Thirlestane Castle, near Lauder, has been given a £150,000 grant by the European Union’s Leader rural funding initiative, the biggest ever handed out in the Borders, to help it boost its appeal as a tourist attraction.
That matched funding will help pay for further conservation work at the 16th century castle and improvements to its facilities, as well as promoting it as a visitor destination.
Improvements lined up include creating a new events space in the castle’s old kitchen and an upstairs servery so its state dining room is better able to accommodate functions.
Plans are also afoot for the recobbling of the castle’s courtyard to provide better access and the creation of a new two-bedroom self-catering apartment.
These latest improvements are a continuation of work necessitated after a large -scale outbreak of dry rot was discovered at the castle in 2012, forcing it to close until May 2015 for remedial work and leaving many of its rooms in need of further restoration.
It is now hoped that Thirlestane Castle will become a gateway to the Borders for visitors travelling south from Edinburgh.
Resident trustee Edward Maitland-Carew 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 event 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, chairman of Thirlestane Castle Trust, was equally pleased, saying: “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.”
Leader programme facilitator Simon Lynch 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 also provide additional employment in the area through the new catering and events facilities.”
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP Calum Kerr said: “Having visited Thirlestane Castle, 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.”
VisitScotland regional quality and tourism manager Gordon Morrison added: “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 and 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 on the old kitchen has already begun, and it is expected to be ready by June for use as an additional dining area for coach parties.
Work on other parts of the castle is set to start soon after that with a view to completion by the autumn.
The castle will open to visitors every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday between May 2 and October 1.
For further information, visit www.thirlestanecastle.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01578 722430.