Dunvegan Castle & Gardens wins 2019 Historic Houses Restoration Award, sponsored by Sotheby’s

Winning this prestigious restoration award at Sotheby’s in London is further recognition that Dunvegan Castle & Gardens has cemented its place as a world-class heritage attraction on the Isle of Skye.

Hugh MacLeod, Estate Director, said: “I would like to thank the judges of the Historic Houses Restoration Award. I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of the fantastic MacLeod Estate team who work so hard behind the scenes to make the impossible possible. All the restoration works we have undertaken at Dunvegan over the last ten years have been largely accomplished in-house, with the help of a fantastic team of dedicated external contractors.

This award comes at the end of another successful tourism season for the estate despite all the Brexit uncertainty. These high visitor numbers create additional pressures for not only our team, but also the historic fabric of a Highland fortress that was designed to be impregnable. But these challenges have been largely addressed thanks to a rolling programme of major capital investment across the estate, totalling £4 million since 2008. This has enhanced the visitor experience in all areas, a Herculean effort that was recognised when we won the Scottish Land & Estates’ ‘Helping it Happen Tourism Award’ in 2018 and a 5* Visit Scotland quality assurance award in 2016. As one of the largest private sector employers on Skye, I am very proud of what we have achieved since I took over management of the estate in 2008.

I would like to dedicate this award to my late father who had the vision to see that in order to ‘Hold Fast’ (the clan MacLeod motto) in the modern world, Dunvegan had to adapt from being a medieval fortress designed to keep people out, to a place focused on welcoming people in. Since those early make or break days in the 1960s, our dedicated team have extended a warm Highland welcome to millions of visitors, which has had the beneficial ripple effect of underpinning many Skye businesses that rely on this crucial visitor spend. Annually the estate contributes an average of £900,000 through a combination of employment and purchase of local goods and services. Since 2008 alone, it has contributed £8.3m to the Skye economy and over £12m to the Scottish economy.

This award will help us to continue to ‘Hold Fast’ to our goal of preserving, developing and sharing the unique heritage of Dunvegan Castle and the MacLeod Estate for future generations to enjoy.”

James Birch, President of Historic Houses, said: ‘For more than ten years this award has brought to the fore examples of the whole range of Historic Houses member properties, from family homes lovingly updated for a new generation to whole buildings brought back into use as venues for events, backdrops for films, or places to stay. This year’s shortlist was a similar diverse spread. Dunvegan is both a home and a major visitor heritage attraction, drawing tourists from all over the world, to the benefit of the local and national economy. But all this year’s entrants faced the common challenge of needing to make essential repairs and improvements to safeguard their futures while at the same time operating as small and medium-sized businesses in a competitive environment, with little or no help from government.’

For more information about the restoration effort and to view the before and after photographs, please see: www.dunvegancastle.com/restoration

Pictured at the Sotheby’s awards reception in London are (L-R): James Birch, President of Historic Houses, Hugh MacLeod and Harry Dalmeny, UK Chairman of Sotheby’s. Photographs by Bizzy Arnott Photography.