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Updated 05/04/2020

 


Skibo Castle

 

Skibo Castle is located to the west of Dornoch in the Highland county of Sutherland, Scotland overlooking the Dornoch Firth. Although largely of the 19th century, and early 20th century, when it was the home of industrialist Andrew Carnegie, its origins go back much earlier.

The first record of Skibo Castle is a charter from 1211. From its early history, the castle was a residence of the Bishops of Caithness. Skibo Castle remained the residence of subsequent bishops until 1545, when the estate was, as a tactical measure by the church, given to John Gray in order to reinforce its alliance with a powerful family as the threat of a Protestant uprising spread towards the north.

In 1745, Robert Gray surrendered the estate. It was later bought by a relative who built a modern house before 1760. Its ownership changed frequently until 1872, when it was bought by Evan Charles Sutherland-Walker, who extended the house and improved the grounds. However, the condition of the building had declined by 1897, when wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie took a one-year lease, with an option to buy. In 1898 he exercised that option for 85,000. However its condition had declined so much by this time that a further 2 million was spent on improvements, including an increase in area from 16,000 square feet to over 60,000 square feet, plus the creation of Loch Ospisdale, an indoor swimming pavilion and a 9-hole golf course.

Skibo stayed with the Carnegie family until 1982. It was later purchased by businessman Peter de Savary and used as the foundation of a private members club, The Carnegie Club. Establishment of the club required restoration of the castle to recreate the luxury of an Edwardian sporting estate. Similar renovation was undertaken on the many lodges located amongst the castle grounds to provide additional accommodation for club members. De Savary sold the club to Ellis Short in 2003, for 23 million. Following the Shorts' purchase of the club, some 20 million has been invested in the refurbishment and restoration of the 8,000 acre estate. Aware of the historic significance, the Club has undertaken a program of conservation over the last decade with the aim of preserving as much as possible of the building whilst improving the existing facilities on the estate. This includes the redevelopment of the golf course, a sympathetic restoration of Carnegie's magnificent swimming pool, ongoing restoration of the Mackenzie and Moncur glasshouses and the refurbishment of all bedrooms in the castle and lodges.