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Inverness Castle Experience – design update

Updates were provided today (Thursday 27 April) of how the designs of the Inverness Castle Experience are developing.  The newly transformed Inverness castle is due to open to the public in 2025.  

The new details show how the castle will be transformed from its past uses as a prison and courtroom to a visitor attraction, encouraging visitors from local, UK and international shores.  

Visits to the castle will start in the gardens, where Gaelic language and culture has inspired the design and interpretation of the plants and features to create a relaxing and informative area to stay a while and to enjoy spectacular views down the River Ness. 

Within the South Tower of the castle all of the senses will be stimulated in this gateway for Highland tourism, created by exhibition designers Mather & Co. In-person guides combined with the latest digital technology will whet the appetite of locals and residents, encouraging everyone to explore the rich, vibrant landscape (cruth-tìre), heritage (dualchas), culture (cultar) and community (coimhearsnachd) of the area. The experience culminates in a full 360-degree immersive experience using audio and digital techniques to incredible effect to celebrate one of the Highland’s key features – our stunning scenery.  

The stories inspiring the content for the attraction have been crowdsourced from across the Highlands, capturing the spirit of the area’s past, present and future. 

Moving into the North Tower of the castle, the Highland Music Experience and Bar will offer a place for people to come together to share the best of Highland music, food and drink. The Experience will highlight and acknowledge the contribution of musicians to the rich culture of the Highlands.  

Today, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the formation of the band Runrig (28 April 1973), it was announced that the opening exhibition will feature the music and stories of Runrig, recognising the band’s impact on the area’s cultural scene over the past half century.  

Brothers Calum and Rory Macdonald are two of the founding members of Runrig.   

Calum Macdonald, said: 

“When we started playing together as Runrig in Skye all these years ago I wouldn’t have imagined that we’d reach this 50 year milestone. It’s exciting to be involved with the Inverness Castle Experience, and the new exhibition will mean people who enjoy our music will have a way to come together to share their own memories of their connection with the band over the years.”  

Rory Macdonald said: 

“Through being invited to be a part of the Highland Music Experience, we’ll have an opportunity to share some memories of the band’s journey, and to involve and acknowledge the support of the people who’ve enjoyed the music over the years – it was certainly that initial support from Highland audiences that sent us on our way, something we’ve always been acutely aware of.”  

Also in the North Tower, visitors will be able to get up close to the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands. The tapestry is currently being crafted by people from communities across the area as part of the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project, a partnership project between The Highland Council and High Life Highland, which is being delivered in collaboration with VisitScotland.   

Fergus Ewing, MSP, Co-chair of the Inverness Castle Delivery Group, said: 

“I am delighted that we’ve reached this important milestone in creating a visitor attraction that will be a gateway for Highland tourism and an international attraction that will be a must-see!”   

“The details released today illustrate the creativity and innovation that visitors to the Inverness Castle Experience can enjoy when it opens in 2025.  We want to make sure that everyone visiting the Inverness Castle Experience has a brilliant time – and that they come back for more on a future visit!  It is important that we ensure that every visitor has a first-rate experience, inspiring them to venture to other parts of the Highlands, connecting with people and places across the area, and uncovering their own stories as they travel.” 

“We are thrilled to have Runrig members Calum and Rory MacDonald here with us today on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the band to announce that their work will feature in a new exhibition in the North Tower.”  

Cllr Ian Brown, Leader of Inverness City and Area and Co-chair of the Inverness Castle Project Delivery Group, said: 

“This is an important step in our progress towards opening of the Castle as a visitor attraction in 2025 – and so exciting to recognise our own cultural stars too, with the contribution of Runrig being recognised in the opening exhibition for the Highland Music Experience! The immersive approach designed by Mather & Co will ensure visitors have a world class experience at the new attraction, as they are inspired to explore the Highlands to find and create their own stories.   

“Visitors will connect to Highland stories through a series of themed immersive rooms, where they can walk through forests, gather round the fire for story time, and witness iconic moments of Highland history. As well as the Runrig exhibition in the North Tower at opening, visitors will be able to visit the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands – and see the stitches they or their families and friends may have contributed to this community project.” 

“The Inverness Castle Experience a very exciting addition to the tourism offer for the Highlands and Scotland as a whole.”   

Scottish Government Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray said: 

“I welcome further progress in designing an Inverness Castle experience which can attract tourists from around the world and generate jobs and investment for Inverness and the surrounding area.  

“Through the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal, the Scottish Government is helping create a fair and growing economy which supports local businesses.”  

UK Government minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord said:  

 “It’s great to see Inverness Castle is on the High Road to success, with the design update marking another step closer to the site being open to the public”   

 “Its transformation will create a must-see attraction in keeping with its heritage that will help to boost the region’s economy and bring visitors and tourists to the local area. 

 “The UK Government is supporting the Castle through its investment in the project as part of the £53.1 million Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.” 

The Inverness Castle project, opening in 2025, will benefit from £30m investment to support its re-development from the Scottish and UK Governments, The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and a range of other partners.     

The Inverness Castle project is part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal, which is a joint initiative supported by up to £315m investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and University of the Highlands and Islands, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth.’ 

The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project is supported by a grant from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund (NCHF), led by NatureScot and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It is intended that this project will encourage visitors to explore and experience all parts of the Highlands and Islands, as well as inspiring them to attend and support festivals and events, visitor attractions and outdoor locations across the area.  

A video giving a flavour of the new Inverness Castle Experience is available at: www.invernesscastle.scot