Inverness Castle transformation - next step forward

Inverness Castle
Pictured (left to right): Chair of the High Life Highland Trading Board Michael Golding, UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart, Highland Council Chief Executive Donna Manson, Fergus Ewing MSP, Scottish Government Economy Secretary Kate Forbes, Managing Director of Bancon Construction Allan Clow, Inverness Provost Cllr Helen Carmichael, HIE Chair Alistair Dodds and Chair of Highland Council Economy & Infrastructure Committee Cllr Trish Robertson

Construction work to transform Inverness Castle into a new world class visitor attraction has moved a step closer following the issue of the main construction contract by The Highland Council, as announced by Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, during a visit to the site today.

The contract has been awarded to Bancon Construction Ltd.

Bancon has 40 years of experience in a wide range of construction projects, including the refurbishment and restoration of Midmills College in Inverness, redevelopment of Aberdeen Science Centre, and the re-design of Cardhu Distillery.

Bancon Construction’s contract will run for two and a half years, to be followed by the fit-out of the new visitor experience, meaning that the visitor attraction will have a planned opening date in 2025. 

Scottish Government Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “This marks a significant step towards the creation of an exciting new visitor attraction which will be a major contributor to the region’s sustainable, long-term recovery from the pandemic.  

“Once complete, the redevelopment of Inverness Castle is estimated to generate net additional expenditure of £13.9 million a year and will create the equivalent of an extra 275 full time jobs in the region.

“We need to ensure that this project acts as a catalyst for the promotion and development of leisure, culture and sustainable tourism across the wider Highland region.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: "The transformation of Inverness Castle is creating a must-see attraction that will boost the region's economy and create jobs. 

"The UK Government is supporting the Castle through the City Deal, and is also investing £19.8 million in related projects through our Levelling Up Fund.” 

"In addition, across Scotland we are providing more than £1.7 billion for projects to level up communities and build back better from the pandemic."

Fergus Ewing MSP and Provost and Leader of Inverness and Area Cllr Helen Carmichael, co-chairs of the Inverness Castle Delivery Group, said: “This transformation project aims to attract more visitors to Inverness and the Highlands and to encourage them to stay in the region for longer, exploring new areas of the Highlands that they may not have previously visited.

“We are delighted to be a step closer to starting on the transformation of Inverness Castle. 

“We are very excited about the plans for this to create a gateway for Highland tourism and the potential for the development to support tourism across the region, bringing in much needed new investment for the industry.

“We are also delighted by the decision of The Highland Council to reinvest half of the surplus generated from visitor spend within the new attraction towards the development of leisure, culture and sustainable tourism facilities and services each year following the castle’s opening in 2025. 

“This investment will benefit communities across the wider Highland region for many decades to come.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is providing £2m for the project. The agency’s chair, Alistair Dodds, said: “The benefits of the Inverness Castle project are varied and far-reaching. It will support our region’s tourism sector in its recovery, by encouraging people to visit and to spend more time here and importantly to visit other parts of the region.

“The activity and revenue linked to this will create many new jobs. It will also contribute to talent attraction, as many people who visit the region ultimately choose to relocate here too.

“I am delighted HIE has been able to support this valuable initiative and look forward to seeing the castle’s transformation.”

Managing Director of Bancon Construction Allan Clow said: “We are both honoured and excited to be awarded the redevelopment works at Inverness Castle. 

“To be involved in such a high-profile project that will transform the castle into a fantastic new tourist attraction, is extremely exciting.

“This is a unique project with a strong connection to the local community and tourists alike, and we will align our expertise and experience and transform the Castle and grounds to become a tourism gateway for the Highlands.

“This project is a huge boost for the construction industry and the local economy, and we look forward to starting on site and building on our partnerships with both the client and design team.”

The planned construction will include:

  • Reopening the original front entrance to the building in the South Tower
  • Improving accessibility and inclusivity to all parts of the building, including a new universally accessible rooftop viewing area in the South Tower
  • Enhancing the grounds on Castlehill to make the outdoor areas an accessible and inclusive visitor attraction in their own right
  • Contemporary additions to the building including a new café space between the North and South towers of the Castle
  • Creating new external viewing terraces and gardens
  • Careful conservation of the building fabric throughout

The transformation of Inverness Castle is supported by £15 million Scottish Government and £3.1 million UK Government investment through the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal.  Other partners include Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The Inverness and Highland City Region deal is a joint initiative supported by up to £315m investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and University of the Highlands and Islands, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth.

7 Mar 2022