carbisdale 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 and when the Duke died in 1892 his will, in favour of the Duchess, was contested by his son, the 4th Duke. 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.
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 Estate.
Selecting the most prominent and closest possible site that lay outside the Sutherland Estate, the Duchess employed a firm of Ayrshire builders and work started in 1906. 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. It was widely considered that the Duchess located the castle at Carbisdale to spite her husbands family and the settlement agreement. This suggestion is further supported by the fact that the castles tower only has clocks on three of its four faces - the side facing Sutherland is blank - allegedly because the Duchess did not wish to give the time of day to her late husbands family.
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 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 strategic 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 30 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 (SYHA). Carbisdale Castle Youth Hostel opened to members on 2 June 1945.
The castle remained in the ownership of the SYHA until the costs of owning and maintaining the buildings and its contents became untenable and the castle was offered for sale.
It was purchased in 2016 by the current owner who has since embarked on an exciting and ambitious vision to return the castle from institutional and quasicommercial use as youth hostel and function venue to a private home of exceptional quality.
Listed Building Consent together with an extensive range of mechanical and engineering works have taken place but the project is currently on hold enabling the purchaser to complete it in accordance with their own specifications and intended future use of the property.
Carbisdale Castle is an impressive and imposing large mansion house built in the Scottish Baronial style on a precipitous site above the inner Kyle of Sutherland with outstanding views in all directions.
Grade B-listed by Historic Environment Scotland, the listing notes on the Historic Environment Scotland website describe the construction and architecture of the castle as follows:
Large Baronial mansion, roughly L-plan; 2-storey and attic. Bullfaced coursed grey rubble, contrasting polished sandstone dressings. Large entrance court enclosed by mansion at east and south with a retaining wall to the north and entrance to the west. The principal entrance is via the northern facade under a porte cochere and there is a ; further entrance in re-entrant angle with corniced door-piece in facetted angle tower rising as crenellated octagon single stage above wallhead. High square clock tower at NW angle, with clock faces, corbelled upper stage with louvred tripartites, corbelled angle stair turret and small angle turrets to crenellated wallhead of N range. Terraced south front with 3 wide canted bay windows rising full height, with corniced and parapetted wallheads and gabletted dormers above; skews with kneelers, 1 further recessed gabled bay with 2 storey semi-circular bay. Most windows mullioned and transomed, some with 8-pane glazing, shaped gables with decorative detailing and finials; all original rhones and down-pipes; rainheads serving south elevation decorated with winged figures.
Corniced stacks; slate roofs. Round bullfaced diminutive turrets with crenellated parapet flank entrance to court; pair ornate wrought-iron carriage gates; small flanking wrought-iron pedestrian gate.
Interior; large entrance hall with ornate Baroque chimneypiece decorated with figures and foliage. Wide staircase with Tudor balustrade with heavy carved detailing. Rich Jacobean plaster ceiling in library, with carved wood chimneypiece in similar style and original break-front bookcases. Adamesque 1st floor drawing room. Fine panelled doors, moulded doorcases, plaster ceilings.
Having been occupied as a youth hostel for over 60 years, there was an element of institutionalisation of the building (e.g. original bedrooms subdivided as dormitories) at the point it was sold in 2016 by the SYHA to the current owner whose vision was to reinstate Carbisdale as a private home of world class.
The intention of the project was to combine all of the decorative features and grandeur of the Dowager Duchess of Sutherlands original creation with services, systems, fixtures, fittings and layout of the highest contemporary quality together with reorganisation of the existing accommodation to suit 21st Century living and the development of a spa and swimming pool as complementary features.
With the current accommodation of the castle comprising 64 room spaces and 42,000 square feet of gross internal accommodation (as shown on the floor plans included in these particulars of sale), the approved consent is to convert the castle to a home featuring 19 en-suite bedrooms, 5 reception rooms, cinema, office, a self-contained apartment, catering kitchen, extensive utilitarian space and a spa facility featuring swimming pool, therapy treatment rooms and a gym. Listed Building Consent for this development was approved on 3 August 2018. Floor plans of the proposed development of the castle are available on request from the selling agents or via the Highland Council online planning portal with the reference 18/02613/LBC.
The current position is that, since 2017, significant works have been carried out to the castle pursuant with the approved consent but the works required to complete the project have been put on hold.
This provides the flexibility to purchasers to either complete the development of the castle as a private home, or seek to vary the Listed Building Consent to include the development of the building for commercial use or the subdivision of the building as residential apartments.
The works undertaken to date include the following:
- All floor coverings have been stripped.
- Down takings of all youth hostel partitions completed.
- First fix lighting circuits completed in most rooms.
- Majority of internal walls have been sheeted and plastered.
- Majority of redundant items have been removed.
- New boilers installed in Linen Room.
- Proposed pool has been excavated and retaining wall has been removed ready for pool installation.
- New submerged gas tanks installed.
- First floor roof of terrace adjacent to the Hall was replaced in 2019 and is under warranty.
- Water-heated radiators in the halls and rooms in the western side of the building are operational.
- Speed test for WiFi shows 130mbps download, 30 mbps upload speeds.
- Around £2 million was invested by the SYHA in extensive structural work undertaken between 2012 and 2014 in selected rooms and together with leak repairs in the windows and roof above.
- The roof and gutters have been cleaned to remove debris.
A summary of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the property as it exists at present has been prepared following a recent inspection of the property by a Building Surveyor employed by the selling agents. A copy of this summary is available on request from the selling agents.
By way of general comment, the surveyor noted: The building offers a superb blank canvas. The planners appear open to securing the adaptive reuse of the building, as evidenced by the buildings recent planning history having been granted consent for subdivided dwellings, hostel use, and single residence with alterations to form a spa.
This property has 20 acres of land.
Grounds and Loch
The total extent of land within the legal Title to Carbisdale Castle extends to about 20 acres and is shown on the Title plan included within these particulars of sale.
The approach to the castle is via impressive entrance gates flanked by circular stone pillars with a drive which leads for about 800 metres to terminate at the enclosed gravel carriage sweep in front of the castle.
A particular feature of the property is a natural loch which lies about 1km to the west of the castle accessible by a vehicular track over which the owner has a right of access.
Extending to about 6 acres in size with ownership including the belt of land and woodland which surrounds the loch, this is a notably picturesque and peaceful place to quietly contemplate life or cast a fly for the wild brown trout that occupy it. The former owner had a vision (but no formal plans) to erect a cabin, boathouse and jetty for picnics, barbecues and overnight glamping
Situated atop a natural escarpment overlooking the confluence of the Rivers Oykel and Shin, Carbisdale Castle occupies one of the most dramatic positions of any building in Scotland. Lying on the southern edge of the county of Sutherland, the site was deliberately chosen for its prominence by the estranged Duchess of Sutherland who commissioned construction of the castle commencing in 1905 as part of her divorce settlement from her husband, the 3rd Duke of Sutherland.
Though situated amongst the generally wooded slopes of the upper Kyle of Sutherland, the elevation of the setting affords panoramic views from throughout the castle with the easterly outlook over the Kyle of Sutherland to the Dornoch Firth and the westerly views up Strathoykel being particularly impressive.
Access by car is via a single track road with passing places which leads for about 5 miles from the village of Ardgay, which includes a shop providing basic provisions and a café.
With the site of the castle specifically chosen for the convenience of the nearby Far North Highland railway line which connects Inverness with Thurso and Wick in Caithness, this line remains in service with scheduled daily services to Inverness (or Thurso and Wick) accessible from the small station of Culrain lying close to the entrance to the castle drive. From Inverness, a sleeper service operates to London Euston, which facilitates traditional and comfortable travel between the UKs capital and the north Highlands.
Inverness is the capital of the Scottish Highlands and a growing centre of commerce, together with being one of the most aspirational cities in which to live in the UK according to recent research. With wide ranging retail, banking, professional services, sports and leisure facilities, as well as a renowned theatre (the Eden Court Theatre), Inverness lies within an hours drive of Carbisdale with its international airport lying a further 10 minutes (7 miles) to the east of the city.
Lying closer to hand are the towns of Dornoch (20 miles), Tain (20 miles), Dingwall (32 miles) and Strathpeffer (36) miles. Each has its own attractions in terms of recreation or practicality with Royal Dornoch golf course, the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle (near Dornoch) and the Glenmorangie Whisky distillery and visitor centre at Tain being particular attractions.
Sutherland and the adjoining county of Wester Ross has been a world famous destination for enthusiasts of field sports since the 19th century. The Kyle of Sutherland rivers which enter tidal waters below Carbisdale Castle and include the renowned rivers Oykel, Cassley, Shin and Carron are amongst the most consistently productive salmon fisheries in Scotland. Carbisdale Castle is ideally located to benefit from this wealth of choice with fishing available to rent on both a daily and weekly basis on each of these rivers. Another local attraction is the Shin Falls where leaping Atlantic salmon are a routine and spellbinding sight.
Sutherland is also world renowned for its trout fishing with the region allegedly having more hill lochs filled with wild brown trout than it has permanent human inhabitants.
The region is also famous for red deer stalking with a number of local estates offering sport to let on both a daily and weekly basis.
For golfers, there are local courses to test all levels of ability including the renowned Championship course at Royal Dornoch; the Carnegie Links at Skibo Castle, Golspie Golf and an enjoyable 9-hole parkland course at nearby Bonar Bridge.
For walkers, mountaineers and cyclists, there are various opportunities locally from Munros such as Ben More Assynt, Ben Armine and Ben Wyvis to footpaths and woodland trails and an almost limitless network of forest tracks.
The wildlife and natural history of the area is also renowned with sightings of golden and sea eagles, ospreys, otters, pine martens and red squirrels being far from unusual at Carbisdale.
A popular feature of the North Highlands has been the development of the North Coast 500 tourist route which takes in some of the most spectacular landscape and coastline of Highland Scotland. Carbisdale Castles proximity to this increasingly popular route may offer a commercial opportunity for purchasers, subject to the appropriate consents.Read all