When a press release dropped into my inbox for a forthcoming attic sale at Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland, I think my jaw also dropped, just ever so slightly. Sales like this don’t happen very often. A recent decluttering of the attics and cellars at the Scottish castle revealed generations of long forgotten treasures of domestic life. Prior to the sale on 20 April 2021, Bonhams auctioneers in Edinburgh have curated a selection of some of the 450 lots with an evocative set of photos.
The 25th Earl of Sutherland is Alistair Janson who inherited Dunrobin in 2019 when his mother, Elizabeth 24th Countess of Sutherland passed away. The castle has continued to be privately owned by the Earls and Dukes of Clan Sutherland for seven centuries and during those 700 years, the design of the castle has changed quite a bit in both size and form.
What we see today was remodelled by the architect Sir Charles Barry (whose work also included the Houses of Parliament in London) in 1845 and who finished the building three times larger in 1851 with conical spires more resonant of French chateau style. What hasn’t changed though is that view.
When it comes to the upstairs/downstairs contents of a romantic Scottish castle overlooking the sea, you don’t have to be Daphne Du Maurier or Julian Fellowes to be just a tiny bit captivated by the idea of an attic sale. The photos alone offer up more than enough material for any screenwriter or novelist. And that’s not to mention inspiration for set decorators and interior stylists …
Bonhams Director of House Sales, Charlie Thomas says “Many of the items have been hidden away in Dunrobin Castle for generations and have never been seen on the open market before.” All of which I am sure is going to excite worldwide interest from the likes of interior designers, antique dealers and expat Scots.
Capturing the castle
Several items have been evocatively photographed complete with atmospheric cobwebs, peeling paint and wallpaper in the attics and cellars where they were found. The lighting is nicely contrasty with some images in near darkness while others are flooded with light depending on which room in the castle the image was taken.
When you see the multiples of items in the images you start to understand a little of the scale of running a 189-room castle on a 120,000 acre Highland estate.
Treasures range from paintings, portraits and historical photographs to marble sculptures, crested dinner services and tartanware. There are more ordinary objects too such as stone marmalade jars. Prices range from £8,000 – £12,000 for a portrait of The Duke of Brunswick by the Dutch Golden Age portraitist Jan van Ravesteyn to £80 – £120 for a collection of pewter sugar moulds.
The sale will be previewed at Bonhams Auctioneers in London and Edinburgh on the following dates:
London – 101 New bond Street, Sunday 28 March to Thursday 1 April 2021 inclusive. A selection of lots will be featured.
Edinburgh – 22 Queen Street, Tuesday 13 April to Tuesday 20 April 2021 inclusive. The sale in its entirety will be on view. The sale takes place on Tuesday 20 April 2021.
Visit Dunrobin Castle
Please check the castle website for updates regarding when (due to Covid restrictions) the castle is due to re-open to visitors.
Scottish style interior moodboard
Finally, here is a Scottish-inspired scheme with a little French connection. The mood is pretty and light drawing on the hues of heather, sand and sea of the Sutherland coastline.
Thank you so much for reading.
I hope you have been inspired by the Dunrobin attic sale. I am a great believer that antiques play an important part not only for their personality but also for their sustainability in a decorating scheme. If I can be of any help with an interiors project, please don’t hesitate to take a look at my affordable interior design service Styling Box.
14 thoughts on “Dunrobin Castle attic sale”
Wow Charis! That’s all just so wonderful! Wish we could go to the sale! Maybe….
Would so love to, perhaps we could send Fergus as our agent …
Brilliant post Charis!
We went there in 1994 when we were doing a round Scotland road trip. Amazing place. Have you been?
How are you ? Hanging on OK I hope ?
I had my vaccine on Tuesday and Robert gets his tomorrow (long story as to how I got mine first!) … so things are looking up. Do hope we are able to meet again soon for a catch up. Lots of love XX
Jaine McCormack TEXTILE & INTERIOR DESIGN
07776 136561 WATLINGTON ARTWEEKS CO-ORGANISER http://www.jainemccormack.co.uk Instagram: @jainemcc @jainemcc.art @watlingtonart
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Ah, thank you Jaine. So lovely to hear from you and yes, I am hanging in and doing OK thank you. So pleased that you and Robert hopefully soon have been vaccinated. That must be such a relief.
I haven’t been to Dunrobin but it is on my ‘list’. I felt like I had though after pouring over these images but also others I found online. So inspiring and interesting. I know the beautiful North and West Sutherland coasts well so this is a treat to look forward to when things allow. With lots of love Cxx
how wonderful! Not sure about the squashed animal on that chair though…!
Thank you Sarah. No, not sure either!
I am of Sutherland descent. I’ve been to Scotland, not Dunrobin Castle though. Oh, what I would give for some of these lovelies! Thank you for this post, enjoyed it very much!
I am so pleased that this post touched a chord with you and thank you so much for getting in touch, that is very kind of you to leave a message.
I just read your wonderful post regarding the Attic sale of Dunrobin Castle! I haven’t been there, but would love to!my daughter went last year from Virginia in the USA, unfortunately Iwas not feeling well enough to go, my great grandfather, Alexander Sutherland was from there, as well as my Sutherland ancestors , traced back to the eleventh century!!! I’ve had my DNA done,last year, and so excited to learn about my fathers heritage, all from Sutherland and Caithness. I’m hoping maybe I could attend the auction via the Bonhams website. I live in Washington state in the USA. Thank you for the photographs of the items and your post! I would be thrilled if I could purchase even a small item of history!
I am so pleased that you found my post on Dunrobin, especially because you are an ancestor with a link to Sutherland. That is so wonderful that your daughter made it there last year but I am sorry that you weren’t able to. I will keep my fingers crossed that you are able to secure an item from the sale and do please let me know if you get lucky, I would love to know. I have lived in England all my life but like you, have roots in Scotland going back centuries. With very best wishes, Charis.
Great pictures. I love the gardens. As for the sale, I would definitely be partial to the historical photos, but the Tartanware is enticing, and is that a bunderbuss among the rifles? That sure will be some sale!
WoW! What a spectacular castle! A real upstairs/downstairs snapshot of a bygone age. So much history.
Isn’t it! A Scottish Downton perhaps …