A public doors open weekend will signal the three-year closure of Inverness Castle – to allow work to progress on its transformation from a court to tourist attraction.
The castle will be open from Friday, May 8, to Sunday, May 10, to coincide with the public holiday, the 75th anniversary of VE day commemorations and the Inverness classic car rally.
There will be tours of the north and south towers, and outdoor entertainment.
The castle viewpoint and Inverness museum and art gallery will also be open.
After the open weekend, the castle will be shrouded in hoardings depicting appropriate historic scenes and the transformation to progress from the middle of July.
The view point will remain open for the next year.
Highland Council will formally receive the keys to the castle on March 27, and the courts move out that day to take up residence in the new Justice Centre.
The first phase of the transformation is an ‘enabling’ contract to allow the architects to find out what lies beneath later modifications to the building and carry out asbestos and other surveys to clarify what might be lurking in the fabric of the castle.
The contract will be put out in May and is likely to last until the end of the year, before the main contract will be tendered late this year.
Landscape architects Optimised Environments have been appointed to work on the landscaping around the castle throughout and beyond the duration of the project.
Architects LDN hope that the major work will start next summer, and expect it to last three years.
Some recent buildings will be demolished, including the old 1950s cell block.
Court 2, above main entrance, will be stripped back to allow the original grand entrance below to be restored to its former use.
Lead architect Stuart Mackellar of Forres-based LDN Architects says that as an Inverness resident, he is working on his dream project.
He said: “I see the castle from my back window and it is in my thoughts all the time.
“It is an incredibly exciting project which we want the public to engage with and also feel excited by.”
Inverness provost councillor Helen Carmichael said: “The Inverness Castle project is vital to the regeneration of our city centre and the wider tourism economy of the Highland region.
“I am especially delighted that we will be aiming to improve accessibility, both within the historic building and around the grounds which provide terrific views of the city and beyond.
“I am excited at the future prospects of Inverness Castle becoming a ‘must-see’ attraction that will draw visitors to the Highlands.”
Rural economy and tourism secretary Fergus Ewing, who co-chairs the Inverness Castle Delivery Group, said: “We want to see a new life for the castle that builds on its existing attraction, offering visitors and locals alike a quality offering that encourages tourists to both visit and stay longer in the area.”