Vast Scots Baronial mansion Carbisdale Castle – nicknamed ‘The Castle of Spite’ – goes on sale for sum 97% lower than it cost to build in the 1900s and 25% less than the sum spent on its 2010 renovation.
A mega-mansion termed “the last grand castle built in Scotland” that cost £62 million to build between 1905 and 1917 has gone on sale for just £1.5 million in spite of developers having spent a small fortune on its renovation to date.
Extending to 41,433 square foot, category B-listed Carbisdale Castle in Sutherland is gargantuan in size compared to an average 818 square foot British home. Its construction began after the resolution of the then Dowager Duchess of Sutherland, Mary Caroline’s dispute with her late husband’s children from his first marriage, but ultimately the palatial pad was not completed until five years after her own demise.
Featured on these pages in August 2014 and April 2016 after it was placed for sale after being used for 70 years as a youth hostel, the allegedly haunted building was sold to a London based investment firm now known as Faro Capital after being reduced in price from £1.2 million to £900,000. At this stage, £2 million had already been spent on renovations due to extensive water damage in 2010.
In the years since, Faro Capital have cleared Carbisdale Castle of its institutional contents and put in place plans to return the structure to use as what they term a “world class single family residence.” Now, of its current condition, a surveyor recently remarked: “The building offers a superb blank canvas,” according to current selling agents Strutt & Parker.
Speaking to The Scotsman late last week, Robert McCulloch for Strutt & Parker remarked of the sale of Carbisdale Castle:
“Already there has been interest. The property is in a state of partial renovation so it lends itself to being either a private residence or a commercial venture.”
“There has been interest in it as a hotel and also those who are interested in its charitable use. With its proximity to the North Coast 500 driving route and the rise in domestic tourism, I am sure people will see a lot of opportunity in this property.”
Carbisdale Castle, however, is still not without problems. Aside from its vast size and the associated costs of maintaining such a white elephant, it comes with a mere 20 acres of land and that is split into various spread-apart parcels. Thus, for a likely oligarch or business titan buyer – who will have to be someone with very, very deep pockets – privacy and security will remain an obvious issue.
Given his alleged penchant for burning £50 notes in front of the homeless, perhaps ‘Costly Carrie’ Symonds could persuade Boris Johnson to put in a bid. There’d be plenty to keep her busy after all and acres of wall space for her chum Lulu Lytle to cover in gold and gaud.
2017 onwards – Of progress since purchase by Faro Capital, Strutt & Parker remarked in 2021: “The current position is that, since 2017, significant works have been carried out to the castle pursuant with the approved consent but the works required to complete the project have been put on hold.”
“This provides the flexibility to purchasers to either complete the development of the castle as a private home, or seek to vary the Listed Building Consent to include the development of the building for commercial use or the subdivision of the building as residential apartments.”
“The intention of the project was to combine all of the decorative features and grandeur of the Dowager Duchess of Sutherland’s original creation with services, systems, fixtures, fittings and layout of the highest contemporary quality together with reorganisation of the existing accommodation to suit 21st Century living and the development of a spa and swimming pool as complementary features.”
Works to Carbisdale Castle have included the stripping down of the building, the removal of redundant items, the excavation of a proposed swimming pool and the replacement of heating systems and lighting circuits.
September 2016 – Sold to Sloane Street, London based Faro Capital Limited (formerly known as the FCFM Group), who planned to turn the building into a “world class residence.”
April 2016 – Reduced in price to just £900,000 ($1.2 million, €1 million or درهم4.6 million) or the equivalent of just £21.70 per square foot.
August 2014 – Offered for sale by Savills for £1.2 million ($1.7 million, €1.4 million or درهم6.1 million).
2010 onwards – After extensive water damage caused by frost, £2 million ($2.8 million, €2.3 million or درهم10.1 million) is spent on renovations.
1945 – 2011 – Used as a youth hostel.
1944 – Gifted to the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) by Colonel Salvesen’s son, Captain Harold Salvesen.
22nd June 1941 – Used as the location to host the Carbisdale Conference at which it was “agreed that that the Russian forces, should they enter Norwegian territory, would not stay there after the war.”
1933 – Sold to Norwegian shipping and whaling tycoon Colonel Theodore Salvesen and used during the Second World War as a “safe refuge” for King Haakon VII of Norway and Crown Prince Olav, later King Olav V, during the Nazi occupation of Norway.
1905 – 1917 – Carbisdale Castle is built for Mary Caroline, Dowager Duchess of Sutherland (1848 – 1912) at a supposed cost of £500,000 or the equivalent of £62 million ($86 million, €71 million or درهم315 million) following the death of her husband, George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, His Grace The 3rd Duke of Sutherland (1828 – 1892).
The Dowager Duchess (better known as ‘Duchess Blair’) had been jailed for 6 weeks after being found guilty of stealing documents during her divorce and when that was eventually finalised, it was agreed that a castle would be built for her just outside the Sutherland lands.
She intentionally chose – supposedly to spite them – a prominent hillside site visible from the very railway line the Sutherlands used to travel south and insisted that the clock tower of the house only had three clock faces. On the side facing Sutherland, the face is blank as “the Duchess did not wish to give the time of day to her former relatives.” As a result, Carbisdale Castle gained the nickname ‘The Castle of Spite.’