Work is set to start next month on a £5m project to restore and regenerate historic grounds in the Outer Hebrides created by an opium baron.
The Lews Castle Grounds in Stornoway cover an area of over 600 acres and were originally laid out in the second half of the 19th Century by Sir James Matheson – who built Lews Castle on a prominent but largely treeless site overlooking Stornoway Harbour.
Matheson bought the Isle of Lewis in 1844 for over half a million pounds and cleared more than 500 families off the land, shipping them to Canada. But in 1845, he began a programme of improvements on the island, including drainage schemes and road construction.
Now a partnership involving the Stornoway Trust, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), the National Lottery and Historic Environment Scotland, will oversee investment of over £5 million in the much-loved Lews Castle Grounds over the next few years.
Building and civil works contracts with a total value of over £3.6 million have been awarded to two island based contractors by the council in partnership the Stornoway Trust.
The works are scheduled for completion by summer 2020.
Trust chairman Norman A Maciver said:’It is great news that after so many years we are finally over the line and are now in a position to commence the project to enhance the environs around the castle. I would like to congratulate all the officers who have managed to get this project off the ground.’
Council leader Roddie Mackay said:”The Castle Grounds are a hugely important asset for our community and this project will deliver significant and much needed improvements that will complement the restored Lews Castle.”
Acting Head of the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Scotland, Riona McMorrow, added: “Our parks, and the historic features in them, are a wonderful legacy from our ancestors. They are enjoyed by all ages and are a community’s green space in which to relax away from the pressures of daily life.
“We’re delighted that, thanks to funds raised through the National Lottery, work is starting to revitalise the only historic park in the Outer Hebrides for all to enjoy.”