A multimillion-pound project to regenerate an historic Western Isles castle has been boosted by a £3.9million lottery grant.
Lews Castle at Stornoway is undergoing a massive £18million revamp to create a luxury hotel which could attract tens of thousands of people to the Hebrides every year.
Now news of a huge grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund means that the grounds will also be overhauled.
The grounds of Lews Castle are ranked “outstanding” in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes and is the only historic park in the Western Isles.
The park, which forms the iconic backdrop to Stornoway Harbour, is owned by the community. It includes formal gardens, ornamental planting, carriage drives and paths and extensive woodland making it dramatically different from the rest of the rugged island landscape.
The grounds are popular with walkers, joggers and families and host many events each year.
The project will provide better access and restore historic features which are currently at risk of being lost.
It will also complement wider regeneration initiatives such as the redevelopment of Lews Castle and the Stornoway Townscape Heritage Initiative both of which have been part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Iain Maciver, factor of the Stornoway Trust, which is carrying out the project, said: “This exciting news offers the Trust an opportunity to manage the restoration and regeneration of an outstanding asset. We are indebted to HLF for allowing us to further progress our vision for the revitalisation of our wonderful legacy.”
A second Scottish park, Dean Castle Park in Ayrshire, received £3.34million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, Colin McLean, said: “Our parks, and the historic features in them, are a wonderful legacy from our ancestors. They are enjoyed by all ages and are often a community’s only green space in which to relax away from the pressures of daily life. Using funds raised through the National Lottery, HLF is able to protect these precious places helping make a difference to the quality of life for millions of Scots.”
Earlier this year, it was revealed that a Stornoway businessman had launched legal action over the project.
Kenneth Mackenzie, managing director of Kenman Holdings Ltd, wants to overturn the granting of a long-term lease of the building to Natural Assets Investment Ltd, whose associated company Natural Retreats will operate upmarket visitor accommodation.
The move was after Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Western Isles Council stepped in to plug a £3.2million funding shortfall which threatened the scheme.