Carbisdale Castle sits high on a hill a few miles from Bonar Bridge. It is a modern castle having been constructed in 1907 for Mary Caroline Dowager Duchess of Sutherland.
Mary Caroline was the second wife of George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 3rd Duke of Sutherland. They had married in March 1889, only four months after the death of his first wife from whom he had long been estranged.
This caused a scandal as people in society were supposed to wait at least one year before remarrying. The marriage was deeply unpopular with the Duke’s children by his first wife. Mary Caroline was referred to as ‘Duchess Blair’ because of her first marriage to Captain Arthur Blair who had died in hunting accident in 1883.
The Duke of Sutherland died in 1892, three years after their marriage and his will, much in favour of Mary Caroline, was contested by his children, particularly his eldest son and heir Cromartie, 4th Duke of Sutherland. In the court case that followed, Mary Caroline was found guilty of having destroyed documents relating to the case in an attempt to secure the inheritance. She was imprisoned in Holloway Prison for six weeks.
The Sutherland family eventually reached an agreement with ‘Duchess Blair’ giving her a generous financial settle and they agreed to build a castle for her, as long as it was outside the Sutherland’s own lands. The Duchess deliberately chose a site on a hill which overlook Sutherland and the railway which which led north to their ancestral home at Dunrobin Castle at Golspie, so that they would see her vast new castle every time they passed by on the train. Carbisdale Castle became known local as ‘The Castle of Spite’.
The Duchess instructed that the clock tower only have faces on three sides with the one facing into Sutherland being blank, the Duchess remarking:
I will not even give the Sutherland family the time of day.
She died in 1912 having enjoyed Carbisdale for only a few short years. The castle was later sold to the Salvesen shipping family and was used at various points by the Norwegian government-in-exile during the Second World War. Later it became a Youth Hostel and has been on the market for a number of years since the youth hostel closed.