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Beautiful Places to Visit in the Highlands of Scotland: Dornoch

Updated on June 16, 2012

When you picture the Scottish Highlands, a sandy beach with beautiful rock formations and clear blue water lapping at the shore is probably not the first image that comes to mind. But, as you can see, there are places where you can play in the sand and paddle in the sea. Of course, there is an element of luck involved. Bright sunny days are rare in the north of Scotland and when they come around, it's important to make the most of them. The Highland town of Dornoch has one of the most beautiful beaches in the north of Scotland.

But what else is there to see in Dornoch?

Dornoch Jail

Dornoch is the one place you will want to go to jail. The 19th century jailhouse is now a shop which sells incredible clothes, gifts and accessories. Located on the main road through the town, and just opposite the cathedral, it's become one of the essential stops for visitors to the area. Cruise ships often dock at nearby Invergordon and passengers are given the opportunity to take a bus trip to Dornoch to enjoy the sights and do a little shopping for unique gifts.

Dornoch Cathedral

Parts of the cathedral date back to the thirteenth century, when building was begun on the orders of Gilbert of Moravia, the Bishop of Caithness. The building was destroyed during feuding between local clans and most of the building that's there today dates to the early nineteenth century. The cathedral has three beautiful stained glass windows which were donated in memory of industrialist Andrew Carnegie who often spent his summers at Skibo Castle, four miles away.

The founder of the cathedral, Gilbert of Moravia, features in a local legend and it is said that he drove away a dragon which had been terrorising the county. Now known as St Gilbert, he was the last Scot to be given a place in the Calendar of Saints and his feast day is 1st April. There is a beautiful stained glass window dedicated to him in the cathedral which was installed on the 750th anniversary of the consecration of the original church.

The cathedral's most recent claim to fame is that it was the venue for Madonna and Guy Ritchie's wedding in December 2000. It's well worth a visit if you're in the area.

Where to Stay in Dornoch

The best place to stay is in the late 15th century Dornoch Castle which is now a hotel offering the best of Highland hospitality. It has beautiful deluxe rooms which are housed in the oldest part of the castle. It's right in the centre of town and within easy walking distance of the beach, Cathedral and Dornoch jail. Some of the rooms have incredible views over the sea, to the hills beyond.

People who aren't staying overnight can still experience the delights of the Dornoch Castle Hotel by paying a visit to the restaurant or the bar.


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  • hush4444 profile image

    hush4444 5 years ago from Hawaii

    You're right, I would never have imagined a sandy beach in the Scottish Highlands. Visiting Scotland is on my bucket list, and you've given me some new ideas of what to visit. I look forward to reading more.