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  • Heather Fearfeld

Re-purposing military buildings for cultural tourism


Perhaps the thought of spending your summer holiday in a damp, dark fortress doesn't appeal however celebrating historic assets has been something the Spanish government has been highly adept at in re-purposing military buildings to boost its cultural tourism offer.

Try Pedro the Cruel's castle in Carmona for a stay and enjoy the series of Arabic style court yards that you pass through before checking into a bedroom with sweeping views across the plains. Or enjoy the fusion of military ramparts with contemporary architecture at La Fortalesa de Sant Julia de Ramis, north of Girona dating from the 19th century completely renovated by Fuses Viader Architects. The fort is now a 15 bedroom boutique hotel and cultural centre complete with its own museum housing art works of the Catalan sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs, whose statues adorn the front of Gaudi's famous cathedral, Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona.

So how does England compare with this impressive offering in Europe?

The Landmark Trust which has been saving historic buildings in peril for over 50 years now, has invested to preserved individual character and turned these pieces of heritage round for holiday lets.

Fort Clonque is thought to be one of the most remarkable of the great mid-Victorian harbour works off Alderney, built to protect the Channel Islands from capture with ten 64-pounder guns in four open batteries and manned by two officers and 50 men. Perched on a group of rocks, at high tide, it is entirely cut off. The trust hints that other larger forts are often large and grim but says this one is small, open and picturesque, although one holidaymaker describe staying in it 'like being in a big granite ocean liner'.

Earlier this spring, Homes and Property featured two Napoleonic forts off the coast of Portsmouth, currently being used as hotels with a third being renovated to create a museum, but put on the property market for £11 million. Floating in the Solent with access only by boat or helicopter, No Man's Fort, Spitbank Fort and Horse Sand Fort were built between 1867 and 1880, designed to repel French naval attacks.

Nicknamed Palmerston's Follies after the prime minister who commissioned them as they were so costly - £43 million in today's prices - and never saw action. In recent years, they were bought and converted by founder of the bed company, Dreams, Mike Clare, who also took the decision to sell a 15th century Scottish castle near John O'Groats for nearly £4 million.


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