Feeling Conflicted at Dunrobin Castle and a little like Maria Von Trapp in the Highlands
For some reason – the jet stream splitting, apparently – the Scottish summer has shifted this year to the middle of October. It has been absolutely great: bright sun, blue sky, clear views…
We headed sufficiently north so that the SatNav choked on Drumnadrochit and gave up entirely on Tomnahurich Street.
In its last week before it shuts for the winter, we went to Dunrobin Castle. It is my favourite Scottish castle, architecturally. Amazing turrets. Disney should weep.
While I love the physical castle, other aspects of it don’t sit so well with me.
When the Countess of Sutherland cleared her lands of crofters and replaced them with sheep, it was Dornoch Castle that was the centre of power in those days. Maybe if I hadn’t read “The Desperate Journey” in Primary 6, I wouldn’t have felt icky going through the castle – stuffed full of spectacular antiques, many of which were stuffed animal heads.
Worse than the imposing stag in the hallway were several African animal rugs – leopard, tiger and lion, with the heads still attached, staring glassily up from the floor.
Worse still is the “Museum” in the grounds of the castle where the Dukes of Sutherland displayed the spoils of their trophy hunting expeditions to Africa. Most appalling/striking is the giraffe’s neck and head that greet you in the first room, rearing up from the floor, as if the rest of the giraffe was standing in the basement with its head through a hole in the basement ceiling. Alas no.
After months of the world thrashing out what it thinks about trophy hunting, such a place is a house of horrors. Perhaps the hunters of the past two centuries had little idea of their impact – and no way to show people what they had seen without bringing home the heads…. but still… I struggle to see why a landowner from the north of Scotland saw fit to go abroad and bring back heads of gazelles, an elephant, a bit of a porcupine – and countless other pieces.
But then, here am I, a tourist a hundred years later paying an entry fee and seeing these things and writing about it. A spectacular collection – but grotesque and sad.
After the visit to the castle we took the chance to run/walk up Ben Bhraggie from Golspie. At the top of the track there is a huge statue of the first duke of Sutherland looking out over his lands.
Beautiful views from the top.
We went on a good few walks on this holiday. The site “walkhighlands” is a great way to find semi-beaten tracks. The views were so clear with the weather. And the children run and skip up the hills like fit wee goats, and I side-step into the Sound of Music as we climb a few hills/mountains and consider fording streams and deciding against it.
And I spent a bit of time half-heartedly looking for Nessie because I had such a good view for it.