Doing Dornoch

img_2117On Wednesday morning, I had planned to head back to Lindsay’s house in Aberdeen; however, Pat had other ideas!

You know by now how I love to be spontaneous, I did not decline the idea she had of driving just 29 miles north of Dingwall to the village of Dornoch sitting on the edge of Dornoch Firth. We could definitely drive up there in the morning, spend a couple of hours and I could drive on to Aberdeen later that afternoon, so off we went!

First stop, Dornoch Cathedral!



The autumnal colors of the trees perfectly framed the cathedral as we walked around the beautiful stone structure to the front entrance.




Let’s head inside…

Below; what welcomes its visitor as one crosses the threshold..












Like many cathedrals I’ve visited there was a plethora of beautifully hand-crafted stained glass windows.  Luckily, they also offered a notebook available to their visitors to explain and tell the story of each window!

I’ve matched up my photos of the windows with the description page from the notebook below.

Above is the first page of the notebook with its introductory map of the windows and a bit of history.  This notebook was quite handy and offers some very interesting and informative information!












A little side note here regarding Skibo Castle –

Skibo Castle (Scottish Gaelic: Caisteal Sgìobail) is located to the west of Dornoch in the Highland county of Sutherland overlooking the Dornoch firth. Although largely of the 19th century, and early 20th century, when it was the home of industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

The first record of Skibo Castle is a charter from 1211 on a site of an ancient Viking fort.

In 1897, the wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie took a one-year lease, with an option to buy. In 1898 he exercised that option for £85,000. However its condition had declined so much by this time that a further £2 million was spent on improvements, including an increase in area from 16,000 square feet to over 60,000 square feet, plus the creation of Loch Ospisdale, an indoor swimming pavilion and an 9-hole golf course. Skibo stayed with the Carnegie family until 1982.

It is now a five-star facility with access only through membership to The Carnegie Club; one of the world’s most prestigious private clubs for the privileged few – offering members and their guests accommodation in both the castle and estate lodges, a private links golf course and a range of activities including clay pigeon shooting, tennis and horse riding. Probably not a place I will ever stay at but thought you might be interested.

Okay, back to the stained glass windows…





Now let’s just wander around the cathedral and see what else it has to offer beyond its magnificent windows…




In the choir, each of the seats of the chairs and the pews had cross-stitched seat covers or pads. Below are but a few examples….

Back outside once again… quite an impressive cathedral wouldn’t you say?



Another note regarding Dornoch Cathedral before we move on is that Madonna and Guy Ritchie were married here on Dec 22nd, 2000.  Evidently, it was quite the hullabaloo!

We headed to the town square and visited some other historic buildings, passing this quaint house with a charming rose garden below.

Across the street we encountered the Courthouse so I went inside to explore.  It housed the visitor center downstairs and upstairs, where the courtroom used to be was a nice tea room; its walls offering many Carnegie photos, information regarding his legacy and some really great quotes.





I really liked the old sink in the restroom!




Next stop – the Jail next door.


Once inside it was a very posh shopping venue.  Down the hall where Pat is chatting with the shop owner is where the jail cells were.  Each cell housed a host of expensive gifts, home decor, children’s toys, etc., to purchase.


There was at least some historical information about the jail on the far wall near the iron gate.

I thought these signs were a great gift idea…

Great paintings of Highland Coos!

And of course they had a “Christmas Shop” section upstairs…


Afterward we headed back to the car, I discovered we were parked quite close to the “Mercat Cross” below with a handy sign describing it and its importance.

For our lunch we drove a little further north to a small village called Embo and enjoyed the seaside view of the North Sea, the shoreline and its many birds in a ‘caravan park’ called “Grannie’s Heilan Hame.” (Granny’s Highland Home)


Then we drove back to Dornoch and visited its nearby beach as well before we headed out of town and back to Dingwall.


As we meandered through the town’s streets once again, I found additional treasures to photograph…

including this old church…

Another noteworthy mention – Lindsay, spent a great deal of his youth in this town growing up.  He told me that he used to go to this church as a young lad to see the latest films!  Evidently there wasn’t a formal ‘movie theatre’ available.

Just before leaving town we found the Primary School (below) that Lindsay attended as well. His father, Allan Frew Robertson, was the Headmaster at this school!

allan-frew-robertsonShown at left is Lindsay’s father (center) with the Queen Mother, and the janitor, Kenny Macrae at the grand opening of the new Academy.

Lindsay tells me that the reason they are laughing in this photo is because the Queen had just asked Kenny, “Haven’t I seen you before?  You look quite familiar.”

Kenny replied, “Aye, your Majesty, you did – I was playing the pipes when you flew in on your helicopter, but afterwards I quickly ran back up the hill to change into my Janitor’s uniform in time for your tour around the new school!”

Above right is Lindsay with his new “proper” bike he got for his 16th birthday in 1957.  His first set of “wheels” offering independence and freedom to explore.

Below is another shot of Lindsay a year later when he appeared in a school play called “Allison’s Lad” – A Cavalier’s and Roundheads production of the English Civil War at Dornoch Townhouse stage, 1958.  Lindsay is on the left in the bottom row.  At right, after he produced the photo of the play, he went upstairs and he also produced the pipe he used as a prop in that play.

He’s told me many a story about living in that town as the Headmaster’s son and it was fun exploring the town and its many buildings that were part of his childhood, including the cathedral where he attended church on Sundays with his family – a little slice of the life of my dearly loved cousin.









Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving American 65-year young great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

2 thoughts on “Doing Dornoch”

  1. Claudia…you have made many friends and learned a lot from each of them. Lindsay is so proud of you telling his stories and what he has experienced in his life. I love the way you write to make a reader feel like we are seeing what you see. .Great history documentation too! Love you girl!


    1. Thanks Dora, that warms my heart, and I am grateful for your praise. I count you among my many friends and so glad we can stay connected although the miles between us are great. Perhaps sometime in the future I’ll travel down your way! Love you too!


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