I am thrilled to have partnered with Princess Cruises to share this incredible cruise through the British Isles with you.
We visited Dunrobin castle on a day trip while we were sailing through Scotland. Our port that day was in the town of Invergordon, Scotland and we drove about an hour to get to the castle.
Dunrobin Castle is the historic home of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland. The castle is in the highlands of Scotland and it overlooks Dornoch Firth, a coastal region in Northern Scotland.
The earliest part of the castle dates from around 1275 and has a number of later extensions. Those extensions have made Dunrobin Castle the largest house in the north of Scotland.
There is a lot of French influence in the architecture and in the spectacular gardens of the castle. After being used as a boarding school for seven years, Dunrobin Castle is now open to the public.
From the library (filled with over 10,000 books) to the nursery and the sewing mistress’ room, I found it all quite fascinating.
I’d spend my week at the castle exploring the rooms, wandering the gardens, and listening to the ever so charming Beela Jack tell tales of his working days in and around the castle over the past 50 years.
He went to primary school with the young boys who lived in the castle and as a small boy he never knew there was a difference between their lives.
In the video above, he talks about learning that they lived in the castle and the realization that they were growing up in a world a wee bit different from his own life.
Beela’s first job as a young boy was at the castle. He worked in the forest cutting and planting trees. Both the land surrounding the castle and the gardens below are a work of art and today there is a small team employed to maintain them.
Dunrobin’s gardens have changed little from Sir Charles Barry’s design of 150 years ago, although new plants are constantly being introduced.
The head gardener at the time managed a staff to maintain two walled gardens, including fruit, vegetables and flower borders; additional nursery gardens and greenhouses; as well as parkland with walks and coastal views.
Today, much of the property has reverted to woodland, however, the surviving east walled garden with its three sections creates a stunning view from the castle windows or from the grounds themselves.
From the back terrace of the castle you have a panoramic view across the gardens to the Moray Firth and then to the distant Cairngorm mountains.
In Beela’s day, whenever the castle needed extra help or when visitors were at the castle, they’d send for additional workers from the forest.
The other workers didn’t particularly like to be called to the castle, but Beela told us that he loved it.
To quote the charming Beela, “even though it was a ’crappy’ job, (a.k.a. cleaning bathrooms) it brought me indoors and out of the elements of the Scottish winter.”
He casually mentioned that he was far too smart to let the others know how much he liked working indoors. He just let them think he was a kid who was stuck with the worst of the work indoors.
Over the years, he worked numerous odd jobs around the castle. With 189 rooms there was always plenty of furniture to be moved, arranged, and rearranged a few more times.
He lit fires in the rooms, stoked the furnace, and did many of the other jobs required to maintain a level of warmth in the castle.
Beela’s first “fancy” job in the castle was to run trays of food up the flights of stairs from the kitchen and pass them off to the butler. Under no circumstances was he permitted to cross the line into the dining room. He was always met by the butler at the top of the stairs.
He laughed and said that now, as a guide, he has access to the entire castle and can walk anywhere he likes. He clearly gets a kick out of that.
Over the past fifty years, he’s worked other jobs outside the castle, but he takes immense pleasure in the fact that his first job was at the castle and he’s back at the castle now.
I would have dearly loved to sit down for a meal with Beela and hear more of his take on Scotland’s history alongside tales of his childhood.
Spending time listening to Beela talk was pure joy and if you ever make it to Dunrobin Castle, you simply must find him in the military room and chat a while.
To read more about our cruise through the British Isles, check out That Time I Turned 40. Twice. and My 40ish Birthday.
Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Princess Cruises to share my travels with you. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. For more information about Princess Cruises and/or to book a cruise visit their website.
6 Comments Leave a comment or review
Oh just a day at a Scottish castle, no big deal 😉 That library is calling my name, for sure! Can you imagine having a room like that? Swoon.
Right? I could spend a month just in that gorgeous library!
D’Ann Elam says
We visited Dunrobin while living in Scotland. The gardens were amazing! We have friends in Texas who are descendants of the Sutherlands and they were able to visit Dunrobin and learn some of their history while there.
My husband visited the military room and spoke with the man who was there that day for at least an hour. My husband is a history buff and it doesn’t matter whether it is American or Scottish history.
I would also recommend visiting Dunrobin, it is beautiful.
I’m so glad that you were able to visit the castle and that you enjoyed your day so much!
Gayle Durkin says
I cannot tell you how excited I am to have read this article! I attended the wedding of a friend at the Dunrobin Castle in 1999. The bride is a Sutherland and it was such a wonderful experience. The small village of Dornoch is lovely and we stayed at the Royal Golf Hotel there which looks out over their beautiful golf course and the North Sea. A lifetime special experience for me. The little church in Dornoch that they were married at was surrounded by the locals when we left the church after the wedding because they wanted to see the American bride. All the men were in their kilts and formal wear. It was so special. Thank you for sharing this and reminding me of my trip to this special place. I would love to go back one day.
I bet it really was an incredible experience! That sounds amazing.