In July a group of students from Germany spend an amazing weekend at Castle Toward. Everyone involved: the children, teachers and the NGO representative with whom my company organized the first of many pupil exchanges all caught the Castle Toward bug.
The NGO, which is working with 800 disadvantaged pupils in Munich, wants to establish a comprehensive and longstanding exchange program, currently applying for EU funding. We have been told that Actual Realities (the outdoor education provider who stewards Castle Toward) has to leave the castle. Undertaking a bit more research revealed that the castle originally was signed over to Glasgow City Council with the condition that the castle has to remain an education institution. When Argyle and Bute council took over, they also took on this condition. An article in the TES revealed council plans to dismiss the outdoor education center from the property and develop yet another luxury hotel. All this despite Historic Scotland’s listing of the castle and the grounds.
The building and grounds have been an education establishment for well over 60 years. Not only the castle with its open door policy, the incredible grounds that provide so much space for activity but also its proximity to the ocean make for an unique place. The professionalism and experience of the staff could make Castle Toward into the leading outdoor education and training center if only Argyle and Bute Council would demonstrate support. Sadly this seems not within the remit of the Council, and after the recent social media faux pas, I begin to wonder about the council’s abilities to make decisions.
BBC News stated that at least a fifth of Scotland’s hotels is about to close and another 137 in peril—how can a small economy like Scotland, that cannot even support the existing hotels, justify an investment of £20m for a project that seems doomed from the start?
How can Scotland justify to take away such an incredible experience and place from the most vulnerable of groups?
Instead of doing everything in its power to support the further development of the center, to establish work experience, student attribute schemes, international teacher exchange etc … and if not support Actual Realities as the stewards, then at least guarantee their lease so they can finally invest and build on their success.
Argyle and Bute Council however, seem to be happy to silence such a valuable and successful company to death for a short lived economic input instead of building a sustainable future for something that has been in place for over 60 years.