‘I sat with my lairdly cup of tea’: how a derelict Scottish tower was turned into a Landmark Trust retreat

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Just three years ago Fairburn Tower, near Inverness, was a roofless wreck. Now it has been restored to its former renaissance glory and is available as a holiday let

“The day will come when the Mackenzies of Fairburn shall lose their entire possessions … Their castle shall become uninhabited, desolate and forsaken, and a cow shall give birth to a calf in the uppermost chamber of Fairburn Tower.” So prophesied Coinneach Odhar Fiosaiche, Scotland’s own Nostradamus, back in the 17th century.

Located amid farmland a pleasant five-mile stroll from Muir of Ord station in the Scottish Highlands – just half an hour’s drive north-west of Inverness – Fairburn Tower has had a remarkable turnaround in its fortunes. Only three years ago, it was just as Fiosaiche predicted: a roofless, floorless wreck, the cracks running up its walls threatening to bring the whole edifice crashing down once and for all. That’s when the building conservation charity the Landmark Trust intervened. A phalanx of highly skilled craftspeople set to work, restoring the tower to the time of the Stewarts and the glories of the Scottish renaissance. The walls were repaired; the floors, roof, casement windows and spiral staircase reinstalled; and the bartizans (overhanging turrets) reconstructed. Finally, a pink limed-based harl was applied, giving the whole structure the look of a rosy sunset (or, if you prefer, sunrise), as if it had leapt straight out of a Sir Walter Scott novel. Now available as a holiday let for four, it’s occasionally open to the public to visit too – for the first time this Sunday (and it’s free).

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