Starring roles in film and TV have led to fresh interest in the 2,000 or so castles that grace Scotland’s hills and glens. These range from romantic ruins to historic family homes that combine formidable fortifications with the latest eco-conveniences – including biomass heating systems.
Some of this fascination may have resulted from The Traitors, the hit reality-TV show based in Ardross Castle, north of Inverness; or maybe Outlander, the cult 18th-century drama set in the Highlands, fans of which see the castles as one of the show’s star attractions.
The desire for pastimes such as fishing, or to become self-sufficient, are just a couple of reasons why people wish to acquire a handsome example of Scottish architectural heritage. Others include investing in natural capital, rewilding or preserving ecosystems for the good of the planet and its inhabitants.
Buyers with such ambitions tend to seek estates off the beaten track. But most of those shopping for a castle would rather be within one hour of an airport, according to Jamie Macnab of Savills Edinburgh office.
Demand for castles is strong this year – despite the current economic woes, the uncertainty created by the Scottish independence issue and the disincentive of the land and buildings transaction tax, the Scottish equivalent of stamp duty. The top rate of 12% is applied to the part of the sale price above a £750,000 threshold, and there’s an additional 6% levy for second homes. But as Macnab points out: “This is just one of the expenses associated with the running of a big house. Also, international buyers who hold dollars are benefiting from sterling’s weakness.”
As spring approaches, more castles will come onto the market. Current options include Myres, near the village of Auchtermuchty in Fife, which is on sale at offers over £3.5m. Set in 45 acres, this 14,300 sq ft property has 10 bedrooms, a dungeon – and a biomass system.
This latter-day renovation, like the other updates carried out over the centuries, blends seamlessly into the original fortress-like structure, which was built in 1530, during the reign of James V. The king was the father of Mary, Queen of Scots, who planted a tree in the castle grounds. How many homeowners can make such a claim about their garden?
Pictures from top: Myres Castle near Auchtermuchty; Druidsmere in Blairgowrie; Earlshall Castle near St Andrews; Pirwindy Keep near Largo; Brechin Castle in Angus; and Fa’side Castle near Tranent