PERMISSION has been granted for a 10-bedroom guesthouse in the grounds of the late Queen Mother’s Highland castle.
The Castle of Mey, in Caithness, is the most northerly inhabited castle on mainland Britain and the Queen Mother loved it for its remoteness
But the trust that now manages the 16th Century property wants to increase visitor numbers and has won approval to convert the old granary building into “high quality” tourist accommodation.
Visitors will stay just 150 metres from the main castle building and during their stay will get to see the rooms used by the Queen Mother when she stayed there.
The castle attracted 21,622 visitors last year, a rise of 16% on the 18,768 who visited the previous year.
The rise in number of visitors have been credited to the succesful North Coast 500 route, which takes drivers to well within a mile of the front gates.
But at present there is only one place for guests to stay at the castle, The Captain’s House, where the Queen Mother often had a picnic lunch.
The application for planning permission submitted to Highland Council stated: “The Castle of Mey Trust has been investigating diversification opportunities, in an effort to provide a broader visitor offering and facilities that will help generate higher levels of income.
“It is hoped that a range of proposals will help preserve this important heritage site for generations to come.
“The granary plays a significant role in those diversification plans. The provision of high quality visitor accommodation on site is seen as key to the success of the carious strands of the Castle of Mey business.
“The granary provides an obvious conversion opportunity that can be achieved.”
Neither the cost of the project nor the price of the new accommodation is known but the cottage is rented for between £450 and £800 a week.
Visiting the castle and grounds costs £11.50 for adults and £30 for a family ticket.
The granary was included in the 1952 sale of the 24-acre estate which the late Queen Mother, who died in 2002, purchased.
The castle underwent extensive renovation after the sale and the an impressive garden was created, which has now become the castle’s main attraction.
In addition to the conversion, a new single-story building will be constructed to be used as a reception and service rooms, along with a new car park.
The Queen Mother visited the castle to mourn the death of her husband, King George VI, and fell in love with its remote location.
Prince Charles, the president of the trust, visits the castle for a week every August in memory of his grandmother.