First steps taken to turn East Ayrshire castle into top class tourist destination
Rowallan Old Castle in Kilmaurs, East Ayrshire is to be removed from state guardianship in a move which will pave the way for its conversion into a key feature of a top class tourist destination.
Announced by Scottish ministers on Friday, the move follows negotiations between Historic Scotland, Rowallan Castle’s owner Niall Campbell, and East Ayrshire Council.
The owner can now progress plans for the building’s sympathetic conversion into unique hotel accommodation, as part of the Rowallan Castle Golf Course and Country Club, while maintaining the historic integrity of the building.
Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture, Europe and external affairs was at the castle to make the announcement.
Ms Hyslop said: “One of the key priorities of Scotland’s recently introduced Historic Environment Strategy, Our Place in Time, is that we have to be ambitious and innovative in our approach to the historic environment. Change is an inevitable part of this and the important thing is how we manage this change – there has to be a balance between protection and innovation. I believe that, thanks to the collaborative working between local government, the castle owner and Historic Scotland, we’ve been able to achieve the correct balance and I look forward to seeing the re-use of the building acting as a catalyst for enhancing economic and social wellbeing in the area.
“Scottish Ministers remain absolutely committed to conserving Rowallan Old Castle as a nationally significant monument for future generations to enjoy. This step will pave the way for an innovative and productive partnership between the national agency, the local authority and the building’s owner which will be in the best interests of the monument and the local economy.”
Niall Campbell, the Castle’s owner said: “I’m absolutely delighted with today’s announcement. We’ve come a long way in getting to this point and there’s still a bit of work to be done. Thanks to positive discussions with Historic Scotland and East Ayrshire Council, I’m now in a position to progress with plans to convert the building into something which can be lived in, using minimal intervention, in a sympathetic manner that is consistent with the building’s history and cultural significance.
“The end result will be a wonderful new space for visitors to the area, which retains all of the features that make the castle so special, and will be a benefit to the local community for years to come. I’m sure that my distant relation, James Muir Campbell, who lived in the house seven generations ago, would be proud of what we’re trying to do.”
Councillor Douglas Reid, leader of East Ayrshire Council, said: “Tourism is key to the East Ayrshire economy, and an integral part of this Council’s economic development plan is to build on our existing tourist product. To that end we are delighted to be able to work with Mr Campbell to add another option for top class accommodation in the area. Building on the recent success story of Dumfries House, and the work we have done with Conservation Area Regeneration Schemes in all our major town centres, today’s announcement will undoubtedly add to East Ayrshire’s growing reputation for history, heritage and outdoor tourism, as well as creating jobs and bringing money into the area.”
Rowallan has attracted the wider attention of architects and experts in the heritage sector in recent years.
Neil Baxter, secretary and treasurer of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said: “The sympathetic restoration and adaptation of historic buildings to new uses is in everyone’s interests. It recognises that such buildings provide literal touchstones to our shared past, ensures their preservation for future generations to enjoy, provides employment and helps deliver a viable economic future for Scotland’s communities. It is often challenging to achieve all of this, but undoubtedly worth the effort.”
Mr Campbell’s proposal includes converting the Old Castle into an exclusive annex of the current 5 star Rowallan Castle and Golf Country Club. The annex will comprise of 4 double bedrooms, dining room, lounge gallery and lounge sitting room (solar). Work is expected to get underway in Summer 2015 and take around 12 months to complete.
In order to provide for the future conservation and management of the building a detailed, 30 year conservation plan has been agreed upon, which includes conservation and maintenance stipulations as well as public access requirements. The plan was proposed by Mr Campbell and prepared by leading conservation architects with experience of working with historical buildings. The agreement is legally binding and would apply to any future owner or owners of the building during the 30 year period. Guardianship will only be rescinded once Scottish ministers are satisfied that all these terms have been met.
Rowallan Old Castle dates from the 13th – 18th centuries and lies close to Kilmaurs, East Ayrshire. It is situated within the grounds of Rowallan Castle Golf and Country Club. The site consists of the ruined remains of historic structures and an important 16-18th roofed and habitable domestic range.
Scottish ministers are guardians of Rowallan Old Castle by virtue of a Guardianship Agreement dating back to 1950, when it was passed into State care by the Rowallan family. Guardianship gives ministers the responsibility for repair and maintenance as well as presentation of a site. Historic Scotland currently look after the castle on behalf of Scottish ministers.