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PICTURES: Prince Charles marks 150th anniversary of Dunrobin Castle Station and tours castle gardens

By Caroline McMorran

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Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay paid a visit to Dunrobin Castle Station yesterday to mark the 150th anniversary of the Duke of Sutherland's Railway.

Sutherland Lord Lieutenant Dr Monica Main greeted the prince and presented the Earl of Sutherland to him.

A reception was held on the station's platform when Prince Charles met representatives of the railway industry and the neighbouring castle as well as other guests.

Honorary station master Daniel Brittain-Catlin gave his Royal Highness a tour of the station.

Prince Charles unveiled two plaques, one from the National Transport Trust commemorating the 150th anniversary and another marking his visit.

After visiting the station, His Royal Highness toured Dunrobin Castle’s formal gardens.

He was welcomed by The Earl of Sutherland and introduced to Iain Crisp, head gardener for Dunrobin Castle.

Prince Charles took a short walk around the gardens with the Countess of Sutherland before being invited to take tea on the Coronation lawn.

Before leaving, he met local volunteers who had helped in their communities during lockdowns over the last 18 months.

The Duke of Sutherland’s Railway is the only part of the national rail network to have been planned, financed and opened by one person.

Running from Golspie to Helmsdale, it opened on 16 May 1871.

In September 1870 an isolated section some 17 miles long opened from Dunrobin to West Helmsdale (the temporary terminus). This was opened in September 1870 by HRH Princess Helena, daughter of Queen Victoria.

Intermediate stations were opened at Brora and later Loth.

Dunrobin station (including platform and building) remains in the ownership of the Sutherland Estate and is believed to be the only such station on the network.

Trains to Dunrobin are operated by Scotrail’s Far North Line service which runs between Inverness-Thurso/Wick.

The station is situated at the top of the drive leading to Dunrobin Castle and open to the public throughout the castle season from April-October. In 2019/20 it was used by 1240 passengers.

The cost of the railway was a remarkably cheap £5007 per mile, as the Duke did not have to buy the land. The equivalent sum today for the whole line would be approx £10.5million.

The station was used exclusively by the Sutherland family and guests from 1871 until the second world war. After the war it was opened to the general public but was closed (to the public) in 1965 under the Beeching cuts.

In 1985 it reopened on summer Sundays, but now has a full service when the castle is open.

The station has always been a request stop and intending passengers need to hold their arm out to the train driver, like a bus stop. The original low platform is still in use and boxes with three steps are provided so passengers can reach the level of the train.

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