The History Of Skibo Castle

LocationDornoch, County of Sutherland, Scotland (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byEllis Short
Official WebsiteSkibo Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (Stay, Events, Wedding, Filming)

Skibo Castle is located in a secluded corner of the Northern Highlands and is known as Scotland’s best-kept secret. It is termed ‘Heaven on Earth’ because of its beauty and state-of-the-art facilities.


The first record of Skibo Castle is a charter dating from 1211. Since the time of its early history, the castle was a residence of the Bishops of Caithness. The castle remained the residence of subsequent bishops until 1545 when the church used the estate as a tactical measure. It was granted to John Gray to reinforce its alliance with a powerful family as the threat of a Protestant uprising spread towards the north.

In 1745, Robert Gray, the then-owner of the castle, surrendered the castle and estate. It was later purchased by a relative who built a modern house before 1760. The ownership of the castle frequently changed until 1872, when Evan Charles Sutherland-Walker bought it. He extended the house and improved the grounds of the estate. However, the castle’s condition declined by 1897, when wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie took a one-year lease with an option to buy. In 1898 he purchased Skibo Castle for £85,000. However, its condition had declined substantially by this time, and a further £2 million was spent on improvements. It included an increase in area, the creation of Loch Ospisdale, and an 18-hole golf course.

The Carnegie family remained Skibo Castle owner until 1982. It was purchased by businessman Peter de Savary and used as the foundation of a private members club called ‘The Carnegie Club.’ The club’s establishment required the castle’s restoration and modification to recreate the luxury of an Edwardian sporting estate. A similar renovation was undertaken on the many lodges located on the castle grounds to provide additional accommodation for the club members. Skibo Castle Weddings have also become most sought out since it was chosen as the venue for the wedding of Madonna and Guy Ritchie in 2000.


Skibo Castle, by Graeme Smith, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

With its 6,000 acres of property, Skibo Castle is a treat to the eyes. The estate is the perfect place to explore the stunning beauty of the Scottish Highlands. From the impressive Scottish Baronial architecture on the outside to the most refined Edwardian splendour inside, Skibo Castle has stood through the test of time as a beautiful masterpiece. The beautiful surroundings, historical setting, golf grounds, excellent food, luxurious facilities, and unparalleled service add to its appeal.

The Carnegie Club is a members-only hotel and club consisting of only about 250 members. The Carnegie links golf course has fewer than 1000 rounds played on it per annum. The funds raised through membership fees are reinvested into upgrading some golf course holes. The club recently carried out a major restoration program of Carnegie’s magnificent swimming pool, which was completed in 2010.

Movie Features

America (1972-73)– Skibo Castle was briefly featured in the History documentary about an account of the birth and development of the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Skibo Castle open to the public?

Skibo Castle is only open to club members and their guests or those who wish to visit with a genuine interest in joining the club.

How much is membership at Skibo Castle?

Skibo Castle has one of the world’s most extraordinary and luxurious residential clubs where membership is limited. Annual membership at Skibo Castle costs around £9,500 and a £30,000 joining fee.

Who owns Skibo Castle?

Skibo Castle is privately owned by Ellis Short, the founder of the private equity fund Kildare Partners. He is a longstanding club member who bought the property in 2003.

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