Thirlestane Castle in Lauder has received the largest ever funding award from LEADER in the Scottish Borders of £150,000. Thirlestane Castle Trust applied for the fund to conserve and promote the heritage associated with the 16th century Castle, its contents and its grounds.
The match funding will be used to improve events and catering options at the visitor attraction to help provide a more sustainable future for the Castle. This will include creating a new events space in the old kitchen, an upstairs servery so the State Dining Room can be used more easily for functions, recobbling of the courtyard to provide better access and an additional events space, and creating a new 2-bedroom self-catering apartment.
After a large outbreak of dry rot was discovered in the Castle in 2012, the building had to be closed to the public for a considerable time while the outbreak was treated. This allowed trustees to take a step back and consider the direction they wanted to take the Castle but also left many rooms in need of further restoration. It was agreed that the Castle needed to diversify in order to continue to be financially viable for many generations to come. The LEADER funding will enable the first stage of these plans to be carried out.
It is hoped that Thirlestane Castle will become a ‘Gateway to the Borders’ for people travelling from Edinburgh and will provide much needed accommodation, events space and corporate facilities.
Edward Maitland-Carew, Resident Trustee said: “We are absolutely thrilled to receive this large amount of funding from LEADER. It means we will be able to create a must-visit destination for events organisers, corporate clients, tourists and day visitors. My family and I hope this will enable us to share our home with many more people, for many more generations”
James Barnes, Chair of Thirlestane Castle Trust said: “I am delighted that the hard work put in by the team here at Thirlestane has paid off and we are now able to begin to make
our plans a reality and start to put Thirlestane Castle firmly on the destination map.”
Simon Lynch, LEADER Programme Facilitator said: “LEADER is delighted to award a grant to Thirlestane Castle Trust to improve and develop its tourism offering. We hope this grant will not only help sustain this beautiful Borders’ attraction but provide additional employment in the area through the new catering and events facilities.”
Calum Kerr, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, said: “Having visited Thirlestane Castle personally, I know how devastating the outbreak of dry rot was for all involved, particularly as it meant stripping so much of the Castle back and closing the attraction to the public. Now, the future of this fabulous building is being protected and it’s wonderful that many more people will now be able to enjoy this Gem of the Scottish Borders.”
Gordon Morrison, VisitScotland Regional Quality & Tourism Manager said: “Thirlestane Castle is already a great visitor attraction and events venue however this LEADER funding will allow it to capitalise on its potential and further enhance its quality offering. The funding will enable the property to extend its facilities so that it has a stronger sales proposition and can attract increased business – which is great news both for Thirlestane and the Borders. In this Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology we are celebrating Scotland’s outstanding built heritage so it’s fantastic that this impressive historic property is now able to drive forward plans which will help secure its future success.”
Work in the old kitchen has already begun and is expected to be complete in June when it will be used as an additional dining area for coach parties. Work on the other areas is set to start soon after with completion expected by the autumn.
A full programme of events has been organised for this summer and the Castle opens to visitors every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday between 2nd May and 1st October.