A highland castle with a colourful history has come back on the market, after plans to return it to its former glory as a private home were put on hold, following 71 as a youth hostel.

The was purchased in 2016 by the current owner who had embarked on an "exciting and ambitious" vision to return the castle from use as youth hostel and function venue to a private home of "exceptional quality."

Already an extensive range of mechanical and engineering works have taken place - but with the castle going back on the market, it's now up to the future owner to complete the project.


A family's disapproval

Carbisdale Castle was built between 1905 and 1917 for Mary Caroline, Duchess of Sutherland, the second wife of George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 3rd Duke of Sutherland.

The Duchess was better known as Duchess Blair, however, due to her first marriage to Captain Arthur Kindersely Blair of the 71st Highland Light Infantry, who died in a hunting accident in 1883 near Pitlochry.

Her marriage in 1889 was not well received by the Sutherland family, and following the death of the Duke in 1892 his will - which was in favour of the Duchess - was contested by his son, the 4th Duke.


A will contested

A court process followed, finding the Duchess guilty of destroying documents in attempt of securing the inheritance.

She was imprisoned for six weeks in Holloway Prison, London.

Eventually, the Sutherland family came to an agreement giving Duchess Blair a substantial financial settlement - as well as agreeing to build her a castle.

The Duchess employed a firm of Ayrshire builders and got to work building Carbisdale Castle in 1906.


An attempt at spite?

Because of the close location of the castle to her late husband's family, it was thought it was her deliberate attempt to spite the family. 

This is further supported by the fact the castle's tower only features clocks on three of its four faces.

The side facing Sutherland is blank, allegedly because the Duchess "did not wish to give the time of day to her late husband's family."


Norwegian Kings

The castle was later bought by Colonel Theodore Salvesen, a wealthy Scottish businessman of Norwegian extraction in 1933.

He provided the castle as a safe refuge for King Haakon VII of Norway and Crown Prince Olav, who would become King Olav V, during the Nazi occupation of Norway in World War II.

During that time, the castle was also used to hold important strategic meetings.

King Haakon VII made an agreement at the Carbisdale Conference on 22 June 1941 that the Russian forces, should they enter Norwegian territory, would not stay there after the war.

Three years later, on 25 October 1944, the Red Army entered Norway and captured 30 towns, but later withdrew according to the terms of the agreement.


Youth Hostel

After the Colonel died his son, Captain Harold Salvesen, inherited the castle and gave its contents and estate to the Scottish Youth Hostels Association (SYHA).

Carbisdale Castle Youth Hostel opened to members on 2 June 1945.

The castle remained in the ownership of the SYHA until the costs of owning and maintaining the buildings and its contents became untenable and the castle was offered for sale, being purchased in 2016 by its current owner.

Amid a project to return it to its former glory as a private residence, works have begun.

However it will now be up to the lucky purchaser to complete the project "in accordance with their own specifications and intended future use of the property."

Robert McCulloch, Head of Estates and Farms Agency in Scotland at Strutt & Parker  said: "Carbisdale Castle is an iconic building with really rich and notable history.

"The property today can be viewed as a ‘blank canvas’ of almost 42,000 square feet of internal accommodation enabling a buyer to take the property in whatever direction they prefer.


"That could be as a private home, a commercial venture (e.g hotel or holiday apartments), or a mixture of both, subject to the appropriate consents.  

"With the combination of uplift in interest in Scottish rural residential properties from UK buyers and across the globe since the onset of the pandemic together with rising demand for domestic holiday accommodation and facilities, it's exciting to be able to bring a property as remarkable as Carbisdale Castle to the market. 

"The flexibility of its future use together with its striking architecture and dramatic position will undoubtedly attract global interest. 

"What remains to be seen – and will be interesting to discover – is whether the building’s future lies as a private home for the exclusive use of its purchaser or as a commercial property to be enjoyed more widely."