Plockton is a village in the Lochalsh, Wester Ross area of the Scottish Highlands. It sits on a sheltered bay with impressive views overlooking Loch Carron. Locals like to call it the “Jewel of the Highlands” with its secluded bays and panoramic views and the chance of seeing marine life at close quarters, but it has plenty of competition in other, fine Scottish villages. The centre of Plockton consists of a row of mostly white-painted and natural brick cottages that follows the curve of the small harbour.
It was here that I discovered the magnificent Duncraig Castle Bed and Breakfast – quite simply the most spectacular B&B I’ve ever stayed at.
This imposing Scottish Highland castle built in the 19th century is set in 38 acres of beautiful, wooded grounds in a stunning coastal setting. It’s actually about three miles outside Plockton and overlooks Loch Carron and the Applecross Peninsula. I stayed here with my wife, Judy, in May for just one night, regrettably; I only wish it could have been for longer.
The room we stayed in (below) was huge – the bathroom alone was as big as a regular hotel room – and the bedroom overlooked the loch. All of the rooms were painstakingly restored to their former glory in a major renovation that took 10 years to complete. The history behind it is fascinating.
Duncraig Castle was built in 1866 for Sir Alexander Matheson, who made his fortune in the opium trade in the Far East. His uncle, Sir James Matheson, a native of Sutherland, was co-founder of the vast Hong Kong-based commercial empire, Jardine Matheson.
In 1927, the castle was bought by Sir Daniel Hamilton, who subsequently bequeathed it to Highland Council, which operated it as a domestic-science college until its closure in the late 1980s. The castle then lay empty for a number of years.
In 2002 it was purchased by a family from the English Midlands called the Dobsons. They became celebrities and the castle an instantly recognised landmark when a TV reality show called The Dobsons of Duncraig was filmed there. It followed the fortunes of the 17 members of the Dobson family. Seven years later only two members of the family and their children remained in the castle and they put Duncraig on the market.
It was purchased in 2009 by Suzanne Hazeldine, a former marketing executive from Surrey, who apparently fought off stiff competition from both UK and overseas buyers to secure the property. Ms Hazeldine moved into the landmark building with her partner and later decided to develop it as a B&B business, as well as a location for weddings and other events.
The rooms had been carved up into dormitories when Highland Council owned the property, and these were all restored authentically. Ten of the 29 bedrooms were converted for the use of guests.
The outside of the castle was totally repointed to make it watertight and the roof was thoroughly checked and repaired as necessary. A modern block installed by the council was demolished and replaced with an authentic stone garage for storage.
Picturesque Plockton is a popular destination for artists, walkers and those just looking for serenity. It has a small selection of shops, and also a pub, hotel, restaurant and chip shop, all of which serve excellent local seafood, landed daily on the village jetty.
Plockton is also a great place for wildlife. Seals and otters are regular visitors to the foreshore below the castle. Pine martins and red squirrels frequent the woodland surrounding the castle. Highland cattle graze nearby.
The pretty village of Applecross is 33 miles from Duncraig Castle and is reached via the spectacular road Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle). One of the highest roads in Britain, reaching 2,054 feet, the road winds into the clouds with tight hairpin bends and breathtaking views.
Another castle, this one a tourist attraction – Eilean Donan Castle – is just 11 miles from Duncraig Castle and is pictured below.
Eilean Donan Castle is one of Scotland’s premier tourist attractions and has been featured in numerous photo shoots and films.
Duncraig Castle Bed & Breakfast
If you travel to this part of Scotland you should factor in a stay at Duncraig Castle B&B, where Suzanne Hazeldine is a most charming and generous host; you won’t regret it.
Photos © Judy Barford
Additional material: duncraigcastle.co.uk