THE 400-year-old former home of the Queen Mother has become the most northerly castle on mainland Britain to be officially recognised as environmentally-friendly.
The Castle of Mey, near John O’Groats in Caithness, has been awarded the top honour of a Gold Grading from the world’s biggest green accreditation programme for its energy saving achievements.
The castle, which was built between 1566 and 1572 by George Sinclair the 4th Earl of Caithness, is a favourite of Prince Charles who regularly spends a week there every August.
The house and gardens were bought by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother after she first saw it in 1952 while mourning the death of her husband, King George VI.
Having fallen in love with its isolated charm she set about restoring it as a holiday home and stayed there several times a year from 1955 until her death in March 2002, the last visit being in October 2001. It was the only home she ever personally owned.
Now, the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust, which has been responsible for the property since 1996, has turned the tourist attraction into a leading example of how an A-listed historic building can be made environmentally friendly and energy efficient to win a coveted Gold Award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme.
Launched 16 years ago, the Perth-based GTBS is now the biggest operation of its kind in the world having helped nearly 10,000 businesses improve their commitment to sustainability and an influence that reaches from North America to New Zealand.
It is the only programme independently validated by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT) on behalf of VisitEngland, VisitWales and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, and endorsed by VisitScotland and Failte Ireland.
In order to achieve the Gold Award, staff working at the Castle reduced their impact on the environment by making a variety of changes such as installing energy efficient lighting and a ground source heat pump for the visitor centre.
Staff have also introduced better recycling practices, encourage visitors to use public transport and even grow their own or use local produce in the cafe.
Stuart Brain, Senior Grading Assessor for Green Tourism, said: “Staff at the castle have worked hard to embrace the criteria set out in the Green Tourism Programme and have implemented a good number of measures.
“The modern, sensitively designed visitor centre has been built using locally sourced materials and incorporating energy saving measures such as a ground source heat pump, double glazing and high levels of insulation. It makes for a great starting point for a visit to the castle.
“Sustainable practices are carried on throughout the visitor experience with local crafts, books and other local products presented in the gift shop and a restaurant using local produce, while home baking and other meals prepared in the kitchen feature heavily. The gardens have been planted to encourage bees from the on-site hives to use the gardens and produce the honey that is sold in the gift shop.
“The Castle of Mey is a wonderful example of how an ancient building, created centuries before anybody gave a thought to the environment in the way we do today, can achieve the highest green credentials.”
For further information on Green Tourism please visit www.green-business.co.uk or contact Andrea Nicholas on 01738 632162
Contact: Tracy Kilsby