Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland
Dunrobin Castle, situated on one of the most magnificent sites in the country is also one of the oldest inhabited, built by the family who still own it and who have the distinction of holding the oldest continuous title in Britain. In their heyday they had the further distinction of being the largest landowners in Europe.
The Clan Sutherland shares a common ancestor with the Clan Murray, both being descended from a Flemish nobleman named who settled in Scotland in the reign of King David I.
The castle is quite magnificent, a cross between traditional Scottish tower house, Victorian gothic and French Chateau.
The best view of the castle is from the shoreline looking back at the castle set within its beautiful, manicured grounds. A stunning castle and something very different from the other fabulous castles in Sutherland that whilst set in equally spectacular locations and rich in history, are sadly left in ruin.
As an obvious tourist attraction there is plenty of parking with facilities for visitors.
~ History ~
1100's ~ A Flemish nobleman is invited by King David I of Scotland to settle in Sutherland to help secure control of the area and put down local rebellions. Following Flemish mercenaries intervening on the side of the King against Norse occupation in the area, King William the Lion of Scotland grants their Flemish allies the Earldom of Sutherland.
1228 ~ William is created the first Earl of Sutherland.
1248 ~ Upon William's death, he is succeeded by his infant son also named William.
1320 ~ William attends the parliament of Alexander III at Scone and is one of the eighteen Highland Chiefs who fights at Bannockburn on the side of King Robert the Bruce. He afterwards subscribed the famous letter from the Scots nobles to the Pope.
1325 ~ William is succeeded by his son Kenneth.
1333 ~ Kenneth falls at the Battle of Halidon Hill supporting the cause of King David II. William, the fourth earl, marries the Princess Margaret, older daughter of King Robert the Bruce by his second wife Lady Elizabeth de Burgh and full sister of King David II.
The Earl and Princess Margaret have a son John, Master of Sutherland who is selected by the King his uncle as the heir to the throne in preference to Robert the High Steward, the son of his half-sister the Princess Marjory, and the rightful heir.
1361 ~ John dies at Lincoln in England while a hostage there for the payment of the King' s ransom. His father, Earl William, who is one of the commissioners treating for the ransom is himself detained for a further 5 years.
1370 ~ Earl William dies, he is succeeded by William as 5th Earl of Sutherland. During his career he takes part in a number of military expeditions over the border into England and is at constant feud with his neighbours the Clan Mackay.
1400 ~ William dies leaving two sons Robert, 6th Earl, and Kenneth.
1402 ~ Earl Robert fights at the battle of Homildon.
1427 ~ Earl Robert is a hostage for King James I in. Throughout his reign he is at constant war with Clan Mackay.
1442 ~ John becomes 7th Earl upon his father's death, but resigns the earldom in favour of his son, also named John 14 years later.
John, 8th Earl, marries Lady Margaret Macdonald the daughter of the Lord of the Isles. She had drowned crossing the ferry at Unless and has one son and a daughter Elizabeth, afterwards in her own right Countess of Sutherland. Their son John, 9th Earl, dies without issue when his sister succeeded. Both the 8th and 9th Earls in their later years are afflicted with mental illness and are declared incapable of managing their affairs.
The Countess Elizabeth marries Adam Gordon of Aboyne, second son of George, Earl of Huntly, High Chancellor of Scotland.
Her illegitimate brother Alexander claims he is the rightful heir and rises in rebellion against her and her husband, aided and abetted by the Chief of Clan Mackay whose sister he married.
Initially successful, he finally succeeds in capturing and occupying Dunrobin Castle. He is eventually defeated, captured and beheaded on the spot by Earl Adam. His head is then carried on a spear and placed on top of the great tower at Dunrobin Castle.
John, 11th Earl, has his earldom forfeited, having taken part with his cousin the Earl of Huntly in rebellion against the crown. He had joined the protestant Lords and is wounded while attacking the French auxiliaries near Kings horn. He and his wife meet their deaths by poison at Helmsdale Castle. Their son and heir also dies of poisoning given to him unknowingly by a servant.
The Earl's heir, Alexander a youth of fifteen luckily escapes by arriving late from a hunting expedition. He succeeds as 12th Earl.
He is twice married, first to Lady Barbara Sinclair, daughter of the Earl of Caithness, a woman of loose character double his age.
His second marriage is to his kinswoman, Lady Jean Gordon of Huntly who had been divorced by Bothwell in order to marry Mary Queen of Scots.
John becomes 13th Earl is a favourite of King James VI of Scotland and I of England and uses this relationship to openly benefit his own family's interests.
John, 16th Earl, becomes a privy councillor to King William III and to Queen Anne. He takes a prominent part in all the political and military activities of the times including raising of a force for the government in the 1715 rebellion.
The 17th Earl, like his grandfather, remained loyal to the government during the '45 rebellion and raised two companies of Sutherland men to join the government forces.
~ Legends ~
Margaret Gordan is the daughter of the 14th Earl of Sutherland but has fallen in love with Jamie Gunn, a son of one of the Earl's retainers. Her father is adamant that he is not a suitable match for his daughter so imprisons her in one of the attic rooms.
Gunn decides to rescue his love as Margaret's health is starting to suffer as her incarceration continues. A rope is smuggled into her chamber. As she ties the rope round her to begin her escape from the high window, her father becomes suspicious and bursts into her room. As the door is flung open by such force she is taken by surprise, let's go of the rope and falls to her death.
The Earl of Sutherland attacks the Mackay clan and during the fighting he captures a beautiful young noble Mackay lass. The Earl is determined to marry his beautiful prisoner, but she refuses him.
She is therefore locked away high up in the castle until she changes her mind.
With no hope of escape or being rescued, she decides to make a make-shift rope from her bed linen in order to climb out of the high window.
As she climbs out of the window the Earl bursts in and seeing her making good her escape in fury, he decides to cut the noted sheets with his sword. The poor girl falls to her death beneath the tower.