Dunrobin Castle (pictured above ) is on the east coast of the Northern Highlands overlooking the Moray Firth, just north of the villages of Golspie and Dornoch (famous for its cathedral and Royal Dornoch Golf Club). Dunrobin Castle is the most northerly of Scotland's great houses and the largest in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms. It 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 Castle, which resembles a French chateâu with its towering conical spires, has seen the architectural influences of Sir Charles Barry, who designed London’s Houses of Parliament, and Scotland’s own Sir Robert Lorimer. The Castle was used as a naval hospital during the First World War and as a boys’ boarding school from 1965 to 1972.
Inspiration for the Castle’s gardens came from the Palace of Versailles in Paris, and they have changed little in the 150 years since they were planted, although new plants are constantly being introduced. Despite its northerly location, the sheltered gardens are able to support a surprising range of plants, including at the foot of the steps leading to the garden a huge clump of Gunnera manicata, a native rhubarb of South America that has eight foot leaves! A visit to Dunrobin’s garden is of interest to all and most particularly for the connoisseur of the formal Victorian garden.
A visit to Dunrobin Castle now includes daily birds-of-prey flying demonstrations on the Castle lawn. See spectacular shows featuring golden eagles and peregrine falcons, both resident birds in the Scottish Highlands. Learn more about other local birds of prey, as well as the ancient art of falconry. Additional attractions include more exotic species such as the European Eagle owl.
Balblair distillery can be found in Edderton, a small village just a short drive north of Tain. The first (legal) whisky distillery in Edderton was established in 1790 at Balblair farm, next to what is now A836. In 1894 production was moved half a mile northwards to a new build next to the railway line. And that is where you will find it still. Balblair is the second oldest distillery still producing whisky in Scotland.
The distillery now has an attractive visitors’ centre and warmly welcomes visitors who want to see close-up how carefully crafted single malt is produced without being pressurised to buy merchandise. Balblair was also chosen by Ken Loach in 2011 as a location for key scenes in his film Angels’ Share, released in 2012.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother first saw what was then Barrogill Castle in 1952, while mourning the death of her husband, King George VI. Falling for its isolated charm and hearing it was to be abandoned, she decided to save it. Having acquired the most northerly inhabited castle on the British mainland, The Queen Mother renovated and restored it and created the beautiful gardens you see today. For almost half a century she spent many happy summers here and shorter visits at other times of the year.
Today, the Castle and Gardens of Mey are one of Visit Scotland’s Five Star visitor attractions. In addition to the castle and gardens, there is an animal centre, gift shop and tearooms for visitors to enjoy.
The annual Mey Highland Games is also an event not to be miss. (The fact that they continue to thrive is largely due to the patronage of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay.) Held in fields just west of the village of Mey, the Games include traditional events such as piping, Highland Dancing, tossing the caber and putting the shot. For many, the highlight of the afternoon is the tug o'war final which is usually umpired by Prince Charles.
Since its establishment in Helmsdale in1986, Timespan has developed from a small local heritage centre to an award-winning museum and the only public contemporary art gallery in Sutherland. There’s lots for you to do - you can explore the Virtual World of Caen in the storytelling room, learn about the past in the Museum, discover changing exhibitions by contemporary artists in the Gallery, trace your roots in the Archive, find local crafts and gifts in the Shop, relax in the Riverside Cafe and Gardens, or meet the Artists in Residence.
Timespan’s unique Clearance Trail App also brings alive one of the most notorious episodes in Scottish history – The Highland Clearances. The aim of the App is to give virtual and actual visitors an interactive trip around one of the country’s most beautiful and historic areas, the Strath of Kildonan, in the northernmost tip of Scotland. The epic voyage made by some families cleared from the Strath of Kildonan is widely viewed by historians as one of the most demanding journeys endured by European emigrants to North America.The app contains a wealth of audio and visual information. It includes historical maps and a wealth of imagery, text and audio, all embedded in the app for offline use. The ‘Kildonan Trail’ takes you on a journey to ten locations along the Strath of Kildonan to learn about how the landscape has changed over time, especially since the clearances. Users can access audio narratives and browse though galleries of stunning images from the past and present. All the sites are shown on the trail maps.
Castle of Mey