Recently we featured Ardvreck Castle in one our blogs and have also looked at Hermit’s Castle in Achmelvich. Both of these castles are in Sutherland, which got us thinking – why not look at the rest of Sutherland’s castles? In fact, we also plan to look at castles in the other regions around the NC500, to help you decide which you’d like to visit.
For now we’ll stick close out home – Sutherland.
Sutherland covers a good chunk of the land north of Inverness. From Dornoch up to Helmsdale on the east coast, the regional line heads to the north coast at Melvich. From here, it hugs the north west coastline down to Lochinver, before turning inland back to Dornoch.
Flag of Sutherland
Achmelvich & NC500 Pods are located in Assynt, which is a district of Sutherland. Ardvreck & Hermit’s castles, both being in Assynt, are close to both our pods and our hearts. There are however some other stunning castles in Sutherland as a whole that are certainly worth a visit.
Varrich castle (Caisteal Bharraich) sits on a prominent ridge overlooking the Kyle of Tongue sea loch & the town of Tongue. It’s quite a striking view with Ben Loyal & Ben Hope as a backdrop! Along with Arvreck caslte, Varrich is another of Sutherland’s castles which are now in ruin. Somehow that adds to the intrigue!
Castle Varrich Overlooking The Kyle Of Tongue
The history of the castle is not well documented. It is associated with the MacKay clan, who may have built upon existing older structures. A Norse settlement in the 11th century is one theory of the castle’s true origins. Another account states the Bishop of Caithness as owner.
The ruin we see today is the remnants of a rectangular 2-floor sandstone building & tower. With it’s vantage point to sea and inland it would certainly have made a great watch tower.
It’s just over a 2 hour drive around a section the NC500 to reach Varrich castle from NC500Pods.
Our old friend the Bishop of Caithness is also responsible for the build of this castle in around 1500. Not long after, began one of the more colourful lives of all Sutherland’s castles. The Earl of Sutherland took ownership before the was been burned out by the quarrelling Murray & McKay clans. It was restored & re-purposed as a jail house, then became a school, then a court house and is now a hotel.
Are you brave enough to stay at this hotel, which is reported to be haunted by the ghost of man hanged for sheep stealing?
The drive from NC500Pods takes about 90 minutes.
We saved the best for last. With a mix of Scottish Baronial & French Renaissance architecture, Dunrobin Castle could fit into any of a dozen Disney films.
Dunrobin castle is the jewel in the crown of Sutherland’s castles. It has been continually inhabited since the 1300s by the Earls & Dukes of Sutherland. That means that it is fit for visitors to tour the lavish interior (between April & October).
Dunrobin Castle & Gardens
The castle was stormed in the Jacobite rising in the 1700s, when Scotland’s & Britain’s political stability was far from stable. It is fortunate that the castle survived to the 1800s, when the work was carried out to remodel the castle to today’s fairy tale appearance. This is also when the stunning gardens were designed. These alone are worth a visit.
During world war one the castle doubled as a Naval hospital. It suffered fire damage around this time, which partially destroyed the roof & interior. It has since been restored and was then used as a boarding school for a time. Through all of this, the Castle has remained home to the Sutherland family.
The drive to Dunrobin castle from NC500Pods takes just under 2 hours. Interestingly, it is also possible to reach Dunrobin castle by rail from Inverness. It has it’s very own station, built in 1870.
Which of there castles would be on your list to visit?