Historic castle needs £2.5m of work

A HISTORIC Highland castle that has been closed to the public because of safety concerns needs £2.5 million of work to save it from further decline.

Historic Scotland commissioned reports on the condition and historical significance of Castle Tioram in Moidart, which has been at the centre of a dispute for seven years.

Its owner, Lex Brown, a millionaire Scottish businessman, wants to restore it and live there, but Historic Scotland favours the building being conserved as a ruin.

Initial findings by the government body’s architects say the landmark requires at least 500,000 to be spent over the next two years to make stonework safe and a further 2 million in the next decade to ensure the building’s survival even in its ruined state.

A separate study by Dr Tom McNeill, senior lecturer in archaeology at Queens University in Belfast, confirmed Tioram’s importance as a seat of Gaelic lordship.

Mr Brown said: "Historic Scotland’s own architects have confirmed the poor condition of the building and the need for extensive, costly consolidation work if it is to be saved for future generations. Dr McNeill has also confirmed that the castle is important first and foremost as a stronghold of the Lordship of the Isles, not as some sort of hazy Victorian ruin."

Mr Brown plans to submit a new application for scheduled ancient monument consent early in the new year.

Mr Brown’s company, Anta Estates, beat strong competition, including a bid from the Clanranald Castle Tioram Trust, to buy the castle in 1997 for 100,000.

After the purchase, Mr Brown announced a 4.5 million plan to restore the 13th-century structure to its condition prior to 1715, the year it was torched by a clan chief to stop it falling into enemy hands. This would include a new roof, a residential flat and a clan museum.

Historic Scotland turned down Mr Brown’s proposal, saying it was detrimental to the fabric of the monument and to its cultural significance. A public inquiry was held, which refused consent, and that decision was backed by the Scottish Executive in February 2002.

Anta lodged revised plans, but Historic Scotland sent them back, saying they were "essentially the same" as the earlier application. Mr Brown had planned to take the issue to the Court of Session, before deciding it would take too long and cost too much.

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