Dunrobin, home to the Dukes of Sutherland, is one of Scotland's best castles to visit. Here are 10 reasons why you should visit:
1. It looks like a fairytale castle
'Fairytale' is a word often applied to Scotland's castles, but in the case of Dunrobin it couldn't be more appropriate. Slender turrets and pink stone make it look like something from a storybook.
2. A cup of tea next to a roaring fireplace
If there is a chill in the air nothing beats walking into the castle and warming up next to one of the fires. Try to get a table next to the fireplace in the tearoom.
3. Falconry displays
Take a seat and watch a Peregrine Falcon soar inches from your head. Falconry displays take place twice a day in the castle gardens and give you a chance to learn about some magnificent birds of prey.
4. The location
The castle is perched above a walled garden, overlooking the shore of the North Sea. Behind the castle there are forests and majestic hills.
5. The Connection with the Houses of Parliament
Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the Houses of Parliament in London, designed the gardens and the Victorian extension of Dunrobin Castle.
6. A library of 10,000 books
The sycamore lined library with its portrait of Duchess Eileen is one of the magnificent rooms that you can see on a self-guided tour of the castle.
7. Meet the man in red tights
The castle is home to an impressive art and furniture collection. Look out for the portrait of Hugh O'Neil, 2nd Earl of Tyrone in the music room. I challenge you to find a man with tights as impressive as these ones.
8. Stroke the castle cat
A friendly black cat likes to spend time in the castle grounds and you are bound to come across it during your visit.
9. A museum of hunting trophies
A stark reminder that it was once acceptable to shoot magnificent creatures for sport, the museum in the castle grounds is full of taxidermy. It also has a collection of Pictish carved stones and other interesting curiosities.
10. The castle train station
Dunrobin Castle has its own train station with a curious English Arts and Crafts architecture. Trains still call at the station and there is a collection of railway memorabilia inside.
Read more about the station in my blog
How to get to Dunrobin Castle
The castle is 50 miles north of Inverness on the A9. You can also get there by train. The castle station is a 5 minute wallk from the entrance to the castle and trains from Inverness take about 2 hours and 20 minutes.
For cycling to the castle read my travel feature
This is Dunrobin Castle station. Ever since I found out that a castle has its own train station I wanted to make the journey here. I loved the idea of getting on a train at Edinburgh and travelling about six hours to the North Highlands to this station and then walking into the grounds of Dunrobin Castle.
Dunrobin Castle is the seat of the Duke of Sutherland and the family had this private station built. The station dates from 1902 and is in English Arts and Crafts style, an unusual choice of architecture for Scotland.
Anybody can get on or off at this station, but trains only service it during the summer season between April and October. It is also a request stop meaning that you must hold out your hand, as if stopping a bus, when the train approaches. If you are on the train you must tell the guard that you wish to get off. Opposite the station, across the main road, is the entrance driveway to the castle. It is about a five minute walk.
The station interior is now a museum crammed full of railway memorabilia. There are no set opening hours of the museum, but you can check at the castle when it is next open. If it is not open when you are there you can look through the windows and see the treasures inside.
The station was closed in 1965 as part of the Beeching cuts to Britain’s Railways. However, the station's value to tourism and encouraging visitors to Dunrobin Castle became obvious and in 1985 it opened on summer Sundays. By 1994 it ended up back on the timetable with a regular service.
The station got its 15 minutes of fame when it featured on the television series Great British Railway Journeys. The presenter Michael Portillo cut the ribbon to the station's newly refurbished toilet. The toilet had been derelict for years, but has now been restored with modern fittings in an Edwardian style, including a high level cistern. There is a plaque inside the cloakroom that marks the occasion.
My previous blog post was my top ten favourite train stations in Scotland. You might be wondering why on earth Dunrobin Castle station did not make this list.
For a cyclist it is not the most practical station because of the low platform. I had actually bought an advanced ticket to leave from Dunrobin with my bike, but when I saw the big yellow plastic step that I would have to use to haul my bike up to the train I changed my mind. I decided instead to board the train at Golspie station which is only 2 miles away and has a platform level with the train. The station only gives access to the busy A9 road which is not the most pleasant to cycle on, but you can access some quieter roads leading off from the A9.
However, if you want to visit Dunrobin Castle and are on foot then taking the train to the castle's own station is a must. Even if you don't take the train to Dunrobin Castle allow some time to walk up the driveway and cross the road to have a look at this unique station building.