Wildland Limited is delighted to announce that the Caisteal Bharraich (Castle Varrich) restoration project in Sutherland is one of only 9 national and international winners of the AABC Conservation Award at the 2019 Civic Trust Awards, taking place in Manchester in March of next year.
The recognition comes for the sensitive restoration work carried out to repair and preserve this unique historical Scottish monument, whose history, though little known, is thought to date as far back as the 11th century. The Castle is believed to have been the seat of the Clan MacKay of Sutherland. More recently, in the 16th century, it is said that the castle belonged to the Bishop of Caithness who stayed there on his way from his castle at Scrabster to his property at Balnakeil.
Sitting on a high promontory in the wilds of Sutherland overlooking the Kyle of Tongue, Caisteal Bharraich is accessible from the North Coast 500 route. Since its abandonment over two hundred years ago the castle has lain in a poor state of repair, exacerbated by exposure to wind and rain and its condition further deteriorated after a storm in 2015 took down its east wall.
In 2017, Wildland Limited with the support of Historic Environment Scotland commissioned leading Edinburgh based conservation architects Grove Raines and Glasgow based Engineers David Narro Associates to assess the structure and propose repairs which would preserve this unique structure for the locals and visitors alike.
As well as repairing stone work, a freestanding steel staircase was added, which now allows visitors to enjoy previously inaccessible views from the upper level of the castle towards the beautiful surrounding landscape. During the restoration work the architectural history of the castle was able to be uncovered.
Leading conservation architect Nick Groves-Raines notes:
“The building definitely had two floors; possibly a timber ground floor over the sloping bedrock (perhaps with a hatch to a store underneath) and an upper floor on a barrel vaulted arch.
“Given the thickness of the walls and the evidence of the timber roof structure, it is likely that the building used to have a parapet wall-walk, and although we will never know for certain, it does look likely that the building was a look-out or beacon in a classic defensive position.”
The castle was officially opened on May 11th 2018 by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, MSP and it can now be enjoyed by the local community, walkers and tourists drawn to Sutherland’s landscape.
Architects: Groves-Raines Architects
Structural Engineers: David Narro Associates
Contractor: G Brown Stonemason Limited
Archaeologists: CFA Archaeology
Quantity Surveyors: Morham & Brotchie Partnership
About Civic Trust Awards:
The Civic Trust Awards scheme was established in 1959 to recognise outstanding architecture, planning and design in the built environment.
The aim of the Civic Trust Awards is to encourage the very best in architecture and environmental design, to improve the built environment through design, sustainability, inclusiveness and accessibility, but also to reward projects that offer a positive cultural, social, economic or environmental benefit to their local communities.
The 60th Anniversary Awards Ceremony, supported by Sir Robert McAlpine, will take place on Friday 1st March 2019 at the Imperial War Museum North, in Trafford, Manchester.