Dunrobin Castle is the most northerly of Scotland's great houses and the largest in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms. It is also one of Britain's oldest continuously inhabited houses dating back to the early 1300s. Dunrobin Castle has been called home to the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland since the 13th century and was first mentioned as a stronghold of the family in 1401. The castle stands possibly on the site of an early medieval fort. The name Dun Robin means Robin's Hill or Fort in Gaelic and may have come from Robert, the 6th Earl of Sutherland who died in 1427.
The early castle was actually a fortified, square keep, with walls six feet thick and a vaulted ceiling, looking out from a cliff-top position. The keep stood isolated for some 200 years until a staircase and a high house were added. It was encased by a series of additions from the 16th century onwards. In 1785 a large extension was constructed. Remarkably this early keep still survives, much altered, within the complex of these later extensions, making Dunrobin one of the oldest inhabited houses in Scotland.
Sir Charles Barry was retained in 1845 to completely re-model the castle, to change it from a fort to a house in the Scottish Baronial style that had become popular among the aristocracy, who were inspired by Queen Victoria's new residence at Balmoral. Barry had been the architect for the Houses of Parliament in London and was much in demand. There is very much a French influence with conical spires to the whole project, including the gardens, based on Versailles, which he laid out in the 1850s. Much of Barry's interior was destroyed by a fire in 1915 and the interior today is mainly the work of Scottish architect, Sir Robert Lorimer, who altered the top of the main tower and clock tower at the north side of the building to the Scottish Renaissance style.
Following the death of the 5th Duke in 1963, the Earldom and Dukedom were separted. The Dukedom passed on through the male line whilst the present Countess of Sutherland inherited the Earldom. The Castle became a boys’ boarding school for a period of seven years from the late 1960s before reverting back to being a family house.
Dunrobin Castle is open annually in summer season.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).