It’s the ruined 19th century country house once dubbed the ‘Windsor of Scotland’, but better known to a generation of Scots as the location of a long-closed theme park.
Now the developers behind the successful Titanic Quarter in Belfast could finally restore Loudoun Castle, a landmark property near Galston in East Ayrshire which burnt down in 1942.
The owners of the historic estate are hoping to strike a deal with Harcourt Developments, which could see the firm become a major part of a consortium aiming to push forward a £450m leisure and residential project.
The grounds have lain empty since the Loudoun Castle theme park closed in 2010, with pictures of the slowly deteriorating rides and attractions proving popular among online urban explorers.
But that could all change if the ambitious proposals win formal backing. A previous planning application to develop the site was rejected by East Ayrshire Council in May this year, but a final decision on whether to proceed lies with Scottish ministers after the project was called in.
Harcourt has indicated that, subject to a contract being put in place, the grant of a planning permission in principle would allow Loudoun Estate to become its next flagship project.
The A-listed castle would be brought back to life along with its landscaped gardens. The present house, designed by Archibald Elliot, is the result of a massive rebuilding programme from 1804-1811, which incorporated a 15th century keep and a later 17th century extension.
It was built for Flora Mure-Campbel, the daughter of the fifth Earl of Loudoun, and her husband Francis Rawdon-Hastings, first Marquess of Hastings.
The current planning application also seeks permission for the castle’s ultimate potential conversion to a new luxury hotel.
Outline planning application also envisages luxury holiday lodges, camping and a range of indoor sports facilities, including a tropical swimming lagoon.
A new community consisting of approximately 1,000 energy-efficient homes will be a key component of the development. It will provide the necessary funding for the stabilisation and restoration of the castle.
A planning inquiry will begin in Kilmarnock on October 23.
The Loudoun Woods consortium is headed by David Mace. He said: “Loudoun Castle will be an all-weather, world-class holiday destination, which will attract visitors from all over the UK, create major economic benefits for Ayrshire and become a core part of Scotland’s tourism offering.
“The fact that Harcourt is considering becoming part of the Loudoun Woods consortium and making a significant investment in Scotland, speaks volumes for the quality and international scope of what we are planning.
“We are looking forward to the planning inquiry and, given a positive decision by Scottish ministers, we are aiming to begin works in the summer of 2018 on a project that will transform the economy of this part of Scotland.”
READ MORE: Outdoors: Loudoun Castle, Ayrshire