The future of our castles depends on the actions taken by each property's stakeholders and the outcomes can vary. Here we take a look at two castles whose futures are being shaped by two very different approaches to their care.
In June 2020 Braemar Castle was awarded £35,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to ensure that plans for its restoration can continue despite it being closed to visitors during the pandemic.
The money will enable the Braemar Community Ltd group to carry out essential conservation starting in September 2021, a year later than anticipated.
A classic example of how things should be done.
Braemar castle was built in 1628 but burnt in 1689 by the Jacobites to deny it to King William. It lay in ruin until 1748, when, in the aftermath of the ’45, it was requisitioned as a government garrison for a rent of £17 per annum. To this period belong the incongruous ‘battlements’ on the turrets and the star-shaped curtain wall loopholed for muskets. In 1831 the garrison was withdrawn and the castle reverted to a residence.
In 2010, after 15 years of operation, Loudoun Castle Theme Park was found to be no longer viable and closed. It has remained shut until the present day.
The centrepiece of the park, set in 400 acres, is the magnificent Loudoun Castle, a gothic edifice of 1804 at whose heart is a tower house. It is listed Category A as of ‘National Importance”.
The Park has had several owners, none of whom seem to have found satisfactory solutions despite investments totalling several millions of pounds.
Its closure was blamed on the high rate of VAT and the rise of alternative attractions in the vicinity such as the new Burns Centre in Ayr and the Transport Museum in Glasgow.
In 2014, four years after the Park closed, plans were submitted for a massive £450 million housing and leisure development. These included the stabilisation of the castle and the prospect of it becoming a 5-star hotel.
The application was turned down by the local council and again after a public enquiry. The Scottish Government claimed that there was ‘no certainty’ that the plans would allow the castle to be restored.
East Ayrshire Council are in favour of some kind of leisure development but require that the castle be included.
There appears to be no way forward and in the meantime the castle lies fenced off and open to the elements.
A classic example of how things should NOT be done.
Loudoun Castle is mentioned in 1447 but this could have been the earlier motte and bailey. A tower house was in existence by the late 15th century. This was a massive structure with walls 2.5m thick rising four storeys from a vaulted basement. It was further extended in the 17th century.
In 1650 Loudoun was besieged and captured by Cromwellian forces under the command of General Monk, later instrumental in the restoration of Charles II.
Plans for a new castle for the Countess of Loudoun were drawn up in 1805 the costs of which were to reach the dizzy sum of £100,000.
Her castle was a massive structure with over 90 rooms and dominated by a tall tower upon the remains of the old. Money ran out and the Countess had to curtail her plans for a huge banqueting hall.
Its nemesis came in 1942 when fire gutted the building leaving it an empty shell.
Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.
* Photographs by Scottish Castles Association member John Pringle.
** "Loudoun Castle" by Clyde_REV is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, click here.
Visit our Skills and Trades Section