To the next 10 years at Braemar Castle!

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The community of Braemar is celebrating 10 years of running the village’s landmark castle, and it is looking ahead to the next decade.

Invercauld Estate leased the castle to Braemar Community Limited in 2007 following falling visitor numbers and three years of closure.

Since taking over the operation of the castle, the community has raised nearly half a million pounds to repair the roof and chimneys and stabilise and enhance the interior.

Now a new fundraising campaign is under way to raise funds to repair the exterior of the building and to improve the overall visitor experience.

Simon Blackett, chairman of Braemar Community Limited, said: “We have a 10 year plan to really improve the appearance of the castle, which will attract more visitors and ensure the future of our building.

“This is all going to cost at least £1m, probably more.

“One of the highlights over the last 10 years has been employing a full time manager to take things forward. That has made a huge difference.”

The castle is staffed almost entirely by dozens of local volunteers who do everything from taking guided tours, working in the garden and willingly dressing up to take part in a wide variety of events from Jacobite re-enactments to murder mystery evenings.

As Scotland’s only community-run castle, the passion and hard work of the volunteers has seen visitor numbers triple and the future of the Grade A listed building secured.

Simon added: “The community has got really behind the castle.

“Our volunteers keep the castle going day to day, year to year.

‘‘We have around 50 volunteers out of a population of about 400 to 500. It’s a big achievement.”

Braemar Castle was built by the Earl of Mar in 1628 as his highland hunting lodge.

It was a casualty of the first Jacobite uprising in 1689 when it was partially burned by John Farquharson, the Black Colonel.

Following the Battle of Culloden, the castle served as a garrison for redcoat troops and was latterly home to the Chiefs of Clan Farquharson.

In 1849 Queen Victoria enjoyed afternoon refreshments in the drawing room while attending the Braemar Games at the Castle.

A wide array of colourful tenants have leased the building over the years including a Russian princess; Lady Tweedsmuir, the most glamorous MP in the Commons; and Lady Curzon, the woman who inspired the character of Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey.

Braemar Castle reopens this Saturday (April 1).