There is a lovely sandy beach at Dornoch. Nearby is a caravan site which attracts visitors.
At the northern end are rocks which are fun to climb on. The beach itself streches a long way. For those who prefer to just sit and watch the sea, there are seats up above the beach and a car park.
Lower down are stretches of bent [Marram grass], and several varieties of birds can be seen.
The Bishop's Palace was first constructed in the 13th. Century to provide a home for the first Bishop of Dornoch Gilbert de Moravia. Little remains of the original building just one of the towers. As the Palace extended it remained the home of succeeding bishops up until 1557 when it changed owners. During this period in history the Catholic Church was under threat and Bishops were rather nervous. The then Bishop Robert Stewart appointed his brother in law the Earl of Sutherland and his heirs as temporary keepers of the Palace. This was a good excuse for the Sutherland family to become owners of another Castle. Bishop Robert never realised the building would never again belong to the Church. The 'Castle' was relinquished in 1922 and passed into private ownership. The building was finally renovated internally in 1947 and became what it is today 'The Castle Hotel'. It is a fine building which really does look like a small Castle but you won't need to be of Royal Blood or Noble status to stay here!! I have included the hotel web site it does look like an appealing place to stay.
The stunning interior of Dornoch Cathedral contains twenty eight stained glass windows. Three of the windows commemorate the steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. These windows depict his later interests in life of learning, peace and music. The natural wood of the pulpit, pews altar and other furnishings are made from wood from the Skibo Estate and were handcrafted by wood carvers from Skibo Castle where Andrew Carnegie visited annually. Most of the interior dates from 1900 with the newest addition of Stained Glass installed in 1989 to commemorate the 750th. Anniversary of the Cathedral. This window honours the Churches Founder Bishop Gilbert. The window was consecrated in the presence of H.R.H. Charles, Prince of Wales. So the life of the Church enters into the new age but still recognises its past. Today you can still see here the original stone work which was so callously covered up with plaster which thankfully was removed in 1920. The Cathedral's recent claim to fame was when 'Madonna' had her son Christened here. Not my reason for visiting but I do wonder at her choice of Churches - I do suspect it would have been because of its close proximity to Skibo Castle. None the less the Cathedral today owes its great beauty to the Caregie Family
The Castle Square provided a shady spot for us to sit and enjoy all the comings and goings of this pretty town. The square is lined with mature trees and lots of fragrant and colourful hanging baskets which adorn the lamp posts. I did like the old 'Victorian' water fountain with its chubby cherub seated happily in the middle. Take a drink with you as the fountain is today mearly ornamental with no rushing cold water. You will also find an information plaque here 'glorifying' the good Duchess of Sutherland and her monetary contributions to the Cathedral. What it doesn't tell you is, she, the duchess, did not like the tiny cottages which once stood here, they offended her eye. She had the cottages demolished and the people moved on. We saw nothing to offend our eyes here - the splendid surrounding architecture was pleasing. The fountain provides a good photo frame for the Cathedral - just a pity the free parking extends here too.
When Gilbert de Movaria became Bishop of Caithness in 1222 he moved his seat from his diocese in Halkirk to Dornoch. It was in this town he built his Cathedral Church financed with his own money. By 1239 the Cathedral was finished and was consecrated at its first Mass. During the Mass the bones of the previous Bishop - Adam Bishop Gilbert were received and entombed in the Church. Bishop Adam was the last Scot to be Canonised and given a place in the Calendar of Saints. After many destruction's including a Clan Battle where the inside of the Church was totally burnt out, the Cathedral managed to survive the turbulent times down through the centuries. The Church remained Roman Catholic for 350 years until the reformation when it saw its biggest changes. I can't imagine why the Church leaders of that day would cover the lovely stone with harling. Today we see a small but grand Cathedral proudly wearing her sand stone coating. Today it is the Parish Church of Dornoch with a Church of Scotland congregation. The Reverend Susan Browne became the first female minister to preach in a Cathedral in Scotland. The Church is open to visitors from mid May to Mid October Monday to Friday from 10.00 to 16.00 staffed by a team of volunteers. Sunday Service is at 11.15. Donations to the Fabric Fund are always welcome and you can boost their funds by buying a guide book and some postcards. We did enjoy our time here with this most beautiful of Churches.
In the year 1843 there was a split in the Church of Scotland. Most of the members of the Parish Cathedral Church including most of the elders and the two ministers left the Church of Scotland to join the Free Church of Scotland. The first service was held in a tent on the links here in Dornoch. While the people of Dornoch worshiped in the tent, two remaining elders found a note pinned to the door of the now empty Cathedral it read -
'The walls are thick,
The folk are thin,
The Lord's come oot,
And the Deil's gone in'
The Free Church was built soon after these words were written. There is no ill feeling between the two Churches but even today they prefer to go their separate ways.
Open during Service times only - Sunday 11.30 & 18.30. Wednesday 7pm.
BTW just incase you ponder - 'oot' is out and 'deil' is devil!!
The impressive building which is home to the tourist office is built with red sandstone and dates back to the 15th. Century, as do many buildings in Dornoch. The stone is local and the design of stepped gabbles synonymous in the Highlands. Before becoming a tourist office this was the local post office. The staff are friendly and accommodating, they have advise on all aspects of your trip to Dornoch and the whole Highland Region. They have a cosy coffee shop where you can relax and plan your journey around Sutherland. The office is open all year, opening times are 9.30 - 17.30 Monday to Saturday.
When we arrived at Dornoch Beach the weather was hot, sunny with clear blue skies. The car park was almost full and to our horror so was the beach, well not quite full of people but there were a lot of young families here. Not surprising really as there is a large Caravan Park adjacent to the beach. We did try the first bay but the dogs exuberance to run free was a bit curtailed by young children endangered in being bowled over. What a joy to walk a short distance onto the golf course and discover a special and almost deserted beach where we could take leisurely stroll and the dogs could run free with gay abandon. Walk the extra yards and set yourself free.
On the opposite side of the main street from the Cathedral, lies the Town gaol. It is a solid stone building with conical towers. It is now a craft centre and gift shop. It is interesting to visit and you might find some gifts not to be found in other places.
The Cathedral is situated in the centre of Dornoch. It is a squat sandstone building and well worth a visit. The original Dornoch Cathedral dates to the thirteenth-century when it was built by Bishop Gilbert de Moravia but was burnt some centuries later and lthen rebuilt.
On December 21, 2000, the pop star Madonna had her son Rocco christened in Dornoch Cathedral, the day before her wedding to Guy Ritchie in nearby Skibo Castle.
Apart from the interesting gargoyles beneath th eaves, there are beautiful stained glass windows in memory of Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropist, who lived in nearby Skibo. Another feature of note is the piscina.
Originally a Roman Catholic Church, it is now a Church of Scotland place of worship, covering a large parish.
---still under construcion----
We toured across from Dornoch in the east of Scotland to Ullapool in the west of Scotland through the most fantastic scenery. It was amazing to think we were on the east coast in the morning and 2 hours later on the west coast. It was also several degrees warmer, the west coast of Scotland being warmed by the Gulf stream.
Ullapool is a very pretty town, not very big but you can get a ferry to tour the western isles.
What used to be the old jail is now a gift and crafts shop. There is also a small (free) art gallery upstairs which had some nice stuff and at the back of the shop there is a mockup of one of the cells of the jail.
There are miles of sandy beaches around the Dornoch firth and this one is just beside the golf course at Dornoch itself and within walking distance of the main square.
The golf course is a championship course, ranked 11th in the world and the most northerly first class course in the world. (source: Rough Guide to Britain. I know nought about golf courses!)
The town of Dornoch is about 12 miles from Carbisdale, where we were staying, and my parents had told me it was probably the best place to go for grocery shopping near by. So hence we ended up here one afternoon and were surprised to discover there was more there than just a supermarket! The town sits on a headland overlooking the Dornoch Firth. The photo above is of Dornoch Cathedral, where Madonna had her son christened a couple of years ago. It was originally founded in 1224 and then restored by the Countess of Sutherland in 1835. Many of her Victorian excesses have since been removed with the inner stonework having been restored to its original state. Its quite a small cathedral but beautiful inside and has some gorgeous stained glass windows, some of which were endowed by Andrew Carnegie.
This building is rather forebidding to look at. It sits in the main street in Dornoch opposite the gaol. It was built in the 15th Century, but is now a hotel.