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Carbisdale Castle

Strutt & Parker

Perched along a wooded escarpment in Sutherland with sweeping views of the Rivers Oykel and Shin, Carbisdale Castle has a history like no other. Erected as a result of a bitter family feud, the majestic castle has played host to royalty and high society alike since the early 20th century. And now, the castle could be yours for £1.5 million, as it hits the market for the second time in five years after plans to return it to its former glory as a world-class private residence stalled.

Mary Caroline, Duchess of Sutherland

W. and D. Downey / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The youngest of Scotland’s castles, Carbisdale was constructed 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. The Duchess, whose scandalous life inspired Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance and Disney’s ‘wicked stepmother’ in 1950’s Cinderella, was better known as Duchess Blair due to her first marriage to Captain Arthur Kindersely Blair, who died in a shooting accident in 1883.

Her marriage in 1889 was not well received by the Sutherland family, and following the Duke’s death in 1892, the Duchess became embroiled in a legal dispute over his will with her stepson, the fourth Duke of Sutherland. The row ended with the Duchess being imprisoned for six weeks in Holloway Prison for burning family papers linked to the Duke’s estate. Eventually, however, an agreement was reached granting the Duchess a large settlement and permission to build a castle as long as it was situated outside of the Sutherland estate.

Wide oak staircase with Tudor balustrade with heavy carved detailing

Strutt & Parker

The castle was later bought by Colonel Theodore Salvesen, a Scottish shipping and whaling tycoon of Norwegian descent, in 1933. Salvesen used the castle as a safe refuge for King Haakon VII of Norway and his son Crown Prince Olav, who would become King Olav V, during the Nazi occupation of Norway in World War II. Upon the Colonel’s death, his son, Captain Harold Salvesen, inherited the castle and gifted its contents and estate to the Scottish Youth Hostels Association (SYHA). It opened as a youth hostel in 1945 and remained under the ownership of the SYHA until 2016 when it was bought by London-based investment firm Faro Capital. Amid plans of restoring the castle to a private home, works have already begun – but with the castle now back on the market, it’s up to the future owner to complete the project.

Opulent stained glass window

Strutt & Parker

‘Carbisdale Castle is an iconic building with really rich and notable history,’ Robert McCulloch, Head of Estates and Farms Agency in Scotland at Strutt & Parker, told Tatler. ‘The property today can be viewed as a blank canvas of almost 42,000 sq ft of internal accommodation enabling a buyer to take the property in whatever direction they prefer. That could be as a private home, a commercial venture or a mixture of both.’

Set on 20 acres of beautiful private grounds and woodland, the castle is fronted by ornate wrought-iron gates flanked by stone pillars, followed by a sweeping 800-metre drive. Upon entry to the Scottish Baronial-style property visitors are greeted by a stunning entrance hall, complete with a Baroque chimneypiece decorated with figures and flora. The grandeur continues throughout the castle’s six floors with a dramatic carved Tudor staircase, an Adamesque drawing room, 40 bedrooms and a library, elevated with a rich Jacobean plaster ceiling, original break-front bookcases and a carved wood chimneypiece.

King Haakon Vll (left) and Prince Olav of Norway walking around the grounds of the King’s secret hideaway, 1942

David E. Scherman / The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Step outside and the castle’s elegant surroundings take centre stage. A natural loch, found just one kilometre to the west of the property hidden amidst foliage, stretches across six acres and is the ideal spot for fly fishing or a secluded picnic. Located just six miles from Ardgay, 20 miles from Dornoch and 42 miles from Inverness, the castle’s breathtaking location offers both convenience and privacy in equal measure.

Wall details

Strutt & Parker

‘With the combination of uplift in interest in Scottish rural residential properties from UK buyers and across the globe since the onset of the pandemic together with rising demand for domestic holiday accommodation and facilities, it’s exciting to be able to bring a property as remarkable as Carbisdale Castle to the market,’ says McCulloch, who believes the castle’s unique architecture and position will attract global interest.

‘In particular – and following a surge in American interest in Scottish properties which saw more Scottish properties sold to US-buyers in 2020 than any other year on record – we anticipate interest from the other side of the Atlantic. What remains to be seen – and will be interesting to discover – is whether the building’s future lies as a private home for the exclusive use of its purchaser or as a commercial property to be enjoyed more widely.’

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