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A handsome little town on the east coast above Inverness, Dornoch offers a historic setting, with attractive mellowed sandstone townhouses, proximity to good wildlife coastal sites, and also one of Scotland’s finest golf courses.

Dornoch – the ‘St Andrews of the North’

An ancient religious centre, Bishop Gilbert de Moravia (that is, ‘of Moray’) chose Dornoch as the centre of his bishopric. By 1245, a cathedral stood here, in turn wrecked by a clan feud of 1570. Partly restored to serve as a parish church, further restoration was funded by Elizabeth, Duchess of Sutherland, whose family is otherwise associated with the notorious Highland Clearances.

The town achieved international recognition in 2000 when the singer Madonna had her son christened in the Cathedral, a day later marrying at nearby Skibo Castle (once the home of Andrew Carnegie).

The 16th century palace of the bishops close to the cathedral survives today as the Dornoch Castle Hotel. A less happy link with the past is the stone marking the site of the burning of the last witch in Scotland in 1722.

The linking of St Andrews with Dornoch comes from the parallels in the story of the two towns – both religious centres by the shore, with sandy links ideal for golf.

Bypassed by the A9 road, Dornoch is well worth exploring, especially for its attractive town environment, with the local sandstone adding to the warm and picturesque appearance.

Accommodation in Dornoch:

Dornoch has a choice of quality hotel accommodation, for example, within easy reach of the golf course, with a larger range of bed and breakfast and guest house type establishments in the town. Self catering is an especially strong sector, both in the town and in secluded rural settings nearby, sometimes with sea views. There is an excellent choice of caravan and camping parks near the town.

Attractions in and around Dornoch »

The story of the town is told in Dornoch’s own comprehensive Historylinks Museum (behind the Dornoch Castle Hotel). Dornoch has fine beaches within easy reach on both sides of the town, with the national nature reserve of Loch Fleet, to the north, offering plenty of birdwatching opportunities, with both tidal and woodland habitats. Short excursions from Dornoch will soon bring the visitor to the Glenmorangie Distillery, which offers tours. The old burgh of Tain is nearby, where the Tain through Time exhibition tells the story of this old place of pilgrimage. North of Dornoch, by Golspie, Dunrobin Castle is open to view, as the largest house in the north of Scotland.

Activities in and around Dornoch »

Though golf is the main activity for visitors to Dornoch there are plenty of other options. There are a number of trout lochs within easy reach and there is an active local angling club. There is a good choice of local walks – with the town’s award winning beaches at the head of the list. The shore environment is a challenge for photographers, with photogenic seals and seabirds.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club »

Records of golf being played on the naturally short coastal turf and dunes here go back to the early 17th century. The present club was formed in 1877.The championship course was laid out by the famous designer Old Tom Morris. Since then a host of famous names have praised it and the course is regularly ranked in the top 15 worldwide. Visitors are welcome on the two courses here (Championship and Struie).

Events in and around Dornoch »

Dornoch has an ongoing events programme with regular features such as pipe band performances, ceilidh nights and farmers’ markets. The year also starts with a popular street party on Hogmanay night. The town’s Highland Games are held in early August and its Festival Week is also around the same time.
For further information see