OUR HERITAGE INRUINS; Shocking Neglect That Threatens the Nation's Crumbling Historic Sites

Article excerpt

Byline: GAVIN MADELEY

THEY are physical reminders of Scotland's proud and colourful history - but many of the nation's castles and stately homes are in a shocking state of decline.

Last week, two crumbling Scottish treasures were added to a list of the world's most endangered heritage sites.

Both 15th-century Girnigoe Castle and 17th-century Sinclair Castle, near Wick, in Caithness, are now among 101 historic locations identified by the World Monuments Fund's 'watch list'.

The castles, which are perched precariously on a clifftop, join structures such as the Great Wall of China and the Valley of the Kings in Egypt which the fund fears could be lost forever if action is not taken soon.

On Friday, a 200-year-old, B-listed former warehouse collapsed without warning in the centre of Glasgow.

The building, part of the old Goldbergs store in the Merchant City, crashed down into the street in the early hours.

In Scotland alone, there are currently 1,064 properties on the official Buildings At Risk database set up 11 years ago for Historic Scotland by heritage charity, the Scottish Civic Trust.

Nearly two thirds of those properties are A or B-listed.

Architects and conservation groups have called for an urgent review of the funding available to repair and preserve our historic buildings before they crumble into dust.

Here, GAVIN MADELEY presents a gallery of some of the most neglected heritage sites in Scotland.

POLTALLOCH HOUSE Kilmartin, Argyllshire

History: The former seat of the Malcolms of Kilmartin, Poltalloch was built to replace Kilmartin House in 1849 by William Burn. The twostorey design contains many interesting details, including curvilinear gables, large bay windows, a conservatory, central courtyard and kitchen court to the rear.

Condition: Substantially ruined since losing its roof in 1957, it was once rumoured that a prospective Oriental buyer planned to ship it stone by stone to Japan.

BALINTORE CASTLE Kirriemuir, Angus

History: One of architect William Burn's later masterpieces, this A-listed Scots baronial mansion was built in 1865 for David Lyon after he inherited a fortune made through the East India Company.

Condition: Last used as a shooting lodge, the owners took the decision in 1960 not to repair and, with extensive dry rot, it was abandoned. Now badly vandalised and with a leaky roof, most internal fittings have been removed.

With an estimated [pound]1.2million needed to restore it, little work has been undertaken.

BALTHAYOCK HOUSE Kinfauns, near Perth

History: Country house built in 1870 by James Maclaren for a wealthy railway contractor.

The Blisted castle tower dates back to the 14th/15th century and was latterly retained as a form of summer house.Was last used as a school.

Condition: Derelict, with smashed windows and a gutted interior.The Scottish Civic Trust reports that the present owner, Major David Walter, has received planning permission for demolition in order to build a modern bungalow on the site.The trust complains that other buildings on the estate have been allowed to deteriorate over the past five years.

BALTERSAN CASTLE Near Maybole, Ayrshire

History: A fortified house erected in 1584 by David Kennedy of Pennyglen on what were once the lands of Crossraguel Abbey. The property passed to the Kennedys of Culzean in 1656 and was described as 'a fine house with garden, orchards, parks and woods about it'.

Condition: Roofless and crumbling, the B-listed golden sandstone house is now a ruin in the middle of a field.

A local architect prepared a feasibility study for a potential restoring purchaser. In 1996, permission was granted for restoration, but so far no works have been carried out.

ECCLESGREIG CASTLE St Cyrus, Aberdeenshire

History: Formerly known as Mount Cyrus, it is a complete reconstruction of an earlier house and was built in 1844 by Henry Edmund Goodridge for the Forsyth Grant family. …