Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Ury House undergoing restoration as part of a £80million development

Ury House is a large English/Jacobean style mansion of 1855 near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. Its roof was removed in 1959 to avoid the payment of taxes.

ury 1900 2017
TOP: Ury House Ury House circa 1900 - BOTTOM: Ury House undergoing restoration in 2017

After decades of wrangling, approval has been granted for a £80m Jack Nicklaus golf course along with a 50-bedroom hotel, restaurant and housing development. At present work is taking place to make the building wind and waterproof. This news is to be welcomed. The website for the development reveals some of the restoration work going on inside Ury House" CLICK HERE to view the Ury House website.

Ury House stands on the site of an original 16th-century Z-plan tower house with round towers at diagonally opposite corners, unfortunately this was removed to accommodate it.

Properties of this complexity seldom attract capital unless there is a viable business strategy which can guarantee profitability. Buildings must have a use to survive. A quick look through the ' Buildings at Risk Register ' will throw up many such examples. So to the often expressed 'why is nothing done?' question one can add 'what can be done that will make it profitable?'

Dalquharran Castle in Ayrshire is in a similar situation. This magnificent 1790 Adam mansion was stripped of its roof lead in 1967 to avoid taxes. It is listed Category A which means that it is considered to be of national importance. Schemes for its restoration have come and gone but none have reached fruition. It still stands, magnificent but purposeless.

Nearby stands Old Dalquharran" a 15th-17th century castle abandoned in favour of the new. It urgently requires attention and it is hoped that planning permission would take this into account. Old Dalquharran, if restored would be magnificent - a 'real' old castle.

TOP: Dalquharran Castle during an SCA visit in 2008 - BOTTOM: Old Dalquharran Castle nearby

Another is Slains Castle north of Aberdeen. A magnificent clifftop castle unroofed in 1925" once again to avoid taxes. Planning permission has been granted but remains in abeyance. Meanwhile the north wind doth blow and the salt sea crashes...

Slains Castle
Slains Castle

One of this writer's favourites is Kenmure Castle whose roofless shell stands high above a marsh at New Galloway.

Originally an enclosure castle of the 13th century it was added to over the years and was occupied as late as 1935. There are no plans for intervention and, indeed, what could be done with such an intractable site we must ask?

Kenmure Castle
Kenmure Castle visited by the SCA in 2008

Not all sites merit restoration however - the cost of rehabilitating such mansions is vast, and if 'restored', to what use can they be put to, and how to generate the income required to guarantee their future?

Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 10 Jan 2017 Updated: 16 Oct 2023
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