Restore more Scottish castles

Restoring a Scottish castle is a recurring dream for many, but the reality can be a minefield of conservation politics. Michael Davis, an architectural historian and writer, has published a discussion document, The Scottish Castle Restoration Debate 1990-2012, in which he calls for a less bureaucratic approach; current planning processes can cost dispiritingly large amounts of money.

As a key example, Mr Davis cites the case of Castle Tioram in Moidart, where a ‘very respectable restoration scheme’ was opposed by Historic Scotland- a body currently undergoing reorganisation and facing funding cuts-at Public Inquiry. The castle ruin remains in a precarious state.

* Subscribe to Country Life this Christmas and receive a bottle of single malt

He points out that, although between 80 and 100 castles have been restored since the Second World War, hundreds remain in ruins. By the 1990s, he writes: ‘Scotland began to see the open emergence of what has been termed an “anti-restoration lobby”.

Recommended videos for you

A few voices from within the heritage establishment were beginning to question restorations of previous decades and even, in some cases, the principle.’ Mr Davis concludes that ‘a new Historic Scotland-smaller, more vital and served but no longer led by career administrators and executives-should have a clearly defined philosophy which is sympathetic to that which currently exists for listed buildings’.

He says: ‘What we perhaps do not need is more national planning guidelines, less flexibility and more bureaucracy… The chief aim of architectural conservation ought to be to live with the past, and not to live with the past in a glass box.’

The 78-page illustrated document costs £12.99 (including postage) from Spindrift Publishing, 79, Main Street, Ochiltree, Ayrshire KA18 2PE.

* Follow Country Life magazine on Twitter