Published: 11/05/2018 19:00 - Updated: 11/05/2018 10:24

Battle to save rare tower landmark in Ross-shire

Written byHector MacKenzie


The Fairburn Tower. Picture: The Landmark Trust.
The Fairburn Tower. Picture: The Landmark Trust.
AN £800,000 fundraising appeal to save from ruin a “rare and precious” Ross-shire landmark built in 1545 for Murdo Mackenzie, Gentleman of the Bedchamber to King James V, the father of Mary Queen of Scots, has been launched.


Building conservation charity the Landmark Trust is backing a bid to protect Category A listed Fairburn Tower, considered by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to be a “significant at-risk” structure. HES has agreed to chip in £455,000 to the project, expected to cost more than £1.8 million.

The Tower’s rich story brings to life the tense loyalties of the Jacobite risings and its architecture expresses the Scottish Renaissance. Set in a dramatic landscape near Muir of Ord, the tower’s condition is regarded as “perilous” and likely to crumble altogether if Landmark, which rescues historic buildings at risk, can’t raise enough funds.

Dr Anna Keay the charity’s director, said: “The cherished property, gift of the Stuart kings of Scotland, and Mackenzie’s noble tower now stands in desperate need.

"It has survived for over four hundred years, but if we don’t intervene it may simply fall, and this precious fragment of Scotland’s history will be lost. Most tower houses were modernised in the Georgian or Victorian periods, but Fairburn Tower’s unaltered form gives us a glimpse deep into Scotland’s past.”

James V in 1542 granted land to Murdo Mackenzie to build the tower. Later the Mackenzies backed James Stuart, the Old Pretender, during the Jacobite rebellion in 1715.

After the defeat, the clan faced disgrace and the estate was confiscated by the Crown.

It was later restored but laird Alexander Mackenzie declined to fight for King George during the Jacobite uprising of 1745, saying he was not brought up to be a soldier. By now the estate was in decline, and eventually left deserted, falling into ruin.

More on the appeal can be found at

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