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.