Towering high above the River Shin, twenty miles northwest of Tain, the daunting neo-Gothic profile of Carbisdale Castle overlooks the Kyle of Sutherland, as well as the battlefield where the gallant Marquess of Montrose was defeated in 1650, finally forcing Charles II to accede to the Scots’ demand for Presbyterianism. The castle was erected between 1906 and 1917 for the dowager Duchess of Sutherland, following a protracted family feud. Designed in three distinct styles (to give the impression that it was added to over a long period of time), Carbisdale was eventually acquired by a Norwegian shipping magnate in 1933, and finally gifted, along with its entire contents and estate, to the SYHA, which has turned it into what must be one of the most opulent hostels in the world. Bring a bike to take advantage of the several miles of mountain-biking trails in the nearby Balblair and Carbisdale woods.
Thirty dorms and some family rooms in this opulent castle hostel, full of white Italian-marble sculptures, huge gilt-framed portraits, sweeping staircases and magnificent drawing rooms alongside standard facilities such as self-catering kitchens, games and TV rooms. You can tuck into a hearty three-course dinner (£11.50) at the restaurant before wandering the supposedly haunted corridors in search of ghosts. The best way to get here by public transport is to take a train from Inverness to nearby Culrain station.