Picturesque ruin is here to stay

I READ your article by Tom Peterkin 'Earl urged to protect "cursed" Rait Castle from ruin' (News, 28 March), with some surprise and would like to clear up a few of its glaring inaccuracies for your dwindling readership.

For a start, the castle is already a ruin and has been so for as long as our family has owned it. It was bought in the summer of '32, that is 1532, so the gentle decay it has been experiencing during the intervening period cannot really be classed as news. I trust this also clears up the "confusion" you reported about its ownership.

Secondly, I have never been "urged" by anyone to protect Rait from the condition it is already in. There is just one letter from Mr Cunningham in our files dated 14 June, 2000, addressed to the managing agent. That same year, in connection with this correspondence, we received a copy of a letter from the Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Dr Rutherford, at Historic Scotland noting that the castle was in "remarkably good condition". It is true that not very much has changed since.

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To remove any vegetation off the walls is a technical matter and, although not at all complicated, requires the consent of Historic Scotland. Historic Scotland appears to regard this problem as minor, and consequently for the time being Cawdor Estate have not taken the matter further. Suffice to say, if we were at liberty to undertake freely the work ourselves it probably would have been done years ago.

Ultimately I believe Mr Cunningham's concern is more to do with access for his business Clans and Castles, in other words, clearing some of the undergrowth so that his tourist groups can have an easier time of it. This is what Historic Scotland rightly calls "gardening" and while I might be willing to assist Mr Cunningham with his enterprise on this front I am not particularly impressed with the way he is going about soliciting for help.

It is often the fate of romantic ruins to be in a state of picturesque decay, and I daresay there will always be some hand-wringer who will see this as merely a maintenance problem rather than as a source of mystery and beauty.

I hazard that Rait Castle, regardless of Mr Cunningham's moaning, is deteriorating at a slower pace than, say, newspaper circulation in the UK and it will still be standing long after your last edition has been printed and the presses have been delivered to the scrapyard.

Earl Cawdor, via e-mail