Fairburn Tower, Ross-shire

Scaffolding going up at one of Scotland's most prized tower houses

Fairburn Tower, Mikey Mcmanus

Fragile structure safeguarded, thanks to generous support

Listed Category A, Fairburn Tower is a rare and precious survival, built in 1545 for Murdo Mackenzie, a Gentleman of the Bedchamber of King James V.  The romance of its history matches that of its setting amid wide and beautiful views of Strathconon, some 20 miles west of Inverness.

For several hundred years, Fairburn Tower has been left deserted and near ruin. The important structure is roofless, floorless and has dramatic cracks running the length of its walls which, in recent months, have been widening at an alarming rate.

But thanks to generous support, we’re delighted to now be scaffolding the fragile building. The scaffolding will secure and shield the structure, preventing any further damage – including from inclement winter weather. While our scaffolders work, we’re finessing plans for the restoration programme and we hope to begin work in the spring months.

A new future

The tower’s only chance of survival is restoration as a Landmark holiday let for four people under a long lease. The dramatic cracks will be stitched and repaired. The restoration programme will provide opportunities for craft skills to be honed and passed down to apprentices. As a holiday destination, Fairburn will bring a regular stream of visitors to enjoy the glorious countryside near Muir of Ord.

Historic Environment Scotland considers this to be one of the most significant at-risk tower houses in the country. Its unspoiled setting, unusual height, the completeness of the walls, and available information about its original form, are all exceptional. They have offered a major grant to support the project, giving Landmark the chance to secure its future.

We are enormously grateful to all who have supported the appeal. Thanks to recent donations and new pledges of support, all the funding for the project will be in place soon.

See our plans for the tower


Built in a captivating but lawless highland landscape

The Scottish Renaissance flowered in the mid-16th century under the Stuarts. Yet times were still lawless, and the pleasures of civilisation had to be combined with robust defence. Murdo Mackenzie, 'a gracefull Youth', was one of James's favourites, and was chosen  to be a Gentleman of the Bedchamber. Murdo recieved a crown grant of lands at 'Mydefairburne' in 1542, on condition that he build a suitably defensible house with orchards and gardens. 

As first built, the tower had just four floors. The lawlessness of clan rivalries at the time meant the external door was at first floor level, with internal stairs to a vaulted basement with 12 gun ports. More gunholes were peppered across the stairs and upper floors. A turnpike stairs within the width of the walls led to the upper floors.

Read about the history of the tower



Fairburn Tower

The Landmark Podcast

Listen and download The Landmark Trust Podcast, as Landmark Ambassador Kirsty Wark talks us through the history and future of Fairburn Tower.

Listen to The Landmark Podcast


We are hugely grateful to all those who have supported the appeal for Fairburn Tower so far, including:

Guardians of Fairburn Tower and other lead supporters:

Dr J and Mrs J Bull, Mr and Mrs N Campbell, The Hon. Elizabeth Cayzer, Mrs E Colam, Mr B Foord, Mr C Giles, Sir Angus Grossart CBE, Mr A Murray-Jones, Mr D Milles, Mr G Neame OBE, Dr A Pym, Mr and Mrs M Seale, Mr B Sealey CBE, Mrs H Sealey, The Hon. Tobias Tennant

Patrons and other generous individuals:

Mr S Ansell, Mr R Baker, Dr J Barney, Mr M Bennett, Mr P Corey, Miss S Curry, Mr A Baker and Ms S Darling, Mr J Darycott, Mr A Dean, Ms F Grimshaw, Mr R Grigson and Mr A Layng, Mr G and Mrs A Kingston, Mrs M Jones, Mrs S Lund, John Mackenzie of Gairloch, Dr P Strangeway, Mrs S Wiggert, Mrs S Wrangham

Gifts in Wills and in memory:

The late Reverend J Grover, the late Mr D Lawrence, and the late Mr A Peacock

Charitable Trusts and Statutory Grants:

The Architectural Heritage Fund, Bartleet Family Fund, The Binks Trust, T B H Brunner Charitable Trust, The Gough Charitable Trust, Lesley Mary Carter Charitable Trust, Historic Environment Scotland, The John R Murray Charitable Trust, RV and RH Simons Charitable Trust, Tulip Charitable Trust, Viewforth Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation

We thank all who have supported the appeal, including other Guardians, Patrons and trusts who have chosen to remain anonymous.


Michael Marks Charitable Trust