Sometimes, with all the will in the world, the acquisition of a Scottish tower house does not lead to restoration. Such an example is Sorbie Tower, Wigtown.
Sorbie before consolidation
Sorbie is a substantial L-shaped tower, larger than one would expect in this region. It was built by Alexander Hannay in the late 16th century and, despite work carried out over the last 50 years, it remains in a critical condition.
It was last occupied in 1748 after which it was allowed to run to ruin providing the opportunity for that well-known Scottish pastime: stone robbing. Built of the local whinstone the target was, of course, the dressed stonework, the removal of which left gaping voids.
Hall indicated by robbed out windows: windows shown on gable have been 'restored'
In 1965, the castle was gifted to the Clan Hannay Society. Over the next 35 years the clan spent about £40,000 conserving the ruin. In 1972, Historic Scotland listed Sorbie as Grade A (marking it of national importance) and placed it on their register of castles and towers suitable for restoration.
TOP: Wing tower with scale-and-platt stair
BOTTOM: Interior strengthened with metal bands
Further money was raised from the Heritage Lottery Fund which allowed repairs to be made but, still, the castle was not secure.
In 2012, Clan Hannay applied for permission to replace some of the window surrounds but Historic Scotland declined, unless this was part of a phased restoration for which a conservation management plan would be required.
A feasibility study was carried out which ranged from urgent repairs to that of a full restoration, the cost of which would run into seven digits.
Historic Scotland have approved restoration and this is the Clan's favoured option as Sorbie could then generate income through such activities as holiday lets, whereas, if only consolidated, it would remain a money hole and continue to deteriorate.
A business plan has been prepared to place the castle under a charitable trust and to launch an international appeal for cash. The outcome of this plan will not be known for a year. The SCA wish them luck.
A 12th century motte was the first castle on the site
Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle