In the old courtroom, the bench from which sheriffs have dispensed justice over generations is gone while the curved public benches are wrapped in plastic and ready to be removed.
The stage is now being set for the next stage in Inverness Castle’s evolving story, which is to undergo a multi-million pound transformation into what is being hailed as a world-class tourist attraction for the Highlands.
Throughout the iconic building, courtrooms, hallways and bare offices are silent and deserted before the imminent arrival of workers.
When the doors are reopened to the public – possibly in early 2025 – it will be to celebrate the spirit of the Highlands past, present and future.
Rather than providing a grand view of protagonists taking part in court proceedings, the Old Main Court will instead be at the heart of the visitor attraction, providing an immersive 360-degree experience and telling the stories of the Highlands and its people to using high-tech methods. .
It will only be part of the ambitious project of the 19th century castle which must be renovated and refurbished.
New features are also to be added, including a single storey building linking the north and south towers as well as new access to a terrace overlooking the River Ness.
Before contractor Bancon Construction begins the massive transformation, a final behind-the-scenes tour highlights original interior features that were uncovered when layers were removed during activation work.
Blackened fireplaces, wooden floors, wall paneling, and even a sturdy wall safe are tangible reminders of the building’s history, which dates back to 1830.
Although it is only possible to try to visualize what it will look like in three years, some plans are already starting to appear.
Visitors will begin their journey, for example, at the original formal entrance which was revealed for the first time in almost 50 years after the removal of partitions and plasterboard – put in place to create a living room. additional audience -.
The space with its original flagstone floor, carved stone plinths and stone steps and dado paneling opens onto the impressive staircase.
At the top of the stairs, the former clerks’ offices have been opened up and reduced to a large, airy, empty room – the favorite of our guide Mary Dawn Mohun, engagement and community manager for High Life Highland.
Offering views through long arched windows over the river, this space will be part of the interactive experience and will also feature the historic rose window salvaged from the former Methodist Church on Inglis Street when the Eastgate Shopping Center was built.
“The light is so amazing here,” Ms. Mohun said. “It will be a magic room.”
Leaving the South Tower, we pass the site’s oldest feature – a 12m (39ft) deep shaft – before exploring other nooks and crannies of the North Tower.
The primary purpose of this building from the 1840s, completed by its keep, is obvious.
Originally serving as a prison, a small cell with a tiny barred window on the ground floor looks bad enough.
But elsewhere, the layout reveals that conditions for the poorest prisoners were grim and cramped.
“The less money you had, the lower you were,” Ms. Mohun said.
“If you had money, you would have a window or light. If you didn’t, it was darker.
A third courtroom, added later to the north tower, has now been stripped of its furniture to provide a large, airy room while a look into the room that was previously used as a caretaker’s apartment still gives a another spectacular view of the river.
From the depths of the keeps to the viewing platform with its panoramic views over the city skyline and along the Moray Firth, the castle is ready and awaiting its spectacular metamorphosis.
“It’s a really exciting project,” Ms. Mohun said.
“I really look forward to its transformation and return as a gateway to the Highlands.”
The project aims to stimulate sustainable regional economic growth by creating a sustainable, viable and must-see attraction.
It is backed by an investment of £15m from the Scottish Government and £3m from the UK Government.
It is part of the Inverness and Highland City Region deal, backed by up to £315 million from the UK and Scottish governments, Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and University of the Highlands and Islands.
Contractor appointed for the transformation of the castle