History

Although the Castle commands extensive views along the coast, seawards, and across the Dornoch Firth to the purple hills of Ross and Cromarty beyond; although it withstood siege and has been used as a garrison; although it has been a Courthouse, Jail and Schoolhouse, it was never intended for milito.

The Castle is almost certainly on the site of the original Bishop’s Palace of St Gilbert, who founded the Cathedral in the early 13th Century, but it is not known when the oldest surviving part of the present building was put up. In 1557 the Palace was given to the Earl of Sutherland by his brother in law, Bishop Robert Stewart. It is clear that the building was erected before that date and may well be of the late 15th Century.

The earliest surviving documentary evidence of the Palace is the Charter of 1557 by which the Bishop Robert appointed the Earl of Sutherland and his heirs to be hereditary Constables for Dornoch “situated in the Irish (Gaelic speaking) Country among the wild, unbridled, untamed and savage Scots”. The appointment was made by the Bishop who was alarmed by the progress of the Lutheran doctrines and wished to safeguard the property of the Church by putting it temporarily in the care of his relations. He cannot have visualised that the Church would never own its property again.

When the building passed into private hands in 1922 it was considerably modernised. Further extensive work was carried out after it became a hotel in 1947. Great care has been taken, however, to maintain the character of the Castle as a stately, historic and comfortable residence. This work continues now with the new owners who took over in June of 2000. They have gone some way to restore some of the former glory to this magnificent and fascinating historic building.

For further information about our facsinating castle we have a detailed history handout for anyone interested in finding out more about the area and Dornoch Castle through the ages.