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Duke of Sutherland's Railway - Dunrobin Castle Station

Charming half-timbered station serving the home of the Dukes of Sutherland on the line built planned and financed by the Third Duke to boost the local economy - opened 16th May 1871




Red Wheel Site:
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Dunrobin Castle Station, Golspie, Sutherland

KW10 6SF
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About Duke of Sutherland's Railway - Dunrobin Castle Station

The Station was originally a private station for the castle, the seat of the Duke of Sutherland. The Railway Magazine described it thus : The general outline seems to be that of a Swiss chalet, and this appearance is not lessened by the surrounding hilly district. The windows are latticed, and look very cosy, whilst all the waiting-rooms and other necessary adjuncts to such a station are well fitted up. With true patriotism his lordship determined that Scotch pine should be used as far as possible in the construction of his station, so that he had it built of that wood. Thus it is extremely strongly made, as it needs to be to resist the ravages of snow and wind that sweep so terribly across the Sutherland moors in winter.

The Duke of Sutherland’s Railway is the only part of the national rail network to have been planned, financed and opened by one person. Running from Golspie to Helmsdale it opened on 16 May 1871. In September 1870 an isolated section some 17 miles long opened from Dunrobin (a mile north of Golspie) to West Helmsdale (the temporary terminus). This was opened in September 1870 by HRH Princess Helena.

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Intermediate stations were opened at Brora and later Loth.
Dunrobin station (including platform and building) remains in the ownership of the Sutherland Estate and is believed to be the only such station on the network. Trains to Dunrobin are operated by Scotrail’s Far North Line service which runs between Inverness-Thurso/Wick. The station is situated at the top of the drive leading to Dunrobin Castle and open to the public throughout the castle season from April-October. In 2019/20 it was used by 1240 passengers.
The cost of the railway was a remarkably cheap £5007 per mile, as the Duke did not have to buy the land. The equivalent sum today for the whole line would be approx £10.5million.
The station was used exclusively by the Sutherland family and guests from 1871 until the second world war. After the war it was opened to the general public but was closed (to the public) in 1965 under the Beeching cuts. In 1985 it reopened on summer Sundays , but now has a full service when the castle is open.
The station has always been a request stop and intending passengers need to hold their arm out to the train driver, like a bus stop. The original low platform is still in use and boxes with three steps are provided so passengers can reach the level of the train.

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The Red Wheel Heritage plaque was unveiled by His Royal Highness, The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay when he visited Dunrobin Castle Station on 8th July 2021 at the invitation of  Network Rail's Alan Ross.

National Transport Trust Vice President John Cameron was present, as were ScotRail's Fiona Campbell plus friends of the Far North Line chair Ian Budd, Frank Roach of HITRANS, railway campaigner Richard Ardern and railway author Anne-Mary Paterson.

The Red Wheel Plaque was placed on the train-facing side of the building.
His Royal Highness was greeted by The Lord-Lieutenant of Sutherland, Dr Monica Main, who presented His Royal Highness to the Earl of Sutherland. His Royal Highness joined a reception where he met with guests including representatives of the railway industry and the neighbouring castle. His Royal Highness then toured the station with The Honorary Station Master, Daniel Brittain-Catlin.

An article by National Transport Trust Vice President John Yellowlees describing the history of the line can be downloaded here

Press coverage included this article in the Northern Times and this article in the Far North Express.

 Photos of the unveiling kindly provided by John Baikie, with our thanks.

By the A9 opposite the entrance to the Castle

National Transport Trust, Old Bank House, 26 Station Approach, Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey KT10 0SR