Published: 16/06/2017 11:23 - Updated: 16/06/2017 11:24

Historic Castle Varrich to open soon following repair project

Castle Varrich
Castle Varrich

A DANISH billionaire has given a £200,000 "gift" to help restore one of the most iconic ruins in the Far North.

Castle Varrich overlooks both the Kyle of Tongue and the nearby village.

and enjoys stunning views over Ben Loyal and Ben Hope.

But the weather has taken its toll on the building, whose precise origins and age are unknown, and is on the Ben Loyal estate owned by wealthy clothing magnate and landowner Anders Holch Povlsen.

Now Mr Povlsen is personally paying £200,000 of the restoration bill, with Historic Scotland contributing the remaining £70,000.

Plans to roof over the ruin have been dropped from the scheme designed by leading conservation architect Nicholas Groves-Raines, who is based in Edinburgh.

Instead the crumbling lime and mortar walls will be repaired and a viewing platform installed.

Because of the castle’s position materials for the two-month job will be brought in over three days in October by helicopter. Thomas MacDonell, Director of Conservation for the estate’s Wildland Limited, said the work would ensure the castle is enjoyed by visitors "in 200 years time".

"For health and safety reasons there will be no access to it during the work. It will be cordoned off. A contractor has been appointed and work will begin in the next few weeks," he said.

"We had consulted on plans for the redevelopment of the estate at a meeting in Tongue earlier this year and the issue of Castle Varrich was raised then. It has stunning views and we looked at various options. But in the end it was decided not to have a roof on it. A viewing platform will form part of the works.

"Mr Povlsen is personally paying £200,000 towards the work as a gift to the community."

The structure is believed to be between 500 and 600 years old – though nobody is sure, with some claiming it extends back 1000 years. The ancient seat of the chief of the Clan Mackay was at Castle Varrich and the Mackays may have built their castle on top of an existing old Norse fort.

Michael Simpson, Chairman Tongue Community Council, welcomed the renovation.

"People have been concerned about the state it has deteriorated to, so this work is very welcome news," he said. Castle Varrich is vital to the area.

"It is very important in bringing tourists to Tongue and has a spectacular location.

"The community council has been encouraging those involved to get on with the work since the castle was damaged in the storm of February 2014."

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