16 Jan 2014
Haunted Dornoch Castle on sale for £2.25m
A historic haunted Highland castle built in the 15th century has gone on the market for £2.25million.
Dornoch Castle, which has only had three owners since being converted into a hotel in 1947, is famous for having a ghost of Sutherland sheep rustler.
Steeped in heritage, it has served as a private resident, school, a jail and courthouse, and now a 25-bedroom hotel, over the last 500-plus years.
Despite being a castle on the Sutherland coastline, it was not built for military purposes but for the Bishop of Sutherland.
Located opposite the 12th century Dornoch Cathedral, where Madonna and Guy Ritchie had their son Christened in 2000, the sellers also promote its close proximity to famous golf courses, particularly in the year the Ryder Cup comes to Scotland, and whisky distilleries.
But it is best known for being haunted by a thief called Andrew McCornish, imprisoned in its dungeons and and then killed for stealing ewes and rams from nearby estates.
Marion Mackenzie, the daughter of his jailer, the Sheriff Substitute of Sutherland, was the first person to see Andrew’s ghost at the close of the 19th century.
She claimed to see the grey-haired man with a “weird face”, thick grey stockings and knee breeches sitting in her father’s study when she came in from the garden to get some honeycomb for tea one day. After running for help from her family, they returned to an empty room.
But Andrew’s ghost reappeared later that night next to the bed of Marion’s uncle, the Minister of Avoch, while he was sleeping.
Marion’s uncle woke up and told the ghost that if he did not go away he would call his brother, the Sheriff. The ghost swiftly departed the room and never visited again.
After listening to his brother and daughter’s description of the ghost, Sheriff Mackenzie recognised it as Andrew.
Despite Andrew’s disappearance, the castle’s new owner in 1922 took no chances and had the building exorcised before moving in.
The property was renamed Dornoch Castle Hotel in 1947 and regardless of its lack of ghostly sightings over the last century, it was featured on a programme about haunted hotels on the American Travel Channel in 2003.
Since then, the building has led a quiet existence and it’s now on the market for just the fourth time since becoming a hotel.
Euan MacCrimmond of selling agents Strutt and Parker said the current owners, Colin and Ros Thompson, were selling the property as they were preparing to retire from business.
He added: “Dornoch Castle Hotel is a quite stunning building, full of atmosphere and history, yet it also has all the luxuries one could expect from modern life.
“From general tourism to sports specific visitors and also weddings, this is a great opportunity for someone who wants to enter the hospitality industry or expand their portfolio.
“The hotel is close to some of the renowned distilleries in Scotland – Dalmore, Glenmorganie and Balbair – and offers year-round whisky tasting tours and events. The owners also pride themselves on having an expansive collection in their impressive bar.
“Also, during the year of the Ryder Cup being hosted in Scotland, it has taken bookings for the event from people wanting to play on some of the famous local courses.”
The Royal Dornoch Golf Course, situated just five minutes away, is the third oldest course in the world and is ranked in the World’s Top 20 Best Courses.
Mr MacCrimmond added the the sellers, currently away on holiday, have planning permission for an extension, including 11 extra bedroom and a 70-seater bistro with a second kitchen and cellar.
He said: “They have spent an awful lot of time and money on the hotel to take it to what it currently looks like. They have brought it up to a really high standard.
“Given they are at retirement stage they want someone else to take it to the next level.”
The category B-listed castle is also often used as a wedding venue.
It was originally built as the home for the Bishops of Caithness and then subsequently gifted to 11th Earl of Sutherland in 1557.
Although it was set on fire during a dispute between the McKays and Murrays in 1570 and then rebuilt, some of the original building does remain.
As well as containing a restaurant with space for 90 people, the hotel also has a bar with an open fire and even features 15th century brickwork.
Situated 40 miles north of Inverness, the hotel has 25 en-suite rooms - several containing four-poster beds and two with open fires.
Just a five minute walk away lies the Dornoch Firth, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, making it a prime spot for twitchers, walkers and cyclists to visit.
Visitors with small planes and helicopters can also make use of the nearby Dornoch Airstrip.
Dornoch Castle Hotel is on the market for offers over £2.25m and includes all trade fixtures, fittings and furniture.