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Castle Conservation Register


The Castle Conservation Register identifies ruined castles and tower houses that we believe could be successfully restored and reused. The register is not definitive; there will certainly be other castles or tower houses that might be candidates for restoration.

The Register provides guidance on the factors that Historic Scotland takes into account when it responds to proposals for restoration.

Historic Scotland is not actively proposing the castles on the register for restoration but hopes that by drawing attention to cases where we believe restoration is acceptable in principle, it will encourage suitable schemes to come forward.

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Your Questions Answered

What is the Castle Conservation Register
What criteria has Historic Scotland used to choose the castles of the Register?
Will restoration of a castle on the Register be automatically acceptable?
Does the Register provide ownership details?
Will the Register be updated?
Can I visit the castles on the Register?
Can I buy any of the castles on the Register?
How do I go about restoring a castle?
Can castles only be restored as family dwelling?
Will there be grants available if I want to restore a castle?
Is restoration the only way  to conserve a ruined castle?
What is a scheduled monument?
What is a listed building?
Who should I contact if I have any further questions regarding the Castle Conservation Register?

What is the Castle Conservation Register

The Castle Conservation Register highlights ruined castles and tower houses that could be successfully restored and reused. The register offers guidance on the factors that Historic Scotland considers when it responds to proposals for restoration.

The register is not definitive; there will be other castles/towers that could be potential candidates for restoration and not all castles on the list are likely to come forward for restoration schemes. The majority of the castles on the Register are not for sale.


The Register represents only Historic Scotland’s view on whether a castle/tower house is an appropriate candidate for restoration. A restoration scheme will require a number of consents. If you are considering a restoration project you should also seek advice from the local planning authority. It is the local planning authorities that give planning and listed building consent.

What criteria has Historic Scotland used to choose the castles of the Register?

Historic Scotland has considered castles and tower houses in Scotland that are either scheduled or listed (see 12 and 13 below). We used a number of criteria to compile the register. These are briefly set out below.  

  • Is the cultural significance of the castle/tower so important that anything beyond works to preserve it in its current condition should be regarded as unacceptable?
  • Can it be restored in a way that would preserve the important values of the castle/tower for future generations?
  • Can it be restored without detracting from what is important about the castle/tower?
  • If the changes could detract from the cultural significance of the castle or tower, would the public benefits of such changes be outweighed by increased access or understanding, or of wider economic benefits?
  • Is the castle/tower complete enough, or sufficiently well documented, for it to be restored without speculation about its original form?
  • Can the castle/tower be restored without major alterations or additions that would affect its character?
  • Is the castle/tower currently without a function such as a public amenity or a visitor attraction?
  • What are the current and foreseeable risks to the condition of castle/tower, and what is the possibility of alternative approaches – ones that would result in less change to the castle/tower – emerging within the foreseeable future?

Central to the thinking behind these criteria is the likely impact on what we call the cultural significance of the castle/tower.

Cultural significance helps us to assess the value of places (buildings, ruins, archaeological sites, landscapes etc) that provide us with an understanding of the past. A variety of characteristics are considered when judging the cultural significance of a place. These can include: the condition of a place (both above and below ground remains); its research potential; its original function; its rarity or representativeness; the historic and social context in which it developed; its aesthetic characteristic and its the associations the monument has with important historical characters or events. The cultural significance of a place can change as we learn more about it or other places that share its characteristics. Further information on cultural significance can be found in the Scottish Historic Environment Policy

Will restoration of a castle on the Register be automatically acceptable?

Restoration of a castle on the register will not be automatically acceptable, and will depend on the merits and sensitivity of the proposals. All proposals are assessed on their merits.

Any proposal to restore a castle/tower will require a number of consents, including planning permission, building warrants and either scheduled monument consent or listed building consent depending on the designation. Anyone considering restoration of a particular castle/tower should seek the advice of local planning authority and of Historic Scotland at all stages of the project. It should be stressed that pre-application discussions are of great value in ensuring that an appropriate approach to the project is taken from the start, and in identifying potential difficulties.

Does the Register provided ownership details?

No. However, Historic Scotland can pass on correspondence to the owner where he/she has indicated a willingness to enter into discussions.

Will the Register be updated?

Yes. The register will be updated when and if castles/towers on the register are restored or conserved, and if it is felt it might be helpful to add other examples.

Can I buy any of the castles on the Register?

The Register identifies a number of ruined castles/towers that might be successfully reused, rather than to propose specific candidates for restoration.  However, where Historic Scotland is aware that a building is being actively marketed by an owner this will be identified on the Register.

Can I visit any of the castles on the Register?

The majority of the castles on the Register are not for sale at present. All of the castles on the register are in private ownership. If you would like to visit a castle you should always first seek the permission of the owner.

How do I go about restoring a castle?

Always seek expert advice at the earliest possible opportunity, and preferably before purchase. This process should involve seeking the advice of the local planning authority and of Historic Scotland, as well as that of qualified conservation architect with proven experience of such work. It is almost certain that the services of archaeologists, quantity surveyors, and structural engineers will also have to be sought. At an early stage of the process a feasibility study and a conservation plan are likely to be invaluable tools in determining if the project is viable, and if the potential restorer has the means to carry out the work. Further information can be found out about conservation plans at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/conservation-plans.pdf.

It is essential not to underestimate the length of time a restoration project will require, nor the likely cost of working on a historic masonry structure that may be at least partly in a highly fragile state and which could have a high archaeological potential both below ground and within the structure itself.

Historic Scotland will be producing a guide to castle restoration so please keep consulting our website.

Can castles only be restored as family dwelling?

The majority of castles that have been restored have been as homes, and many make very comfortable, convenient and interesting houses. However, some are too large or too small and in such cases other uses may be more appropriate.

Several small towers have been restored to provide holiday accommodation, while larger towers have been restored as exclusive-use venues. Many others have some form of commercial purpose, even when the main use of the building is as family home. Thought should be given to its proposed future use, and a feasibility study will help in this process. If such a use requires major changes to the historic fabric or character of a castle, such as significant additions/alterations or the loss of original fabric, it is likely that the proposal is not right for that building.

Will there be grants available if I want to restore a castle?

Historic Scotland’s Historic Building Repair Grants Scheme offers financial help towards certain costs. These include high-quality repairs using traditional materials and specialist craftsman as part of the process of conserving original features in buildings of special architectural or historic interest. However, there is considerable competition for the limited funds available, and the inclusion of a building on the Register does not imply that it will be automatically eligible for grant aid.  Further information on grants can be found here.

The Architectural Heritage Fund has established an on-line guide to grants,.

Is restoration the only way to conserve a ruined castle?

No. Many ruined castles are conserved as they are, preserving their ruined appearance in the landscape. This may be more appropriate for castles that have a particular value as a ruin. This may be because they make a contribution as a landscape feature, and/or their ruined condition may relate to an important moment in history, and/or the castle may contain important architectural and archaeological information not readily recovered from other sites. In these and other cases preserving a castle as a ruin will often be preferable. This is because it leaves the evidence for their construction, form and use as it has come down to us. This evidence could be destroyed or almost permanently hidden by restoration.  However, it is recognised that for many castles and towers, restoration will offer a sustainable future.

What is a scheduled monument?

A scheduled monument is a one of national importance that Scottish Ministers have given legal protection under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

Once a monument is scheduled, the prior written consent of Scottish Ministers is required for works that would have any physical impact, including repairs. This is called scheduled monument consent (SMC). The presumption of scheduling is that any future works will be the minimum necessary consistent with the preservation of the monument.

Find out more information on scheduled monuments.

What is a listed building?

A listed building has been recognised by Scottish Ministers as being of special architectural or historical interest under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

Listing a building does not prevent change or development, but it does mean that consideration has to be given to preserving the particular character of the building.

Proposals to demolish, to alter or to extend a listed building in a way which would affect its character, requires listed building consent. The local planning authority, using the information and advice provided by Historic Scotland, decides whether proposals for change to a listed building are acceptable. In certain circumstances  Historic Scotland will be consulted by the local authority before they take a decision – for example, applications affecting category A and B listed buildings, proposing the demolition of C(S) listed buildings or unlisted buildings in Conservation Areas.

Find out more information about historic and listed buildings.

Who should I contact if I have any further questions regarding the Castle Conservation Register?

Contact the Scottish Castle Initiative at hs.scottishcastleinitiative@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.





Contact us

The Scottish Castle Initiative
Heritage Management Directorate
Historic Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
Edinburgh
EH9 1SH

Tel: 0131 668 8716