A group of wealthy investors has unveiled plans to transform a Highland castle into the “most desirable luxury hotel in Scotland”.
They are in the throes of buying the historic keep at Carbisdale in Sutherland as well a plot of nearby woodland – and have promised “substantial economic benefits” for the area.
The newly-formed company Carbisdale Castle Ltd has revealed that an initial investment of £6.5million would create a five-star luxury hotel, a Michelin-starred restaurant and revamped gardens.
The groups says the whole development would support up to 90 full-time jobs and provide spin-off benefits to other businesses in the north.
The castle near Bonar Bridge – which was latterly a youth hostel – would have 21 “spellbinding” bedroom suites.
The developers also revealed that the grounds of the B-listed building would be remodelled to recreate the showpiece formal gardens which were part of the castle grounds when it opened in 1917.
Kevin Keenan, who will be the managing director of Carbisdale Castle on completion of the hotel, said the investment would give the building a completely new lease of life.
He said: “Carbisdale Castle is a majestic building and we have spent a considerable amount of time, money and resources to plan how we can both respect its grandeur yet still transform it into a five-star luxury destination hotel which will rival any hotel offering in Scotland.
“The castle will become alive again with the sound of people enjoying the joys of this landmark building.
“The interiors – and especially the planned 21 bedrooms suites in the existing castle – will be individually designed to be spellbinding, while the standards of service will be unprecedented.
“Have no doubt, this is a once-in-a-generation project that will put this area on the international map.”
The group interested in buying the castle have so far remained anonymous – but a spokesman revealed yesterday they were Scottish and had previous experience in the hotel industry in the UK and Europe.
David Hannah, chairman of Ardgay and District Community Council, said the development would be the “best thing that’s happened in the Kyle of Sutherland for years”.
He added: “There’s lots of money coming in, lot’s of employment and hopefully lots of tourists.
“I don’t see how anybody will lose out from this.”
Some concern had been raised by locals over the potential sale of an area of Forestry Commission Scotland-owned land to the investment group.
The new prospective buyers are bidding to buy about 43 acres, of which 20 would be developed for gardens.
The ground needed would be a tiny fraction of Carbisdale Forest, which extends to 2,593 acres.
Part of the woodland is currently the subject of a proposed community buy-out.
Mr Keenan said: “The existing land around the castle is a two-metre (6.5ft) strip, and the castle has no substantial grounds, so it is entirely to be expected that there will be a need for a portion of adjacent land to develop the hotel and showpiece gardens to achieve the luxury five-star destination aspiration that we have for Carbisdale Castle.
“Without this additional land, the overall project would not be viable and it would not progress. We are fully committed to be a responsible developer and a good neighbour.”
Carbisdale was the last castle to be built in Scotland, with work finishing in 1917.
It was privately-owned until 1945 when it became a youth hostel. It has been disused since 2010 and SYHA Hostelling Scotland is selling it.
If the deal goes through, a full planning application will be submitted later this year.
The investors hope the newly revamped hotel will be opened in June 2017, to celebrate the castle’s centenary.