Country houses for sale

A historic Scottish castle, complete with battlements, a loch and its very own ghost

Built by Mary Caroline, Duchess of Sutherland, to spite her husband's family, Carbisdale Castle has it all, from royal connections to a trout-filled loch.

Buyers hankering for a Scottish castle to make their own shouldn’t miss Carbisdale, five miles from Ardgay, in Sutherland. For sale through Strutt & Parker at offers over £1.5 million — essentially the price of a terraced house in a leafy London suburb — it is a grand affair with 19 bedrooms, five reception rooms and even a crenellated tower.

Carbisdale Castle

Or at least it will have them once renovation is completed. The castle had long been used as a youth hostel until the current owner bought it in 2006 and set out to re-convert it into a private home.

Much of the work has been done, but it needs to be finished, making the building ‘a superb blank canvas’ according to the building surveyor that inspected the property.

Carbisdale Castle

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Many original features have survived in the 42,000sq ft interiors, including a magnificent wooden staircase, intricately decorated ceilings and fine fireplaces, so the fabric is there to create a magnificent home—as it originally was when it was built in the early 20th century for Mary Caroline, Duchess of Sutherland, the woman who may possibly have inspired Cinderella’s stepmother in the Disney version of the fairy tale.

The building’s colourful history is an attraction in its own right — it could be straight out of a book. The Duchess, the second wife of the 3rd Duke of Sutherland, wasn’t much liked by her husband’s family and when he died, the 4th Duke took her to court to contest the will.

Carbisdale Castle

Found guilty of having destroyed documents to help secure her inheritance, the Duchess was thrown into prison for six weeks. Eventually, however, she found a compromise with the Sutherland family, who agreed to build her a castle, but only as long as it was outside of their estate.

The crafty Duchess then found a piece of land on a hillside immediately beyond the estate’s confines, thus ensuring that she’d rub it in the family’s face for the rest of their days — and that’s how Carbisdale came to be. To top it all off, she had clocks put on all the faces of the castle’s tower bar one — the one that faced towards the Sutherland estate.

Carbisdale Castle

The Duchess might have picked her location out of spite, but she couldn’t have chosen better if she’d done it for the views — Carbisdale comes with 20 acres of land, including a natural loch brimming with brown trout, and looks out towards to the east over the Kyle of Sutherland to the Dornoch Firth and the to the west up towards Strathoykel.

And like every self-respecting Scottish castle, Carbisdale, which also played host to Norway’s King Haakon during the Second World War, is even said to have a resident ghost.

Carbisdale Castle

Carbisdale is for sale at £1.5 million via Strutt & Parker — see more pictures or enquire with the agent for further details.

Ardgay: What you need to know

  • Location: Ardgay is about 20 minutes’ drive from Dornoch and 55 from Inverness
  • Things to do: There are plenty of opportunities for salmon and trout fishing and red-deer stalking, Munros to brave and footpaths and woodland trails to explore. Golf is at
    Royal Dornoch; the Carnegie Links at Skibo Castle and Golspie Golf plus a 9-hole parkland course at nearby Bonar Bridge.The National Cycle Route 1 runs through Ardgay
  • Schools: Gledfield Primary School is three miles away.Find more properties in the area.