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:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.