ONE of Scotland’s best-known island visitor attractions is set to close its doors for at least 18 months for a multi-million-pound overhaul.
Brodick Castle on Arran, which was once home to one of Scotland’s wealthiest families, will get its biggest-ever makeover and will include holiday accommodation when it reopens in 2018.
Extensive fire safety works are to be carried out to protect the castle’s vast art collection, the biggest in the care of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), which is responsible for the site, which it describes as the “quintessential Victorian Highland estate”.
Other work includes extensive roof repairs, the installation of a biomass heating system and the conversion of spaces on the top floor of the castle into four holiday apartments.
NTS is also pressing ahead with plans to generate micro hydro electricity at two sites in the vast grounds of the castle, as well as the creation of a new adventure playground at the site, Britain’s only island country park.
The work on the trust’s next big “signature project” is aimed at securing the long-term future of the castle, which sits in a striking location overlooking the Firth of Clyde and with the backdrop of Arran’s Goat Fell mountain.
The £5 million project is being planned more than half a century after NTS inherited the property from the Hamilton family, which had owned it since the early 16th century.
Trust officials believe the castle and its grounds have “outstanding heritage value” and have described its collection as being among the most significant in its care.
However, Scotland on Sunday revealed two years ago that a masterplan was being drawn up for Brodick Castle and the surrounding estate after it emerged they were being run by NTS at a loss of up to £450,000 a year.
A detailed masterplan has been drawn up since then and some elements have already been rolled out, including the installation of “camping pods” in the grounds, repairs to the gardens following an outbreak of the “sudden oak death” disease, and new polytunnels and allotment spaces.
The proposed closure is to run from October 2017 to March 2019.
The charity’s new chief executive Simon Skinner, who was appointed in May, has pledged that NTS will focus on increasing its current 347,000-strong membership, cutting operating costs and boosting fundraising efforts.
A spokeswoman for the trust said: “A huge range of planning and research work has taken place over the last few years to identify the scope and scale of opportunities at Brodick Castle.
“Next steps for the project are currently being planned as part of a wider review instituted by the chief executive in the last few weeks.
“Later this year our board of trustees will discuss the phasing of further activity at Brodick in the longer term, including the significant level of fundraising required.”