Inverness Castle to be at the heart of Highland tourism

The planned transformation for Inverness Castle which will begin in a few weeks’ time.

The Highland Council has announced further details in progress towards revamping the historic building, after the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service vacate the building.

The castle project will be a gateway for Highland tourism and is a vital part of the regeneration of Inverness city centre. The project will support economic growth in the city and throughout the Highland area, creating a sustainable, viable and must-see attraction that will celebrate the spirit of the Highlands’ past, present and future, including its creativity, well-being, culture, heritage and natural environment.

The project forms part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region deal. The City-Region deal is a joint initiative supported by up to £315m investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, HIE and University of the Highlands and Islands, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth.

The update at today’s City of Inverness and Area Committee will include the following:

  • The enabling works contract for transformation of Inverness Castle will go to tender in May 2020. The enabling works will involve demolition work, asbestos surveys, timber preservation surveys and structural checks.
  • The enabling works will involve making several statutory applications, listed building consent, building warrant, demolition warrant and a change of use application during the period between March and June 2020.
  • The Highland Council has been working on potential energy solutions for the property, looking at long term energy efficiencies. This involves looking at potential energy sources for the short and long-term future.
  • The hoardings for screening the castle buildings during the construction period will be put in place following the doors open days in May, will remain in place for the duration of the enabling contract works, and will then be adjusted as required for the main contract. A planning application for this will be submitted in March 2020.

A Preliminary Ecological Assessment (PEA) will be undertaken over the next three months.

In the absence of a local access panel, a meeting is planned with the recently formed group ‘HighAbility’, prior to the planning application process.

A landscape architect has been appointed and is working on initial designs for the castle surroundings.

Provost of Inverness and Area, Councillor Helen Carmichael, said: ‘The Inverness Castle project is vital to the regeneration of our city centre and the wider tourism economy of the Highland region. I am pleased that we are able to share more detail on what is planned.

‘I am especially delighted that we will be aiming to improve accessibility, both within the historic building and around the grounds which provide terrific views of the city and beyond. I am excited at the future prospects of Inverness Castle becoming a ‘must-see’ attraction that will draw visitors to the Highlands.’

Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing, who co-chairs the Inverness Castle Delivery Group, said: ‘We want to see a new life for the castle that builds on its existing attraction, offering visitors and locals alike a quality offering that encourages tourists to both visit and stay longer in the area.

‘Tourism is not just a key part of the local economy but a key driver of growth across Scotland and I am very keen that Inverness Castle finds a new life that benefits the Highlands and Scotland as a whole.

‘The money for the castle is part of the Scottish Government’s wider £135 million Inverness City Deal funding, which should help to accelerate the delivery of long-term aspirations held by the Scottish Government and The Highland Council, the impact of which could help increase the population, create thousands of jobs and help to up-skill the local labour market.’

UK minister for Scotland Douglas Ross said: ‘These are exciting plans for the Highlands. As a major tourist attraction, with stunning views of this beautiful city, I look forward to seeing the next phase of the castle’s transformation.

‘The UK Government is investing more than £1.4 billion in City Region and Growth Deals across Scotland. This programme is creating thousands of jobs and opportunities and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government to make sure these reach every part of Scotland.’