AN exclusive celebrity hideaway is to open its doors to the public for the first time.
Ackergill Tower, near Wick, has long been used by stars looking to evade the limelight.
Hollywood stars Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas, as well as a host of famous British faces have paid £4000 a night to hire the 27-bedroom 15th century castle.
Ackergill Tower has previously only been available on a rental basis
But now the elite retreat is to open its doors as a hotel to capitalise on the number of Brits choosing to holiday on home shores.
Brooke White, the tower’s marketing manager, said: “We want to make the castle more accessible to the general public.
“We are aware of the increasing staycation business where people are not wanting to spend their money on going on expensive foreign holidays. We have never done this before but we had a lot of enquires from people wanting to stay at Ackergill on a one or two night basis.”
The public will be able to hire a room from £175 a night and will have access to a spa, to be built in a former sheep-dipping shed.
They will also have the chance to meet the Tower’s resident ghost Helen Gunn, who was known as the Beauty of Braemore.
Legend tells how after being kidnapped on her wedding night she leapt from the tower rather than succumb to the advances of the laird, Dugald Keith.
The stone where she landed is said to still bear the outline of her body and she has been seen wandering the tower wearing a long red dress.
Rob Gibson, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said: “I’m delighted it’s becoming more accessible to local people rather than just being totally exclusive and long term. Ackergill is an excellent addition to the range of hotels in Caithness and is much needed.
“It fills a place at the top end of the market for people who want an exclusive holiday in an area that has a lot to offer and in excellent surroundings.”
Jack Nicholson has stayed at Ackergill Photo:Angela George
He suggested that workers for the company responsible for dismantling the Dounreay nuclear power plant could use the hotel as a base.
He said: “They would be staying for three or four days and not taking up the whole space.”
Tourism body VisitScotland said opening up the tower as a hotel would have a positive impact on the area.
A spokeswoman said: “It’s an area of Scotland that is absolutely beautiful but does not have a lot of visitor attractions.
“Ackergill Tower provides a compelling reason to go and stay up there. It offers a unique opportunity for visitors to this fantastic coastline to stay somewhere a bit different.”
Adelaine Munro, director of Caithness SeaCoast, which offers boat trips along the coast, said the hotel would boost the area’s economy.
She said: “In the current economic climate it’s better that it’s a hotel. It gives your Joe Bloggs a chance to have a weekend of luxury.”
Ackergill Tower is thought to have been built around 1475. Oliver Cromwell used it to garrison troops in 1651, during the siege of Dunnottar Castle.
By the mid 1980s it had fallen into disrepair, after the surrounding land had been used as farmland.
It was bought by Arlette and John Banister who spent two years restoring it before its reopening in 1988.