PLANS are in place to turn a historic Moray landmark into a tourist attraction.
If given the green light, visitors to the Tolbooth situated in the centre of Forres High Street will be able to access an external walkway around the old clock tower, giving them views over the town and surrounding area.
The project which is in its first phase is being progressed by the Forres Heritage Trust which owns the building.
George Alexander, chairman of the Trust which also looks after Nelson’s Tower, another building providing uninterrupted views of the region, explained: “It is a little-known fact that there is a narrow walkway around the clock, and until now only a privileged few have ever gained access, but it is the aim of the Trust to make access safely available to tourists and locals alike. The views are beautiful, but actually, being inside the clocktower is an experience in itself and we plan to turn that whole part of the Tolbooth into a new visitor attraction.”
The Trust still has to seek permission from Historic Environment Scotland, Moray Council Building Control and Moray Council Planning for the whole renovation.
However, an application has been lodged with Moray council to replace the wooden stairs which provide the direct access to the external walkway.
“We have a very long way to go with this project and there are certain conditions and permissions that we must seek in order to progress it. This is a building with huge historical importance for the town and the region, so we want to make sure that we do everything by the book and make sure whatever we do, is in keeping with the building and most importantly safe for those who will access the walkway.
“However, we also see the opportunity here to give another use to the building and being able to market it as another reason to visit our wonderful town and be able walk up to the clocktower and then outside around the tower, would really be something very special.”
The project has received £9375 from the Town Centre Regeneration Funding which was allocated for ‘alterations to the outside gallery around the clock tower.’
To get the first part of the project off the ground, the Forres Heritage Trust has engaged with local firm AJ Engineering who will design, fabricate and install the new stairs.
George added: “Once this phase is complete, which will include a huge amount of work from our volunteers who will be responsible for removing the old wooden stairs, the next stage in the process is to repair the lead lining which forms the floor of the walkway and replace the pointing which has been eroded from many of the joints in the stonework. Then work will begin on making the walkway safe for visitors to enjoy the fantastic views over the town, especially to both the East and West along the High Street.”
The Forres Heritage Trust took ownership of the Tolbooth in 2013 and since then its team of volunteers have worked tirelessly to restore the building.
Last July, renovations to the courtroom were revealed after three years of work and thousands of pounds of investment.
The works included a full re-paint, replacement of wooden panelling, a new carpet, the ceiling being thoroughly cleaned and insulated, and all doors sanded and varnished has brought the room back to life. New floor to ceiling curtains have also been handmade and a state of the art multi-media system installed.