Wednesday 13 March 2019

Scotland by Rail, Far North Line - Dunrobin Castle

** My fourth Scotland by Rail post about a week based in Helmsdale on the Far North Line **

fairytale Disneyland Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle

A twenty minute train journey south from Helmsdale is Dunrobin Castle station. Dunrobin Castle is a request stop so when you get on let the conductor know where you're going and when you're leaving at the end of the day be on the platform so the driver can see that you're there. The station is closed during winter months. In 2019 it reopens on 30th March.

Built as the private station of the Sutherland family, we are now all able to use it via ScotRail services. The station building is wooden Swiss chalet style and through the window we could see an elegant waiting room as in days of old.

Cross the road, between square tower gatehouses and along the tall tree avenue to the castle.

The castle is grand, inside and out. The bookshelves! The nursery! Dolls' house, railway, ship, horse... 

There's a really good tearoom. With you as you eat your soup is the castle's old steam-powered fire engine, shiny brass, and a stacked display of twenty just as shiny fireman's helmets.

Then out into the gardens. Lawns, dancing topiary, hedges, terraces, long herbaceous borders, fruit trees, fruit bushes, pyramids of vines, rows of ornamental cabbages, huge gunnera... 

There was an excellent falconry display, on twice a day. A gyr falcon, a harris (?) hawk, a peregrine. Soaring swooping gliding plummeting over and through the gardens.

In a building on the edge between formal gardens and woodland is the Museum, Victorian in layout - my favourite way. As interesting as they come. Family treasures, artefacts from races and places all across the world, local geology, fossils, archaeology, carved stone balls, carved Pictish stones, Roman oil lamps. And SO many heads, skulls, horns, skins of animals killed by the family in bygone days.

Completely fascinating but I was disappointed and perplexed by a lack of attempt at interpretation for today's society - it used to be acceptable to go on safari to kill these creatures, onto your estate to shoot that rare bird (Hoopoe, Golspie, 1800...) but we know better now. I hope the Sutherland family will think to update slightly by using this historic collection to highlight to visitors the plight of much (most!) of our globe's wildlife, and what we can all do to help.

A short woodland walk to finish then back to the cosy cottage station to wait on the platform and flag down the return train.

A great day out. Go there, by rail! Spend the whole day.

in the castle grounds, watercolour, 15x21cm

dance of the topiary, watercolour, 15x21cm

Other day trips from Helmsdale:
- Helmsdale Station accommodation & Helmsdale village

- RSPB Forsinard Flows nature reserve
- sketches from the train, Inverness to Helmsdale

How to get there:

Trains to Dunrobin Castle take two hours from Inverness, two hours from Wick and an hour and a half from Thurso. There are currently three trains a day Monday to Saturday. On Sunday there is one train from Dunrobin Castle to Inverness and no train to Thurso and Wick.

The station and the castle are only open 1st April to 31st October.

Click 'The Highlands then North Highlands Timetable and 'Buy Tickets' on ScotRail website.

Many thanks to ScotRail for enabling and supporting my ongoing Scotland by Rail work.


  1. Another interesting blog. Must make the effort to visit the east Sutherland area. Many thanks.

  2. Many thanks David, I'm glad you enjoyed my Scotland by Rail day out. Yes, do visit, so many great places along the Far North Line.

    ps I forgot two add two watercolours when I first posted this. They are now included.

  3. Hi Leo

    Still here.....continuing to write this and that. Eighteen books thus far, but who's counting. Looking forward to getting out sketching as soon as the snow disappears.

    Enjoyed the tour of Dunrobin Castle, interior and exterior, as well as your watercolour sketches.

    Best wishes.