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24 Feb 2023

Storm Otto causes significant damage at Fyvie Castle

Written by Murray Hope
A fir tree has fallen through a roof of a historical stone building next to Fyvie Castle. It has left a large hole in the roof. Branches poke out. Felled logs lie next to the wall.
The Racquets Court, Fyvie Castle
A noble fir fell directly on to the Grade B listed Racquets Court building at Fyvie Castle, compromising large sections of the western façade, the glazed roof and its historic interiors.

Our emergency response, led by a team of experts from the National Trust for Scotland as well as leading industry specialists, has first prioritised public safety and protecting the building and collections from further damage. The building is separate from the main castle, which was fortunately unaffected by the storm.

The estate was closed after the storm to assess and stabilise the Racquets Court, alongside extensive operations to remove dangerous trees and clear access routes. The estate has now re-opened but we ask visitors to take extra care and follow all signage for their own safety.

Wedding couples and other private bookings affected have been contacted and alternative arrangements are being made. The extent of damage is likely to affect use of the Racquets Courts for some time.

Katy Neithercut, Operations Manager Aberdeenshire North, highlighted the impact of the damage: ‘The team at Fyvie Castle are devastated by the very visible damage to the Racquets Court and the further impact on natural heritage across the estate. It’s a treasured building and much-loved space for public and private events. However, this week has been a perfect example of how the National Trust for Scotland’s work is vital in protecting and fighting for Scotland’s precious heritage – the damage could have been far worse without the swift and tireless efforts of the whole team. We’ll continue to make the building safe while we work with specialists on options, updating our members and the public in due course.’

The Fyvie Castle Racquets Courts and Skittles Alley, originally known as ‘The Playhouse’, was commissioned by former owner Alexander Forbes-Leith, a Scottish naval officer and US steel magnate, and it was completed in 1903. The building sits to the west of Fyvie Castle, on the site of the former bowling green. It was built in a neo-Baronial style with a heavily crenellated parapet and dressed sandstone walls. Antique decorative stone features, including an Italianate marble fountain and several carved panels, were bought by the Forbes-Leith family and set into the south elevation. Inside, a light and airy double-height racquets court with a viewing gallery is housed under a spectacular glass roof, with a smaller side room that houses a rare, American-manufactured skittles lane.

The National Trust for Scotland’s Regional Director for the North East Iain Hawkins said: ‘This damage at Fyvie is the latest result of increasingly severe winter storms. In 2022, we saw more than 1 million trees lost because of winter storms; our teams are still working on the clear-up.’

“This is another blow for our charity, caused by the impact of climate change. That’s why we’re doing our part to mitigate these effects, by aiming to become carbon neutral by 2031.”
Iain Hawkins
Regional Manager, National Trust for Scotland

Unpredictable weather events, like the storm damage caused here at Fyvie, have a direct impact on our beautiful places and a much wider impact across our charity. Our maintenance and conservation programme is carefully planned to ensure our precious and limited funds are deployed to care for and enable access to much of our country’s incredible cultural, natural and built history. When extreme weather events occur, we must either raise additional funds or divert resources from other heritage projects.

If you would like to help us protect Scotland’s heritage and enable us to respond where need is greatest, please donate today.

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