Rescued castle to open its doors

ONE of Scotland’s hidden architectural gems, the historic Guthrie Castle in Angus, saved from property developers and restored to its former glory, is to be opened to the public.

The ancient seat of Clan Guthrie, the castle was built in 1468 by Sir David Guthrie, Lord Treasurer and Armour Bearer to King James III.

The historic keep, which was added to over the centuries, remained in the hands of the Guthrie family until it was sold to a property developer in the 1983, following the death of the last male chieftain, Colonel Ivan Guthrie of that Ilk.

Guthrie Castle had been destined to become the focal point of a timeshare development, but was saved to continue its days as a family home by Mr. Dan Pea, a multi-millionaire American entrepreneur.

Mr Pea has spent the past 19 years restoring the 55-roomed castle and its 156-acre estate to its former glory.

And yesterday he spoke of his decision to open a new chapter in the story of his "fairytale castle", allowing members of the public through the doors for the first time.

Mr Pea is the chairman of the UK-based financial services company Guthrie Group - which he named after the castle - and made his fortune as the president and chief executive of Great Western Resources, a Houston-based natural resources company he started with only $820, transforming it into a $445 million business in just eight years.

He explained that he fell in love with Scotland and Guthrie Castle while searching for a home from which he could pursue his lifelong passion for golf. "I was just completely blown away when I first saw the castle," he said. "I was planning to retire and I wanted to be near the home of golf, St Andrews, and all the great golf courses in Scotland. The castle was just what we wanted for our home, but it was in quite a state of disrepair."

Mr Pea said: "I think the people here saw us as some kind of saviours, but for us restoring the castle was a labour of love. There was a lot of unemployment in the area at the time and the renovations that we did involved having a full construction team working at the castle for pretty much a year. We employed a lot of people."

The castle, he said, was blighted by dry rot, wet rot and rising damp and the grounds left completely overgrown.

The major renovation work, carried out in the first year, was the first of a three-phase scheme to completely restore the castle and its 55 rooms to their former glory. The castle’s estate has also been transformed, a 17th century walled garden fully restored, the loch beside the castle restocked with fish, cottages on the estate renovated and the grounds once again carefully manicured.

In 1995, to celebrate his 50th birthday, Mr Pea laid out an 18 hole golf course on the estate, and in 1997 a chapel was created from existing rooms in one of the castle’s wings .

"We have easily spent millions on the work here, but we have created one of the best appointed estates in Great Britain," he said. "I’m really proud of what we have achieved here and the legacy I will leave."

Now, after almost 20 years at the castle, he has decided to share his home with strangers. Mr Pea explained: "I was always concerned about security when my three children were here growing up and I was much more in the public eye than I am now.

"But now that my children are all back living in America, I want people to see what we have achieved. It is a great treasure and I want to share it."

The castle and its grounds are now being made available for wedding parties, corporate functions and for group bookings. And members of Clan Guthrie are expected to return to visit their ancient family seat in two year’s time to see first hand the completed restoration of the castle.

Mr Pea added: "I am going to have lot of fun seeing people enjoying what we have done here. But what really appeals to me about the history of the place is that King James III, who paid the grant to Sir David Guthrie to build the castle, is the same King James who banned golf because people were spending too much time playing on the links instead of practising their archery. The fact that I've now got a golf course here is a sweet sort of revenge."