The Castle Conservation Register highlights ruined castles and tower houses that could be successfully restored and reused. It offers guidance on the factors we consider when we respond to proposals to register sites.
Search the Castle Conservation Register.
The register is not definitive. Castles or towers that aren’t on the register may be potential candidates for restoration, and not all the castles on the list are likely to come forward for restoration schemes.
Restoration of a castle on the register will not be automatically acceptable. This will depend on the merits and sensitivity of the proposals.
All castles and tower houses on the register are privately owned, and most of them are not for sale. If we’re aware of a castle or tower house going on the market, we’ll update the register to reflect this.
If you’d like to visit a castle on the register, you should always seek permission from the owner first. The register doesn’t provide ownership details, but we can pass on correspondence if the owner is willing to enter into discussions.
2 Registration criteria
For each proposal, we will consider:
- if the castle can be restored in a way that would preserve its values for future generations
- whether the accessibility, understanding, or economic benefits of changing the castle outweigh the changes detracting from its cultural significance
- the current and foreseeable risks to its condition, and the possibility of alternative approaches emerging in the foreseeable future
- the castle or tower’s state of completion, and whether it can be restored without speculation about its original form
- whether it can be restored without major alterations or additions that would affect its character
The cultural significance of a castle or tower house is central to our criteria for including it on the register. Cultural significance helps us to assess the value of places that provide us with an understanding of the past.
A variety of characteristics are considered when assessing a monument’s cultural significance, including its:
- research potential
- original function
- rarity or representativeness
- historic and social context
- aesthetic characteristics
- association with important historical figures or events
Learn more about cultural significance.
3 Restoring a castle
Any proposal to restore a castle or tower house will require consents. This will include:
If you’re considering restoring a castle or tower on the register, you should seek expert advice as early as possible, preferably before purchase. You should first speak to us and the planning authority as well as to a qualified conservation architect with proven experience.
Prepare a feasibility study and conservation plan to determine if the project is viable, and if you have the means to carry out the work.
Most castles that have been restored have been converted into homes. Several have also been restored to provide holiday accommodation. Larger towers have been restored as exclusive-use venues.
If your proposed future use requires major changes to the historic fabric or character of a castle, such as significant alterations or the loss of original fabric, it’s likely your proposal is not right for the building.
Restoration isn’t the only way to conserve a ruined castle. Some have particular value as a ruin, especially where:
- the castle makes a contribution as a landscape feature
- its ruined condition relates to an important moment in history
- it contains important architectural and archaeological information
In these cases, it’s preferable to preserve the castle as a ruin.
Our Building Repair Grants Scheme offers financial help towards certain repair and restoration costs.
Our grants are in high demand, and there is considerable competition for the funds available. Inclusion on the register does not guarantee a castle’s eligibility for aid.
Find out more about Historic Environment Scotland grants and funding.
You can also visit the Funds for Historic Buildings website – a comprehensive guide to funding for anyone seeking to repair, restore or convert a historic building in the UK.
The Scottish Castle Initiative
Heritage Management Directorate
Historic Environment Scotland
Telephone: 0131 668 8716