NC500 gives cas­tle boost

Tourism: Suc­cess of route has led to ‘tremen­dous’ rise in vis­i­tor num­bers

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - NEWS -

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

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