Braemar Castle Re-Harling Project

by Matt Halliday in Braemar, Scotland, United Kingdom

We did it
On 29th August 2017 we successfully raised £20,645 with 71 supporters in 56 days

Braemar Castle is looking unloved. Help the team kick start a project to fully reharl the exterior of the castle and perimeter wall.

by Matt Halliday in Braemar, Scotland, United Kingdom

New stretch target

Thank-you to every single person who either contributed a donation themselves or helped our campaign by sharing it or talking about it. This afternoon we reached our target of £10,000. This was instantly matched with another donation of £10,000 from our new best friends, Heritage Lottery Fund. 

The upgrades on the castle will eventually cost between one and two million pounds. It seems a lots, but this appeal has helped us kick start work on site.. If you are visiting the castle in the near future 

Braemar Castle is looking unloved! We need your support so that we can carry out essential conservation and preservation work that will help to safeguard the castle's future ... 

Braemar Castle is a thriving visitor attraction based on the edge of Braemar village, in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. The castle is leased and operated by Braemar Community Limited - a non-profit organisation owned by the residents of Braemar, with the sole purpose of delivering projects that benefit the community of Braemar.

Since taking charge of the failed visitor attraction 10 years ago the community have increased visitor numbers from 4,500 to 12,500 every year. With another 30,000 visitors using the castle grounds annually. 

In the last 10 years the community have already raised £500,000 to contribute towards the maintenance of the building. The majority of this has gone on a new roof and chimney stacks to get the castle 100% wind and water tight. Despite this work the castle still looks a little unloved and there's a lot more to do!

So What's The Plan?

Despite being a popular visitor attraction the castle is not looking its' best. As the only under-cover visitor attraction in Braemar the castle plays an important role in supporting the tourist economy in the village. 

The external harling on the castle and perimiter wall is starting to fall off and needs fully replacing. This is a big, messy and expensive job. But before we start this project we need to carry out a number of test patches to trial different types of harling. This will give us an idea of what the fully renovated castle will look like and more importantly how much it will cost. Have a look at the newly re-harled Craigivar Castle below to see what a difference it can make*). 

To help deliver this project we've appointed a new Heritage Consultant. Ian Davidson worked for National Trust for Scotland for 33 years as Senior Surveyor and Head of Projects. And luckily for us he help managed the re-harling of Craigivar Castle, so we're in good hands. 

The investigative work we will carry out on the current harling will increase our understanding of the history of the structure of the building. The findings will also support our applications to major funders like Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland, who we hope to work with to deliver this project.

We want (and need) to start this work ASAP.

The work will, in the end, dramatically improve the appearance and long-term future of the castle. This will give our visitors a better experience of Braemar and an increase in visitors will mean an increase in income into the village. 

We're aiming to raise £100,000 over the next 12 months to fully develop our plans for the re-harling and pull the project team together.

We are asking our supporters and friends to help us raise the first £10,000 of that by this summer. If we can then this will be matched with another £10,000 by those kind people at Heritage Lottery Fund.

The £20,000 will be used to appoint a Stonemason and Lime Consultant to start the test works in the summer of 2017. Visitors to the castle this summer will hopefully be able to see the work as it commences. 

Please have a look at our video, read more about the history of our castle below and please give anything you can afford to help preserve this magnificent building for generations to come....


Braemar Castle was built by the Earl of Mar in 1628 in a commanding position overlooking the River Dee, in an area of Aberdeenshire now referred to as Royal Deeside. 

The castle was built primarily as a hunting lodge. It was a base for grand hunting parties going to hunt deer, wild boar and perhaps the last few wolves that haunted the ancient forest. It replaced a much older royal castle, Kindrochit, built by Malcolm Canmore in the 11th Century. 

The Earls of Mar were one of the most powerful political families in 17th century Scotland. The 2nd Earl, John Erskine, who built the castle, was a childhood friend of King James I of Scotland and England. 

However, by the beginning of the 18th century, the Erskines would lose all that they had worked for. The 6th Earl of Mar made some disastrous political decisions, which saw him flip-flop from working closely in the British Government, to being a treasonous rebel whose wealth, land and titles were taken from him. 

Supporters of King James called themselves Jacobites, after the Latin Jacobus from James. Many Highlanders were still staunch Catholics, and in 1689 they rebelled under the charismatic leadership of John Graham of Claverhouse, romantically known as Bonnie Dundee. Braemar Castle was burnt down by a Jacobite, John Farquahson, to stop the government gaining a toehold on Deeside. When Bonnie Dundee was killed a Killiecrankie the rebellion lost momentum and fizzled out. 

In 1715, the Jacobites rose again, this time under the command of the 6th Earl of Mar, a government supporter turned rebel. The clans gathered at Braemar, but once again the rebellion was quashed. 

The final Jacobite Rising took place in 1745, led by James II's grandson, Bonnie Prince Charlie. The rebellion, which at first seemd very promising, led to the final bloody defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden Moor. Braemar Castle was taken over by the British Army to quell any further thoughts of rebellion in the Highlands. 

The army moved into Braemar Castle in 1748. The castle was partially in ruins, having never been repaired after the fire nearly sixty years earlier. The army rpaired the roof and built a new star-shaped curtain wall, in the style of the latest French military architechture. 

By the 1820's the need for the garrison at Braemar has waned and negotiations began between the Military and the Farquharsons for the return of the Castle. The castle was finally vacated in 1831 and Catherine Farquharson, who had inherited the Invercauld Estate from her father, set about a refurbishment programme to turn the castle back into a comfortable family home.

By 1850 Deeside had become Royal Deeside following the decision of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert tp buy nearby Balmoral Estate as their Highland holiday residence. The royal couple regularly attended the Braemar Gathering in the grounds of Braemar Castle and took tea in the drawing room with the Farquharson's. 

In 1948 Alwyne Compton Farquharson, the 16th Laird, married a flamboyant American, Frances Lovell Oldham. Mrs Farquharson had been a fashion editor for Voque and Harper's Bazaar in the 1930's and her love of fashion and colourscontinued throughout her life. By the 1950s Mrs Frances Farquharson of Invercauld had put her very personal stamp on the castle, decorating many rooms in her favourite shades of pink and yellow and upgrading soft furnishings. So many requests were received by the Farquharson's to see around the castle that in the 1960s they decided to open it to the public for the first time. The castle remained open as a visitor attraction for the district until 2004 when the ill-health of the manager and a desperate need for investment led to its' closure. And that's when the community took action...

*Thanks to National Trust for Scotland for allowing us the use of the image of Craigivar Castle. 

This project has been approved for funding through the Heritage + The Crowd match funding. It will receive a top up of 50% towards its fundraising target from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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