Dunrobin Castle **

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This is the largest castle in the Northern Highlands and resembles a French chateâu with its towering conical spires.

The castle is also one of Britain's oldest continuously inhabited houses dating back to the early 1300s, home to the Earls and later, the Dukes of Sutherland.

The Sutherland family were made Earls of Sutherland in 1235, and Kenneth, 4th Earl and Regent of Scotland, was slain at the Battle of Halidon Hill in England in 1333. William, the next Earl, was murdered in a feud with the Mackays, and the 6th Earl, Robert or Robin, is believed to have built the first castle, which is named after him. John, 8th Earl, was declared unfit, and the earldom then passed to the Gordons.

In 1785 Elizabeth Gordon, Countess of Sutherland, married the wealthy Marquis of Stafford. Armed with her husband's wealth, the Countess set about improving her Highland estates. Part of that 'improvement' involved forcibly clearing crofters from Strathnaver.

The brutal treatment of the residents was headed by Sutherland's factor, a man named Patrick Sellar, who was known to dislike the Gaelic residents. Sellar thought the Gaels were lazy and, perhaps as important to his patroness's interests, they stood in the way of progress. Sellar spearheaded one of the most oppressive and inhumane of the Highland Clearances.

In defence of the Countess, it should be pointed out that she did help new tenant farmers in bringing over 200,000 sheep into Sutherland, and helped build some 450 miles of new roads.

The Castle was used as a naval hospital during the First World War and as a boys’ boarding school from 1965 to 1972. It has a wonderful vista overlooking the Moray Firth.

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