NC500 gives castle boost
Tourism: Success of route has led to ‘tremendous’ rise in visitor numbers
The success of the North Coast 500 driving route has led to another huge rise in visitors to the Queen Mother’s old Highland home.
The Castle of Mey has witnessed an 18% increase on last year as thousands more visitors flock to the only home the Queen Mum ever owned.
It follows a 16% rise last year, when the castle attracted 21,622 tourists during its season.
This year’s rise – described as “tremendous” by management – has been helped by the Caithness castle being on the North Coast 500 drive.
The boost of the NC500 over the last two years follows previous years of falling number of visitors at the castle, which is open to the public between May and September.
The NC500 was launched by the North Highland Initiative – set-up and inspired by Prince Charles – and is a 516-mile drive on a loop around the north, starting and finishing in Inverness.
Shirley Farquhar, the castle’s managing director, said: “The NC500 has been a big factor in this season’s rise, which is currently at 18%. It has been tremendous.
“There are a lot more camper vans this year and we have managed to be well up despite losing visitors from three cruise ships who had to cancel because of the weather.
“I think more people are also taking ‘staycations’ this year with the pound not so strong. I think many people along the route are also experiencing a good season.”
Prince Charles is president of the trust that runs the castle near John O’Groats and stays for a week every August to keep up the memory of his grandmother.
The Queen Mother first saw what was then known as Barrogill Castle in 1952, while mourning the death of her husband, King George VI.
Falling for its isolated charm and hearing that it was to be abandoned, she decided to save it.
Having acquired the most northerly-inhabited castle on the British mainland, the Queen Mother renovated and restored it and also created beautiful gardens.
It was the only home she actually ever owned.
She died in 2002 aged 101.
“The NC500 has been a big factor in this season’s rise”
TRUST PRESIDENT: Prince Charles at the Castle of Mey