​​​​​​​Inverness Castle transformation – project update

The Highland Council today announced further details in progress towards the planned transformation for Inverness Castle which will begin after the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service vacate the building in a few weeks’ time.

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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. A Preliminary Ecological Assessment (PEA) will be undertaken over the next three months.
  6. In the absence of a local access panel, a meeting is planned with the recently formed group ‘HighAbility’, prior to the Planning Application process.
  7. A landscape architect has been appointed and is working on initial designs for the castle surroundings.

Provost of Inverness and Area, Cllr 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.”

Notes for editors

  1. The transformation of Inverness Castle is a Highland Council project, managed by High Life Highland on behalf of The Highland Council. The Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, VisitScotland, Scottish Development International, Historic Environment Scotland, and Scottish Natural Heritage are partners in the project.
  2. A delivery group, chaired by the Provost of Inverness and the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, leads the project.
  3. Inverness Castle building will become available for development after the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service moves to the new Inverness Justice Centre and the south tower of the castle comes into the ownership of The Highland Council, currently planned for 1 May 2020.
  4. The visitor attraction will add to the tourism offer in the area by creating a must-see visitor attraction that celebrates the spirit of the Highlands past, present and future, including its creativity, well-being, culture, heritage and natural environment.
  5. The vision for the project includes:
  • The Castle Viewpoint - already complete and open to the public
  • New galleries to bring national and international exhibitions to the Highlands
  • New museum displays celebrating the culture and heritage of the Highlands
  • New visitor attractions showcasing all areas of the Highlands
  • Shops, restaurants, bars and cafes promoting the best of Highland crafts and produce
  • The development of public spaces within the Castle esplanade
  • Potential new hotel accommodation in the vicinity of the development
  1. It is planned that the project will be delivered in three phases.
  • Phase 1: Focus on the Castle buildings (North and South Tower)
  • Phase 2: New museum, gallery and visitor attraction
  • Phase 3: Bridge Street.
  1. A previous update in August 2019 noted the following proposed changes to the Castle buildings:
  • Reinstate the original front door of the South Tower as the formal entrance to Inverness Castle
  • Introduce a single-storey infill in the courtyard between the South and North Towers, linking the buildings for the first time
  • Improve the external spaces around the buildings
  • Protect the volume and proportions of the original Court Room
  • Remove later addition partitions from the South and North Towers, restoring the plan to a series of fewer, larger, spaces
  • Improve universal access throughout the buildings
  • Rationalise support facilities, such as plant and toilets, into one or two places in both building
  1. Note: all plans for transformation of the castle buildings are subject to receiving the necessary permissions.
20 Feb 2020