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Culture Minister Launches Scottish Castles Initiative

3 May 2009

Michael Russell and John Brennan at Barholm Castle

A major project to identify castles and tower-houses which could be suitable for future restoration and development to drive economic investment and tourism to Scotland during the current climate, was announced by Culture Minister Michael Russell today (Sunday, 3 May) at newly restored Barholm Castle.

The initiative, being taken forward by Historic Scotland and the first of its kind to be prepared by the Scottish Government, aims to encourage financial investment in and refurbishment of Scotland’s built heritage during the economic downturn. It will also provide advice on process, good practices and exemplars of similar projects in the past with the aim of re-using and revitalising existing buildings.

Michael Russell said: “The restoration of carefully selected Scottish castles and tower-houses will contribute to a sustainable approach to ensuring that Scotland’s historic buildings play a role in the economic development of this country. Investment in such projects, whether it’s to create rented apartments, a hotel – a great opportunity within the tourism industry - or another commercial enterprise will merge the rebuilding of Scotland’s economy with innovative new ways to manage our heritage. These castles can also make good homes.  

“We are tasked with preserving our country’s great architectural and natural heritage for future generations. Although management of the historic environment is a complex issue we, at the same time, should encourage investment and restoration for renewed use where that offers the best chance for a building’s sustainable future. Encouragingly, new uses for such buildings are varied and can prove, at this time of financial difficulty, to be economically beneficial.”

The main aims of the project are:

  • The preparation, maintenance and publishing of an online register of castles and tower-houses which demonstrate the characteristics that would enable a successful scheme for restoration to be developed
  • A guide to castle and tower-house restoration drawing on Scottish exemplars, showing best practice and acting as a resource pack for prospective owners and developers
  • A publication outlining the history of castle and tower-house restoration in Scotland
  • Identification of exemplary projects based to allow further development of craft-skills, best practice and public understanding of the history of Scottish castles and tower-houses, their conservation and/or their restoration

Michael Russell added: “There is a long and successful tradition of castle restoration in Scotland and I fully believe there is potential for more. I know we can make the process of gaining consent and taking forward such projects – where restoration is appropriate and viable - effective and transparent as possible.

“Scotland’s historic environment is something the country should be especially proud of and should celebrate. It is part of our culture, communities, education, and, in the Year of Homecoming, is integral to tourism. Furthermore, we must understand that heritage is part of the future including developments and economic growth.  This initiative will contribute to that goal.”

John Brennan, owner of Barholm Castle who showed the Minister around the recently restored project, said: “Today’s announcement is a welcome step for anyone who has the desire to restore a ruined castle. My wife and I fell in love with Barholm Castle and we were determined to find a means to restore it. The journey of purchasing, applications, grants and the works themselves can be a long and complex process. Castle restoration needs expertise, time and funding and we were grateful for the financial help which Historic Scotland gave us.”

“The Castle Initiative by Historic Scotland will provide people with guidance, advice and the expertise which is needed for castle restoration to become a more transparent, flexible and ultimately more successful process which will encourage more people to make the move towards restoration in Scotland.”

Historic Scotland has begun the first phase of the project, which is to carry out an audit of prospective buildings suitable for the list and to discuss the inclusion of buildings with their prospective owners. The launch of the preliminary list is expected by June 2009.   

Notes for editors

  • A press pack with case studies of castle restoration is available  

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit www.historic-scotland.gov.uk


  • Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations

For further information


Lisa Nicholson
Communications and Media Manager
Communications and Media
0131 668 8852 or 07500 065 438
lisa.nicholson@scotland.gsi.gov.uk