Since Rowallan Castle, East Ayrshire, was taken into guardianship in 1950 there has been debate (some of it extremely heated) as to its future but now there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. The Scottish government will remove state guardianship to permit the castle’s owner to convert the castle into hotel accommodation as part of a wider scheme of development while maintaining the historic integrity of the building.
Rowallan castle photographed on a SCA visit - note ruined tower at extreme right
Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s Secretary for Culture said:
Change is inevitable and the important thing is how we manage this change - there has to be a balance between protection and innovation.
Nial Campbell, the castle’s owner added:
We’ve come a long way in getting to this point. 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 minimum intervention and in a sympathetic manner that is consistent with the building's history and cultural significance.
A detailed 30 year conservation plan has been drawn up and guardianship will only be rescinded once Scottish Ministers are satisfied that all these terms have been met.
Rowallan ground plan - old tower highlighted in red
This marks a sea change in historic building planning permission in Scotland and something that the SCA have long, long lobbied for. A building, to survive, must have a purpose, and it is hoped that Rowallan will be a pilot for other vulnerable sites.
Historic Scotland conducted a party from SCA around the site a couple of years ago but we were not allowed to stray from strict boundary lines such was the atmosphere prevailing at the time.
Rowallan consists of an early tower house, now reduced to its vaulted basement (red on the plan) and a splendid 16th century renaissance palace sporting a twin-towered entrance. This part has always been roofed so much of the interior work has been preserved.
Courtyard entrance - note walls should be harled
What better way to conclude but with the words of Neil Baxter, Secretary and Treasurer of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland?
The sympathetic restoration and adaptation of historic buildings
to new uses is in everyone's interests.
We all can say ‘Amen’ to that.
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Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle